A lot has been said about this. To this point, I think that too much has been said. So much so, that everyone is confused and the community of “experts” appears to contradict each other depending on what stance you want to take. What’s the right way to do it? What’s the most effective way to do it? Pre-work out? Post-work out? Do I warm up and then stretch?
First let me say this. Don’t overlook mobility and don’t underestimate it either. Treat it more as a holistic concept, as part of your overall fitness. Today I would like to address it from the perspective of the two topics that I believe to be most relevant:
1. Pre/post workout mobility
2. Mobility for addressing deficiencies
Pre/Post workout mobility
Let’s dive right in to the first part. Many of us have the same gym rituals, pre and post. Pre-workout, we do some static stretching, pulling to full range of motion to “get our bodies ready” for whatever it is we are about to do. Whatever you are currently doing you should examine. Is what you are doing related to whatever you training is? If not eliminate it or do it at another time. Are you stretching through the full range of motion similar to the exercise? If not why not? If you are going to back squat, you should at least kick off some air-squats, holding at the bottom and looking for hard spots on your range of motion. Better to discover some impingement here than under load. Dynamic stretching can help create more power output and is more effective than the conventional reach and hold static stretching. This is part of the mobility revolution you are starting to see. There is also a number of excellent articles I found on BreakingMuscle.com while doing some reading on the topic, that I feel sums it up nicely.
Mixing in some light warm up exercises with your stretching can be beneficial as well. If you will be doing a lot with your shoulders, say shoulder presses or kettlebell thrusters, grab a resistance band and really work your shoulders through the full range of motion or slightly beyond if improvement in range is your goal.
Post –workout should be the same. Most of us do it already. We mix stretching in with our cool-down activity. Which almost everyone will tell you is the right thing to do. You should never just jump off the treadmill after a hard run and start stretching with no cool-down. And after a hard workout, why just cool down and not stretch? Dynamic stretching here can be incorporated to address both the cool –down and mobility.
Mobility for Addressing Deficiencies
Mobility is the cure for the common cold, genital warts, and broken fingers. Okay, maybe not….but it can fix a whole bunch of stuff. I was having various issues with my wrist position when front squatting, shoulders with the overhead press, and issues getting low enough in a full squat. And then I discovered Kelly Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard. My wife had a good laugh at the thought of my actually trying to become supple or in any way leopard-like.
While the book is not the bible of all things mobility, it is packed with good info. But enough about the book. It wasn’t specific instruction on how to fix my shoulder issue, it was the concept that maybe we just aren’t paying enough attention to our bodies and how we move. And also the concept that muscle restriction can be just one part of a chain of muscles, so there may be a systematic way to troubleshoot a movement deficiency.
Did you ever wonder why it hurts when you run, or why your lower back is tight and sore days after deadlifts? Maybe, just maybe you aren’t moving right. It could be due to some mobility restriction you may not even know you have. Maybe one leg is overcompensating for tightness in your opposite ankle and it makes your stride funny. Maybe you hurt your shoulder once and it doesn’t rotate quite like the other. It’s all food for thought.
I try and make mobility a part of every workout. So if you wonder what obscene thing I may be doing to the foam roller, it’s really for my psoas major, I swear….. Move people, it’s what we are designed for! I think the absolute worst thing that doctors prescribe is mobility for minor common problems. They give you the “take some painkillers and keep still” approach. They never really address the issue. Certainly if you are really hurt, in many cases you need a certain period of immobility, but not wholesale like they prescribe.
Stop thinking movement is the enemy. It’s what we are built to do.