The end goal of mobility work is to create a healthy, supple, elastic muscle. In turn, these muscles allow freedom of the joint. This ultimately allows for freedom of movement that gives us the opportunity to train at the peak of our abilities.
Mobility is commonly misused with the word flexibility and though improving one’s range of motion is important, mobility also deals with the quality of the tissue not just its range of motion capabilities.
We define mobility as an umbrella of modalities that includes: Stretching, Joint Mobilization, and Soft Tissue Work.
There are various forms of stretching. There’s the static version most commonly used in post workout training sessions like endurance sports. There’s the dynamic version most seen during pre-game football warm ups. There’s the passive stretching you see when PT’s or Massage Therapist assist in the lengthening process of the athlete. And the most effective form of stretching is called PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation). It works by fooling the muscle into complete relaxation. The most common PNF technique includes contracting a muscle that your want to affect change, say the hamstring, you would contract the hamstring for 10 seconds lightly, then completely relax the muscle, this will in theory “trick” the muscle to relax while you move into a greater-deeper stretch following the contraction. This is usually performed in multiple sets.
The idea is that the joint capsules themselves become quite gritty and inflamed which requires forms of distraction techniques to allow the joint so “slide-and-glide” the way it was intended to function. Many of these distractions drills require a resistance band to create an antagonist pressure across the joint. This coupled with PNF is even more productive for improved flexibility and reduced inflammation.
What is the purpose of stretching your hamstring if you can already touch your toes? You’ve already proved you have a great baseline of flexibility in the hamstrings. This is where soft tissue work comes into play. Though you aren’t limited by range of motion the quality of the tissue can be affected negatively by training. These bands of connective tissue, known as fascia, wraps around our entire body and gets stiff if left untreated. Tissue work, similar to massage, focuses on breaking up those adhesion for preparation for training and less nerve ending sensitivity.
There is no perfect way to improve your ROM but we have seen that by applying various techniques such as stretching, joint distraction, and soft tissue work we have a greater chance of seeing a quantitative improvement in both flexibility and the quality of the actual tissue. Don’t take my word for it, try them for yourself!
About Mario Ashley
Mario Ashley is the owner of Naples Strength & Conditioning. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Florida. He has certifications in the following CrossFit Courses: Mobility, Gymnastics, Football, Kids, Goal Setting, Endurance and Level 2 Certificate. He is also the creator of WarehouseGymExpert.com where he helps gym owners professionalize the warehouse gym one lesson at a time. He also has created an Ebook that fitness professionals can use to help improve their clients flexibility and reduce the likelihood of injury called mobilitydrills.com.