Mobility should be a proactive approach, not a reactive one. In other words, don’t wait until problems arise before you address them. Too often I will see athletes finish a workout that might have hundreds of repetitions of loaded squats or pressing and do absolutely nothing to address the potential issues that are usually right around the corner. Having said that, there’s a great deal you can do to prevent injury, speed recovery, and improve performance. We can break down mobilization into three primary modalities: soft tissue work, stretching, and joint mobilizations.
1.Soft Tissue Work
There are a number of modalities within soft tissue work. In gyms, self-myofascial release (SMFR) is the most common form of soft tissue work. Tools such as foam rollers, massage sticks, theracanes, and lacrosse balls are common tools for this modality. SMFR can be performed before or after training sessions. Sometimes SMFR alone isn’t enough and an athlete will have to seek out a massage therapist, chiropractor, or physical therapist who is trained to deal with issues outside the scope of a fitness coach.
Static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching are the two most common ways to stretch short, tight muscles. Static stretching normally involves using stretches that hold the target muscle in a lengthened position. PNF stretching comes in a variety of forms but most commonly is performed by stretching the tight muscle, isometrically contracting the muscle, and then stretching the muscle further. Kelly Starrett recommends five cycles of 5 seconds of contraction followed by 10 seconds of passive stretching. Watch Kelly Starrett demo PNF stretching here.
3. Joint Mobilization
The goal of joint mobilization is to help increase extensibility of a joint capsule by breaking up adhesions and/or stretching the capsule itself. Be cautious if you are experiencing pain or are prone to joint subluxations or dislocations as joint mobilization is contraindicated. Having said that, I would also advise against using any sort of band distraction if you are pregnant as the increased joint laxity can be problematic.