Static stretching, dynamic mobilisation, foam rolling, massage, self-myofascial release, PNF…
There’s a number of techniques currently recommended to maintain or improve the range of motion available at our joints but probably best to clarify something first:
What is Flexibility?
Passive - Ability of soft tissue (muscle/connective tissue) to elongate in response to load.
What is Mobility?
Active - Range of motion available at a joint resulting from motor control (nervous system), joint structures (bony surfaces/capsule), muscle and soft tissue extensibility.
So when we refer to someone as being flexible, we’re talking about their passive range of motion (ROM), when we refer to someone as having good mobility, we’re talking about the range of motion they can utilise or their active range. The two are intertwined so flexibility is a pre-cursor to mobility.
Every sport has different mobility requirements, some are vast like Weightlifting, others like Snooker, less so. If you’re restricted around your shoulders, upper back and hips, there’s not much chance you’re going to become a competitive Weightlifter, without first improving your ROM. The most important thing is your mobility isn’t having a detrimental affect on your posture and/or performance!
What should you do if you suffer with limited ROM around a joint? One of the first things is to identify whether this is due to limited flexibility or limited mobility. It is possible to use ROM screening to compare your Passive (flexibility) to Active (mobility) ROM, this isn’t likely to be something you’ll do by yourself, so what should your approach be? Simple, target both!
There’s a few different ways you can get stuck in to improve your flexibility:
Grab your foam roller and get stuck in to those tight muscles - roll slowly!
Grab your tennis or lacrosse ball and repeat above
Visit a massage therapist and get acquainted with their elbows, knuckles and thumbs
Perform Isolated/Assisted Static stretching to elongate existing muscle and connective tissue
Perform Isolated/Assisted PNF stretching to elongate existing muscle and connective tissue
*PNF = Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
Regardless of the mode you choose, you should never experience pain when rolling or being massaged, just discomfort. Tighter tissues usually = more discomfort, that’s motivation to roll more.
Because there’s a variety of factors involved in improving mobility, we usually need to address more than one of these to ensure our mobility develops. As such, you’ll need to:
Ensure Flexibility restrictions have been addressed
Mobilise joint capsules
Optimise joint alignment using banded distractions / clinical mobilisations
Utilise flossing techniques at end of free range
Re-establish motor control by educating body to new ROM
Don’t get overwhelmed
As you can see, performing a simple static stretch for 30s isn’t going to cut it if you need to permanently increase ROM, it will simply help to elongate the muscle back to it’s pre-training / shortened state.
The best thing to do is to utilise a few different techniques and see what works for you. I would love to tell you A. B and C will definitely work but it’s just not that simple. As long as your performing the flexibility and mobility work safely and pain free, you’ve nothing to lose.
One thing to remember is an element of your flexibility and mobility is genetically pre-determined. Whilst you can optimise the ROM available, nature may simply pre-dispose you to an uphill battle due to a stiffer collagen network or joint surfaces that simply don’t allow as much ROM compared to another individual’s. This is why some people can squat ass-to-grass and others can’t, the likelihood is you already know whether you are predisposed to great flexibility/mobility so don’t ignore this!
Watch out for upcoming videos and blog posts to take you through some techniques.
If you’re seeking further help, Contact Us today so we can discuss more training options!