When it comes to getting results, we tend to focus on the “big picture” items like diet, training, and sleep.
And, make no mistake, these are three HUGE pillars for success in your transformation challenge.
But, there’s also a few “under the radar” things to consider that impact your workouts, day-to-day function, and overall quality of life.
Namely, we’re talking about flexibility and mobility.
Today, we’ll discuss what those are, why they’re important, and a few different ways to improve flexibility and mobility.
Let’s start by answering a very basic question…
What is Flexibility & Mobility?
Flexibility is defined as "the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion."
Mobility is defined as the "ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion." But, that’s not all. Mobility also accounts for the component of motor control within the nervous system.
3 Ways to Improve Flexibility & Mobility
Foam rolling is a phenomenal method for improving flexibility and mobility.
Also known as self-myofascial release, foam rolling entails applying pressure to various points on the body, which increases circulation, loosens up tight muscles, promotes recovery, and helps restore normal movement.
Foam rolling can be accomplished using a foam roller, rumble roller, lacrosse ball, tennis ball, or any number of other devices.
As you probably have experienced for yourself, hard training leads to adhesions and muscle knots. Foam rolling helps reduce these “kinks” in your muscles and connective tissue which restores range of motion and reduces aches and pains.
It can be performed as part of your warm up or cool down, and foam rolling can also be a great “active recovery” method to use on non-training days.
When performing foam rolling, slowly roll over a specific area until you locate a spot that is painful or tight. When you hit that trigger point, stop rolling and pause for a few seconds.
Breathe through the discomfort and focus on relaxing the tight spot.
When the knot releases, continue rolling until you find another tight spot.
If you find that a particular muscle is too painful to directly apply pressure to, try rolling some of the areas around it or offset some of your bodyweight so you’re not applying as much downward pressure on the sensitive muscle group.
Stretching is perhaps the most well-known method for improving flexibility and mobility. Every gym class or group fitness class you ever took probably incorporated some type of stretching component.
Stretching comes in two distinct forms:
- Static: holding a stretch for 30-60 on average, and doing it 3-5 times.
- Dynamic: moving into and out of a stretched position for about 5-10 times (examples, leg swings, arm swings, rocking hip flexor stretches, etc)
Both forms of stretching have their benefits, though dynamic stretching typically is more appropriate pre workout as some studies indicate that intense static stretching before training can reduce performance.
The biggest thing to keep in mind about stretching is to ease into it, meaning no bouncing or quick/jerky movements.
Additionally, do not force yourself into a deeper stretch, just for the sake of trying to go deeper. This can lead to injury, especially if you aren’t used to doing a lot of intense/deep stretching.
With practice and patience, your flexibility will improve with stretching.
Massage guns are one of the newest trends to sweep over the fitness world.
These handheld devices offer many of the same benefits as self-myofascial release along with the ability to select different settings and speeds -- something not so easily done with foam rollers.
Similar to foam rollers, massage guns improve flexibility, mobility, and muscle recovery by increasing circulation and helping break up knots and adhesions that can form from repeated bouts of heavy training.
The one “knock” against massage guns is that they cost more than foam rollers.
It’s also important to be mindful of how hard you’re pressing the massage gun into your muscles. Pressing down too hard could lead to minor injuries, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish when using the tool.
How Much Stretching & Mobility Do I Have to Do?
After reading this article, you might be tempted to start trying to do an hour of mobility and flexibility work a few times per week.
For most people, though, this is a recipe for disaster.
Taking on too much too soon, almost always leads to failure.
The best way to incorporate flexibility and mobility work into your daily life is to start with baby steps.
Even as little as 5-10 minutes a day can yield tremendous results.
Furthermore, daily mobility and flexibility work will yield greater dividends than an all-out stretching assault on your muscle that lasts 70 minutes one time per week.
Consistency is key with any habit in life, including stretching, flexibility, and mobility work. Doing just a little bit each day will go a long way to improving your overall fitness.
If you’re looking for added flexibility and mobility support, we suggest you check out our brand new supplement, Joint Health Plus, which was specifically created to help improve joint health, range of motion, and mobility.