Maximize Your Flexibility, Mobility and Movement

 

If your goals include not feeling like the tin man every morning when you wake up, and not missing games or life events because you have jacked up a muscle or joint, static stretching and dynamic mobility drills should be part of your training program. 

 

(http://www.pictaram.com/media/1202319859052046770_2153443193)

Both static stretching and dynamic mobility result in a transient change to the tissue as well as components of the nervous system that typically allow your joints to move into greater ranges of motion.

These greater ranges of motion gives you the opportunity for more efficient movement to take place which, helping you to decrease injuries and enhance your performance.

For this reason, you want to perform them each and every day as well as with each and every training session, practice or game.

But even if you are going through them every day, you may find yourself still feeling “stiff / tight” and never becoming more flexible, mobile or able to achieve the range of motion with movements that you should be able to. 

So what’s the deal? 

 

Why can you not “keep” the range of motion you work so hard on?

1) You are not reinforcing the new range of motion with activation drills that turn on the muscles bringing the joint into the new range of motion. 

So this be pretty easy to fix; you just need to add in activations, but…

2) You have to do so in an order that is optimal to solidify the new range of motion.

Let’s take a look into the typical order of a session.

 

A Typical Session

We typically place stretching, mobility and activation at the beginning of a training session to unlock ranges of motion for better muscle activation and overall movement for the upcoming session. This usually looks something like this:

  1. Static stretching
  2. Mobility
  3. Activation
  4. Movement Prep
  5. Speed, Agility, Power
  6. Strength / Resistance Training
  7. Conditioning  

With this layout, an example start to a session may look something like this:

  1. Hip Flexor Stretch x30s/side, Butterfly Stretch x30s, Calf Stretch x30s/side
  2. Hip Flexor Mobility x8/side, Adductor (Groin) Mobility x8/side, Ankle Mobility x8/side
  3. Single Leg Glute Bridge x8/side, Side Lying Clam x8/side, Ankle Dorsi Flexion x8/side

The goal with these would be to stretch out the hip flexors, adductors and calves, put the hip and ankle through dynamic ranges of motion (mobility) and then turn on the glutes, lateral hip muscles and anterior shin muscles to solidify the “new” ranges of motion from the stretch and the mobility work.

While the layout above is a solid approach, there is one inherent flaw with performing all of your static stretching first, then your mobilities and then all of the activation drills.

 

The Problem

(http://www.nma.vc/2015/07/when-i-ask-you-for-a-problem-give-me-an-answer/)

The issue is that by the time you make it to your activation drills (the drills that are designed to turn on or “activate” specific musculature and help to solidify the new range of motion), you have likely lost some of the transient effect of the static stretch and mobility work for the targeted joint. 

If the acute lengthening of the muscles, along with the “relaxation effect” of the muscles from the mobility work have dissipated, you will not be able to achieve as optimal a range of motion during the activation drills. This will decrease the ability to activate the targeted musculature.

Also, and more importantly, the “new” and better range of motion you achieved with the stretch and mobility will be harder to hold on to and create a better movement. 

For example, if you stretch and mobilize your hip flexor to help you achieve greater hip extension, but don’t immediately activate the glute to actively bring the hip into extension, some of the extension range of motion from the stretch and mobility is likely lost. This will decrease the ability to use the new range of motion as well as decrease the activation of the glute.

This is why many times we will find ourselves working on stretching and mobility only to be back at square one the next time we work on it…we are unable to fully solidify the new range of motion with optimal activation, as we have lost some of the range of motion before we even make it to the activation drill. 

SOOOO….

 

A Better Approach

A better approach is to cycle through stretching, mobility and activation for each muscle/movement. 

With the above example, this would now look like this:

 

1a) Hip Flexor Stretch x30s/side

1b) Hip Flexor Mobility x8/side

1c) Single Leg Glute Bridge x8/side

 

2a) Butterfly Stretch x30s

2b) Adductor Mobility x8/side

2c) Side Lying Clam x10/side

 

3a) Calf Stretch x30s/side

3b) Ankle Mobility x8/side

3c) Ankle Dorsi Flexion x8/side

 

By layering the stretch, mobility and activation together you will be able to take advantage of the transient effects of the stretch and mobility to better activate the necessary musculature. All of this will result in a better chance to “keep” the new range of motion and resulting movement. 

 

Try it out and let me know what you think!