I recently saw a very cool pic someone had posted on Facebook of a girl in a Yoga pose. Behind this girl was a neon sign cleverly positioned around the shape of the girl, which read: “I bend, so I don’t break”.
Mobility and strength have a very strong correlation. In simple terms, if you aren’t mobile, you can’t move efficiently. And all our PITbulls know that if you can’t move efficiently, you cannot produce force efficiently, which also means you move less weight. Which in turn means you get less out of your training.
So how do we improve our mobility?
First, lets define mobility: Mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. It basically means you can be flexible while moving.
So to be more mobile, we need to work on flexibility first. The question is, how?
Do your strength work
Many of us think that to be more flexible, we need to stretch more. That’s actually only half the job done. We need to ask ourselves a very simple question – why is that muscle tight in the first place?
Here’s one of many reasons why – It’s trying to compensate for a weaker/longer muscle.
Bend your elbow and flex your bicep, what happens? The bicep shortens and the tricep elongates. Now extend your elbow and flex your triceps. The reverse happens. What this means is that for one muscle to lengthen, you need to shorten the opposing muscle.
Muscles shorten when they’re trying to compensate for a weak muscle on the opposite side.
So if you have a tight chest, you need to strengthen (shorten) the muscles in your upper back and your external rotators in your shoulder to loosen it. I’m not saying that stretching is useless. I’m saying that stretching the chest will only lengthen the chest muscle but not solve the root of the problem, which is weakness (long muscles) in the middle of your back. Stretching is still important!
Do your static stretches after you roll out
Myofascial release, soft tissue release, trigger point release, etc are often used to help release a muscle. All of that is good. However, many people have discounted the importance of static stretching.
If a muscle is too short, you won’t be able to move freely. This affects your mobility. After you release the muscle with rolling, trigger point and what not – that muscle becomes ready to be stretched out.
As mentioned above, stretching is only part of the entire process of improving flexibility and mobility. Strength work is required to complete this process.
What is important here is that you should ONLY stretch a tight muscle. If a muscle is already long, leave it. Don’t try to stretch it further. For example, if you have a tight lower back because/and your abdominals are weak, you wouldn’t want to get into an updog pose because it will worsen your condition instead of improving it.
You’re further lengthening the weakened muscles and making the shorter ones shorter.
I like to use the analogy of a guitar – If you have some strings that are too long and some that are too short, you are going to play bad music.
Improving your mobility should be on top of your list if you want to increase strength and performance. Here’s the structure of a typical program that we recommend at the PIT.
Static Stretching and movement preparation
Go forth and be awesome.