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Old 03-11-2013, 03:56 PM   #1
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Default Should you be doing mobility work?

I wrote this for my blog (Lifting to Live | Official Site of Powerlifter Al Brown) and thought it would provide some good discussion here:

I have been meaning to write this blog for a long time but I just haven't been able to get my head around how to structure this. I'd like to preface this by stating the obvious:

I am NOT a qualified physiotherapist of Doctor. The advice that I give below is intended as a general guide and should not be used as a treatment for a specific injury. If in doubt always seek professional advice.

There we go. Hopefully I have covered myself from potential lawsuits. First of all I had better explain what I mean by "mobility". For me this refers to any stretching or specific exercise that you do to improve movement patterns, range of motion (ROM) and flexibility. I have a routine of things that I do on an almost daily basis but before I go into those I'd like to start by going into how I came up with my routine.

The mistake I see a lot of people make with this stuff is jumping in at the deep end and deciding that they need an extensive hour long foam rolling, lacrosse ball and stretching routine twice per day every day. In my experience with this stuff, less is definitely more. The reason behind it is twofold but incredibly simple:

1. If it's too time consuming and inconvenient, you simply won't do it.
2. If you need to do more, you have nowhere left to go.

So if you don't need all of that, what do you need? Well that depends on how broken you are. If you have injuries you will need exercises to help those. If you have issues with mobility in certain areas, you'll need exercises for that. For most people who aren't professional athletes though there are some common problems that occur which everyone should address.

The modern man typically works in an office, hunched over a computer screen, sitting for most of his day. This will generally give you tightness in the following areas:

- Pecs
- Hip flexors
- Hamstrings
- Glutes and maybe lower back

Lots of those muscles get shortened so the cornerstone of your routine should be things to release those areas. I also think that every lifter should be foam rolling. A basic pass over your mid-upper back, hips, glutes and quads will help you no end.

So what if you have another problem that you need to deal with. First thing first you need to work out what is injured/tight. Be aware that what needs releasing/treating is not always what hurts. Kelly Starret of MobilityWOD (more on him later) talks about checking upstream and downstream of the problem area. Lots of muscles are interlinked and affect others in that chain.

Next you need to do some research. Google is your friend as always but choose your sources wisely. Not all sites are created equal and some are more useful than others. My go to resource is a Kelly's MobilityWOD. Either through his website or a quicker way is simply to YouTube search "MobilityWOD" and the affected body part. 9 times out of 10 that will hook you up. If not then google around but look at the whole site and its target audience before deciding if that exercise is right for you.

Lastly you'll need some tools. Definitely nothing expensive but anything to help you release tension is useful. I started with a foam roller but after a while it was too soft so I made my own out of PVC pipe. You can too:

http://muscleandbrawn.com/how-to-mak...o-foam-roller/

The only other thing you'll need is a selection of balls to roll on and add pressure. Americans love to use lacrosse balls but they're a bit harder to come by in the UK. I use a hockey ball for most stuff. When more pressure is needed I use a golf ball. Lastly I have some hard rubber massage balls that I picked up dirt cheap. These are good for getting into more sensitive areas like biceps and pecs.

So now go forth and mobilise. In the next article I'll go through what I do to warm-up and also to help recovery.


Resources: <a href="http://MobilityWOD">http://www.mobilitywod.com/</a>
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:23 PM   #2
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Excellent first go around! I have done mobility stuff with bands and foam rolling and even movemtn stuff, but as you mention it got to be too much, so I whittled it down. Sacrificed the foam rolling and movement stuff. Now I'm cutting the band stuff back and bringing back the foam roller as I miss that the most I think and it was certainly stupid to drop it because of laziness.

I do think mobility stuff is important in genneral as it does help you perform the lifts. I know there is an argument about the lifts themselves being enough mobility work as long as you perfrom the lifts correctly, but I have my doubts about that.

Good stuff!
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:28 PM   #3
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I think there definitely has to be a clear reason for doing it.

I do a lot these days because I have identified some very clear issues which need sorting, if I don't then it has a clear impact on my lifts and by extension the way the movement feels. I also know what added mobility in particular areas will give me in the future. So I do at least 30 minutes before each session, totalling 1:30 to 2:00 hours per week at least. Some weeks it'll be closer to 3:00 if I have time.

To narrow it down like that, makes it useful. Otherwise if it's done just for the sake of 'doing your mobility work' it's silly.

I'd also add ankles to that list, Al.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
Excellent first go around! I have done mobility stuff with bands and foam rolling and even movemtn stuff, but as you mention it got to be too much, so I whittled it down. Sacrificed the foam rolling and movement stuff. Now I'm cutting the band stuff back and bringing back the foam roller as I miss that the most I think and it was certainly stupid to drop it because of laziness.

I do think mobility stuff is important in genneral as it does help you perform the lifts. I know there is an argument about the lifts themselves being enough mobility work as long as you perfrom the lifts correctly, but I have my doubts about that.

Good stuff!
That seems to be the way it goes: start with lots of fluff and then cut back.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:48 PM   #5
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I'd also add ankles to that list, Al.
I'm still learning about ankle flexibility. My tightness there seems to be down to some scar tissue from old injuries and some massive tightness around my shin bones. Again I don't think sitting at a desk all day long with my feet flexed on my chair helps.

That is another point I should have raised maybe: when you're identifying the root cause of an injury or tightness you need to look at everything you do not just lifting. Sure my elbow hurt when I benched but I realised that I was leaning on it all day long at my desk. You spend a lot longer out of the gym than you do lifting. Make sure you view the whole picture.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:55 PM   #6
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Unlike tight hamstrings or chest where the cause and effect of tightness is fairly obvious tight ankles aren't as obvious. But it is a fairly common one. Tightness in the ankles manifests itself in other ways, knee pain, forward lean in the squat, lack of depth etc. So it's not something that's easily identified.

When you can visualise what additional flexibility in the ankle area will give you, the benefits are clear as day.
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:04 PM   #7
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Good primer!

I agree that "mobility" work is often a missing dimension in most programs and can be part of the reason beginners and intermediates get stuck at their level.

You hint at the connection between the fascia that are tendonous "bags" around each muscle that connect the the entire muscle chain from foot to head. Tension, etc. in this chain is often the precursor to injury. Also, it is true that an issue in a joint is often the result of an issue at the joint above or below (e.g. knee issues are often symptoms of ankle or hip problems).

I would only add the ITB (ilio-tibial band) to your foam roll list.

Great post!
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Old 03-13-2013, 07:51 AM   #8
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I would only add the ITB (ilio-tibial band) to your foam roll list.

Great post!
I have never had any good results from rolling my IT bands. Only from stretching the muscles around that area. Not saying it doesn't work, it just hasn't for me.
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Old 03-12-2013, 01:13 PM   #9
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Then you have tightness that is spasm related rather than soft tissue

Best best is to try a lod of stuff out for an area and see what works.

I find doing a bit of mob work for a few days prior to training means less time needed to do anything during warm ups.

Also if I need new 'ROM' etc I'll need to work hard at mob work. Once I have got there more often than not just doing the lifts will maintain that ROM with just a little maintanence mob work.
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Old 03-13-2013, 04:10 AM   #10
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Then you have tightness that is spasm related rather than soft tissue
My hamstrings spasm all the time. Anything I can do?

Am I going to die? is it aids?
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