By now, most of us know we should be investing time in mobility work.
Stretching, soft tissue work, and moving our joints through their full ranges of motion not only helps to prevent injury but also lead to improved performance.
It’s important, but we struggle to make time for it.
We don’t get a “runner’s high” or a “pump” from foam rolling, so we tend to put it off and “get it in when we can”. In my experience, however, “getting it in when you can” usually means never.
I say I’ll stretch when I watch TV. But I rarely watch anything.
I tell myself I’ll do some soft tissue work throughout the day. But it’s hard to remember.
I plan to spend 15 minutes at the end of a workout stretching and mobilizing. LOL.
Plan’s ‘A’ through ‘C’ clearly don’t work. So how can we make sure we get quality mobility work in on a regular basis?
When is the best time for mobility work?
You’ve got a few options.
In his latest book, Deskbound, Dr. Kelly Starrett discusses several methods, tools, and exercises to help improve mobility. He also lays out the following five times to focus on mobility work:
Upon Waking Up
- First thing in the morning is a good time to get your body moving through its full ranges of motion. Deep squats, hip hinges, or extending your arms overhead would fit the bill.
Throughout the Day
- Sneaking mobility work in throughout the day is another great option – as long as you commit to it. Staring at the lacrosse ball on your desk isn’t going to change anything. You need to actually use it. Set a timer, or spend a couple of minutes hitting your hot spots every time you come back from the washroom.
Warming up Before a Workout
- Stretching and intense foam rolling or ball work are not ideal before a workout. Doing so will compromise your mechanics and may increase the potential for an injury. Dynamic movements such as air squats, jump rope, or push-ups, are good ways to warm-up and increase mobility pre-workout.
Cooling Down Post-Workout
- Post-workout is when you can make the most change in your mobility. Your body is hot and prepped for quality work. Now is the time to stretch through end range of motion and get some foam rolling in.
- When trying to wind down before bed, foam rolling and ball work can be your best friend. These kinds of mobility exercises are great ways to relax and “turn on your off-switch”.
If you can fit the above recommendations in and stick to them you’d be feeling fantastic in no time. But if they seem like too much and you just can’t do it, then what?
World famous strength coach Dan John provides another, easier to follow option.
In his Intervention video seminar, Dan John suggests sneaking mobility work right into the middle of a workout. He does this by adding corrective work between sets of your best/favorite lift in the gym.
For example, if you love to bench press (and are good at it) but currently suffer from tight quads, it makes sense for you to foam roll your quads between sets on the bench.
While maybe not ideal, the logic here is pretty straightforward.
You are more likely to do the things that are uncomfortable and boring, such as rolling your tight quads, when interspersed with things that you enjoy and are comfortable with. Instead of lying to yourself and saying, “I’ll spend ten minutes rolling after my workout,” you force yourself to do it during the workout when you’d usually just be sitting around.
Doing intervals on the track or hill repeats? The same thing can apply. Bring a ball or roller with you and hit your hot spots between sets. Just don’t go too crazy.
While less structured than the Deskbound prescription, a less than ideal mobility program you actually follow is better than the perfect program you avoid.
Note: If you’re doing a circuit type program like Predator, stopping for mobility work between sets isn’t exactly an option. What I would do in this situation is sneak some mobility work in between circuits or supersets.
It’s becoming more and more evident that mobility work is a big part of the sports performance puzzle. You can’t train if you’re injured and you can’t perform to your full potential if your body doesn’t move right.
Stop waiting until an injury motivates you to focus on mobility work.
Experiment and try some of these suggestions. After spending some time seeing what you like and what you don’t, commit to something that works for you.