Preparing For What’s to Come Instead of What’s Passed
As a coach I am often asked how to fix this ache, relieve this tweaked muscle, or loosen this area that is tight from yesterday. While it is good to use mobility as a tool for recovery after soreness sets in, a better use is to mobilize to prepare for specific movements during the warm up and to recover immediately after use (while still warm). There are three main types of mobility, soft tissue work, joint mobility, and stretching. Each type has a time when best to use it either as a preparation for movement or as a cool down from the movements just completed. Understanding these aspects of mobility can help in the overall results you get from mobility work and in turn transfer better into your daily training sessions.
Soft tissue work is done by use of foam rollers, lacrosse/tennis/softballs, kettlebells, barbells and any tool you can find to use pressure to release the soft tissue of muscles. Even self massage can be used to work out tension in soft tissue. This is an excellent tool to help loosen muscles in preparation for use as well as after use in a cool down setting. When rolling out soft tissue before a workout it is best to perform before or during the warm up. When used as recovery, rolling out is best used before stretching of the muscles being mobilized. For example, when cooling down after an intense workout like Karen (150 wallballs for time) it is best to spend some time foam rolling your quads (the front of your thighs) before settling down into your quad stretches.
Joint mobility can also be used as both pre-workout preparation and cool down recovery. Joint mobility is most commonly done by use of bands or weights to help pull or distract joint capsules for better range of motion. For example, the use of a band attached to the pull up bar can be held and the leaned away from to stretch the shoulder joint overhead (we call this the band lat stretch). The band pulls the head of the arm away from the shoulder capsule to help improve overhead range of motion. This is a great joint mobilization that can be used to help prepare the should for movement overhead or to help recovery/cool down after movements with a lot of pulling (example: pull ups, toes to bar, deadlifts, cleans, snatches).
Stretching has two main categories, static and dynamic. For use in warming up try to stick with dynamic stretching the continually moves through full range of motion. Examples of this include primal pulls, walking samson lunge, leg swings, and cat/cows. Static stretching is best saved for the cool down, when the body is warm and not longer expected to be used for explosive or heavy lifting. Static stretching examples are couch stretch, thread the needle, pigeon stretching, or just reaching for your toes. When using static stretching to improve flexibility it is best to work at holding each stretch for no less than 1 minute and if possible try for 2 minutes.
When looking at all that options available to prepare the body for a workout and cool down after it can seem a bit overwhelming to try and figure out what to do each day. As coaches, we are here to help with that. A general cool down is always written and dynamic stretches are included in the warm up. However, when trying to be proactive in improving mobility every person requires some individualized work.
Some resources available to you now to help with self maintenance mobility are Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD https://www.mobilitywod.com/ (many of his videos are also available on YouTube), Jill Miller's YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVMjCuAAxTeNuvFHuvr1RwQ. Lastly, the easiest resource you can have is your coaches. We are here to help!