FINDING THE CAUSE OF YOUR MOBILITY RESTRICTIONS
How do we match our mobility routine with the issue causing dysfunction?
If you take your training seriously, mobility needs to be a top priority. If you’re an athletes with poor movement quality you simply are not as effective as you could/should be.
Mobility is influenced by:
1) your fascia,
2) your nervous system,
3) your soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) and
4) your joint structure (how the bones interact) and at times scar tissue.
In my opinion, this is the reason “stretching” has always been a hotly debated topic. Depending on which of these four influencers is most affecting your particular problem, this will determine the type of stretching program you should be doing. Otherwise, all your “stretching” won’t have the desired effect!
Below i’ll describe 4 influencers on Mobility, and what types of stretching and techniques that best address each.
If it’s a fascial restriction, the most effective methods to help release it include self myofascial release, ELDOA technique, certain yoga routines, and active isolated flexibility routines (one of my favourite types of dynamic stretching). These sorts of techniques involve combining movements where you’re twisting and rotating your body while contracting your muscles to actively ‘stretch’.
When it comes to muscle contractions, The nervous system runs the show. Running causes a lot of nervous system activity and with fatigue and overwork, you can find that your muscles are tight, not because the muscle itself is shortened but because the nervous system won’t relax and instead keeps the muscle slightly contracted.
Stretching this muscle with traditional static holds won’t cut it – the nervous system fights back and may even cause the muscle to feel tighter. In this case, you want to take advantage of a process called ‘reciprocal inhibition’. This means, when one muscle is contracted, its opposing muscle is signalled to relax. A popular system that many pro athletes are using is ‘active isolated flexibility’. For example, using a rope to stretch the hamstring by contracting the quads instead, which allows the hamstrings to relax.
So some effective methods for improving mobility if its nervous system related are more ‘dynamic’ or movement-centered routines (active isolated flexibility routines also).
The length of your muscles, tendons and ligaments also affect mobility. What’s interesting to note, however, is that if you’re a runner, more length in the muscles has not been shown to reduce injury risk or improve performance ? This is likely due to the fact that runners actually need their tissues to be somewhat ‘springy’ and this requires slight stiffness in the soft tissues. We just don’t want the tissues so tight that mobility is compromised either!
The final factor in your mobility is your joint structure. There can be cases where a person’s genetics have created joints where functional range of motion is compromised simply by the structure of the bones. If you have an issue that is being affected by joint structure, it will be critical that you make sure your fascia, nervous system and soft tissues are optimally mobile to maximize your available range of motion.
To figure out which of the above 4 factors might be causing the issue for any of your mobility restrictions, I would highly recommend getting a movement coach or someone who specialises in movement to watch you performing some simple movements and mobility tests.
Whether you want to reach your full athletic potential and compete again the best of the best, or if you’re just trying to remain injury-free, your mobility is going to play a key role in your success.