Many of us already know of one great mobility tool: the foam roller. Other great tools for mobility exercises are lacrosse balls, monster bands, deflated soccer balls, golf balls, etc. Thanks to the work of physical therapist and mobility pioneer, Kelly Starrett, there are a ton of different techniques, tools, and applications out there to fix just about anything on your body. These mobility-promoting tools and movements address pain, lack of range of motion caused by short/tight muscles, joint capsule restrictions, and other soft tissue restrictions.
Whatever your fitness goals, lack of mobility can definitely keep you from making progress. If you weren't convinced already, here's why you should start rolling with the foamies.
1. Real life does serious damage to your body. Mobility helps to lessen the damage.
Are you an office warrior who sits behind a desk all day? Chances are your hip flexors are tight as *$^@ and your shoulders and neck are rounded forward. Mobility exercises can undo the day-to-day stress we put on our bodies.
2. Stretching isn't enough.
While yoga and static stretching are a great way to elongate muscles, they don't break up adhesions in your connective tissue. Your entire body is covered by this fibrous tissue, or fascia. When you work out, this tissue gets stuck together. These areas are often referred to as "trigger points" by massage therapists. Stretching is often not enough to release these trigger points.
3. Mobility helps to prevent injury.
Look at it this way: Tight and overly active hip flexors will prevent your glutes from firing as hard as they should. Not only is your butt missing out on the benefits, but those tight hip flexors could cause lower back pain. If you're lifting heavy weights, you could be putting your lumbar spine at risk.
4. Mobility exercises will give you better results.
Simply put, when you perform an exercise at the full range of motion with proper mobility, you will get more of the right muscles to engage, aka more muscle recruitment. More muscle recruitment means more exertion. More exertion means more intensity, and increased intensity will push you farther than you could ever go before.
5. Mobility exercises relieve pain and can reduce muscle soreness.
Tight muscles can pull on joints and cause pain. A common complaint is pain in the front of the knee. This is caused by a tight quad muscle called the rectus femoris. Roll out that bad boy and you can instantly reduce pain. Have a tough workout? Roll out afterwards to break up the new adhesions and get rid of that soreness so you can go hard tomorrow!
6. Mobility is cheaper than a massage therapist.
Deep tissue massages can run you more than $100 an hour. You can hit those same trigger points with your mobility tools and achieve effective results in only 10 to 15 minutes a day. Even if you go see a massage therapist every week (which I highly recommend), using mobility techniques and tools will help improve your results.
As always, make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. If you have any questions about mobility, talk to a trusted fitness professional or physical therapist to see what is right for you.