Each of us has our own individual challenges with respect to joint mobility. We have joints where our range of motion is impinged either due to muscle tightness or (in very rare cases) due to bone spurs or other skeletal issues. We have joints where old injuries have gifted us with scar tissue and fused bone, and that in turn further restricts our mobility.
For some reason doing an image search for back pain turns up a jillion variations on this pic.
The good news is that, save for cases where muscles are completely unattached and bones are permanently fused together (e.g., from surgery where this was done intentionally), most of these items can be addressed with consistent, diligent, and careful effort. What we need is a library of mobility work that meets our individual needs.
I’ll say this right now: I’m not always as super-diligent as I should be about mobility work. But I’m getting better about that. For me, the cost of not doing mobility work has proven itself time and time again to vastly outweigh the small, temporary convenience I enjoy by skipping it. In other words, not doing my mobility work always ends up costing me in terms of missed training days and/or missed gains.
Don’t be a dunce. Do your mobility. Keep the gainz rollin’.
Sometimes, it can help to visit a physical therapist, or a massage therapist, or the like. Generally, though, these visits are most useful when they can give you several things to do to work on weak spots yourself. And make no mistake, getting a massage, or a trip to the chiropractor, etc. are all great, but none of them are a substitute for the work you have to do yourself, every day, to keep yourself healthy and injury-free.
Over time, I have developed a collection of mobility and warm-up exercises that work well for me. For example, I know that:
- Pain in my outer hips and thighs is usually due to my hip muscular/skeletal structure compensating for tightness in my hip flexors. To fix this, I do the couch stretch.
- Pain in my lower back and pelvic joints (lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint, etc.) is generally either my hip flexors (see above) or because my hamstrings are tight. For hamstring mobility I just do the old-school lying hamstring stretch with a towel or yoga strap.
- Pain in my shoulders generally means I’ve got issues with scapular mobility. This means I need to work on freeing those up via myofascial release (with a lacrosse ball or soft ball) and also do some stretching and dynamic movement to improve my scapular range of motion.
If you want to kill multiple birds with one stone (and if you are feeling brave), consider a compound stretch. I suggest the Brettzel.
I’ve got a lot more of this sort of thing in my library, and I swap various things in and out depending on what’s going on with my body at a given time. But the point is, I have a solid selection of things I do to address the problems I have right now, the problems I have had before, and the problems I will have again if I neglect my mobility.
Doing these things regularly (every day), very deliberately (i.e., not just slamming through them half-assed so that you can say you did it), and with care (not trying to stretch yourself so hard that you get injured/re-injured, but also not taking it so easy that you don’t make a difference) will not only improve your joint range of motion, but will also mean you get injured (and re-injured) less often.
Each of you has issues with mobility that are particular to you. Figure out what your specific problems are, start building your own library of mobility work, and get after it!
Roller skates optional.