Mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems. When the term mobility comes up most people confuse stretching with this, yet mobility is in its own class. To simplify things, mobility is basically soft tissue work. That being said, there are countless modalities within soft tissue work; self-myofascial release (SMR) being the most common style. SMR is basically a fancy term for a self-massage that releases muscle tightness and trigger points, returning your muscles back to it’s normal/healthy state of function. The compression created from SMR returns normal blood flow and restores healthy muscle tissue. SMR should be performed before (and after) every training session whether you’re preparing for a run, multiple sets of heavy squats, or perhaps a plyometrics circuit. It is more effective than stretching (assuming you are already working on flexibility every day) and has been proven to not interfere with performance. In-fact, the primary focus of mobility is to increase the efficiency of our movement patterns thereby ultimately increasing our power output and performance. Now I’m not saying stretching is frowned upon before a heavy squat session or a long run, by all means if you are unable to perform the movement utilizing proper technique within the full range of motion of a selected joint, then you need to stretch as well!
Tools that are utilized for soft tissue work include foam rollers (my favorite), lacrosse balls, massage sticks, theracanes, and etc. Since this post is generally a basic introduction, I’m going to use the foam roller as our choice for soft tissue work. Foam rolling is by far my most favorite tool for SMR, it’s simple, effective, and efficient. You can pick up a foam roller at most sports retail centers or amazon.com where I’ve seen them as low as $5. There are many different variations of foam rollers, but I would recommend just sticking with a standard (flat) high density foam roller.
Using a foam roller is actually quite simple, you basically just lay on the foam and roll out! The goal is to restore healthy muscles – it is not to see who has the highest pain tolerance. Obviously if an area excretes unbearable pain, then you may want to roll the surrounding area instead. When you discover trigger points or areas that are tight – slowly roll the area out (a good rule of thumb is 1 – 2 inches per second). Each area should be rolled out for at least 30 seconds and no longer than 90. Make sure you control your breathing – try to maintain a 4 second breathing rhythm (4 seconds inhaling and exhaling). Never roll over a bone or joint. Use caution when rolling out your lower back. Try to stay supported when rolling your lower back, trigger point (lacrosse) balls are much more preferred for the erector spinae muscles located in the lower back. Your muscles may be sore the next day – if so, allow 24 – 48 hours before focusing on the same area again.
I will be uploading pictures and detailed instructions in my next blog post!