Why should we ALL include flexibility, mobility and self-massage as part of our daily training routine. In this blog post we will outline and discuss some of the reasons why everyone, and I mean everyone should be mobilising and stretching on a daily basis.
You might wonder why I have used the term mobilising and stretching separately, aren’t they the same thing? The answer is no, stretching is probably what you are accustomed to pre and post training (or should be), every time you work out. There is so much more to flexibility than stretching a muscle. Your joint capsule and connective tissues around a joint are extremely complex and made up of many different structures, simply stretching your muscles will not give you the full benefit and range of motion you should be getting. In order to do this you must mobilise the joint as well as stretch the muscle. We can do this in several ways.
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- Stretching your muscles
By effectively stretching you will increase your muscle's ability to stretch further into its end range. This is making your muscle spindles and golgi tendons more efficient at lengthening (for the anatomy and physiology heads out there). By increasing your muscles ability to stretch further you are going to be affecting your body in several ways.
- Increasing your range of motion around a joint by increasing your muscles ability to stretch further will increase your stretch reflex reaction allowing you to exert greater force through this reaction. Put simply the stretch reflex reaction can be described as follows;
‘When a muscle stretches it builds up potential energy, this energy is released by shortening the muscle back to its original length or further through contraction. The further you are able to stretch a muscle the greater the potential energy you will be building up therefore more force you are able to produce through this reaction.’
- Improving the muscles ability to stretch further will allow you greater range of motion when performing certain movements. For example when performing the squat, if your muscles are that inflexible that you only perform a partial squat then you will only be gaining partial adaptations and not receiving the full benefit of the movement. If you spend time increasing your muscles stretch ability then you will be able to sink further into the squat, allowing for greater range of movement which will allow you to obtain the most adaptations from the movement.
Mobilisation is much more than stretching. This encompasses the full joint and its capsule. The majority of our joints that we use for movement are synovial, meaning that we have a joint capsule filled with synovial fluid. The more viscous this fluid and the softer the connective tissues the easier it is to move. By fully engaging with a mobility programme the following adaptations can occur;
- Softening the connective tissue - As we take part in physical activity, especially any form of resistance training we undergo hypertrophy (increasing muscle size), naturally when we increase our muscle size there will be some element of strength gain. This increased strength gain will have an effect on our connective tissue. The connective tissue around our joints will start to thicken and become stronger. If we do not spend time working these fibres the will become that stiff that they will reduce our range of motion around a joint. Check out our YouTube channel and mymobilityzone.com for exercises to help soften these tissues and increase range of motion.
- Mobilising the joint capsule – The vast majority of us work full time jobs and spend most of the working day sat down or in a poor anatomical position. Humans were not designed to sit in chairs, we were designed to squat and sit in the bottom of that squat, whether it was eating or going to the bathroom. Over time we have become more accustomed to sitting on a chair as opposed to sitting in the bottom of the squat.
This seemingly innocent activity is probably having a massive detrimental effect on your hip. By sitting down for long periods of time our femur (thigh bone) is going to be sitting at the back of the pelvic socket. The soft tissue around the head of the femur is going to become accustomed to this position and essentially stiffen around this. If you do not do something to correct your femur head position from the amount of time you spend sitting down you will be hindering your natural movement patterns.
Whilst in work many of us are stood in compromising positions or with bad posture, if you spend the majority of your time in these positions then you are more likely to experience movement complications or pain whilst moving, hence the need for mobilisation which can help improve posture, with some postural training too.
One of the main benefits of mobilising and stretching on a daily basis is to reduce your risk of injury. Whether you are an athlete, gym goer or not you will benefit for daily mobility programming. Improving your body’s ability to move will reduce the risk of injuring yourself.
If you have to stretch a bit further to make that catch, sink lower into your receiving position of the snatch or even if you have to bend down and pick up your child. Increased range of motion is your key to a pain free life.
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