Smorgasbord of Mobility Work

What’s On The Menu

I’m going to give you a smorgasbord of mobility work. This list isn’t meant to turn into your training session.  I wouldn’t want you to do all or even many of these on a regular basis. My ultimate goal would be for you to experiment with a few different mobility movements &/or styles.  Have a short list and perform a couple as needed.  There are many options.  Find what works for you.

Keys to the Mobility Work Universe

Static Stretching

Passively taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding the stretch pre-workout.  The exception would be if it was a small part of a injury rehab type program.  There has also been a lot written about static stretching pre-workout slightly decreasing strength and not helping reduce pulls/strains.  You could do a few static stretches as a cool down post-workout; or prior to bedtime.  The nice thing about saving for bedtime is can be relaxing and down shift your nervous system.  To get the most out of the relaxing nature of the stretch breathe deeply and relax your face muscles.

Related Post: Yoga for Powerlifters

Dynamic Stretching

Stretching that incorporates movement along with muscle tension development (2).  Think runner marching in place pre-run; boxer dancing/punching pre-fight.  Movement would start out slow and increase in tempo.  This can be great for a boot camp or athletic event.  Many of my textbooks will refer to using momentum or springing through the movements when referring to dynamic stretching.  Many other folks will refer to any movement prep as “dynamic”.  Because most of my textbooks refer to the “force production” of the dynamic stretch I have a hard time calling a pre-workout body-weight squat a “dynamic” movement.  Because of this I will call many body weight pre-workout mobility moves, “Movement Patterning”.  Semantics.

SMR (self-myofascial release)

All the definitions in my books sound fancy, so I’ll put it in my own words: you are using some sort of “device” to give yourself a massage.  Devices could be: foam roller, pvc pipe, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, soft ball, golf ball, hard medicine ball, barbell, kettlebell, plus one of the many objects marketed as a specialty SMR objects.  Standard procedure would be to lie on object or pin it between you and a wall (depending on target area) move around until you find a spot that feels like a bruise.  Hold that spot pushing into it as tolerated for 20 to 30 seconds.  Breathe deeply try to “relax”.  You can find multiple spots if needed. Another strategy is to add movement to “the spot” of tension.  SMR can help you out of a tight spot (get it?).  Some say it helps loosen them up prior workout.  Some say it helps speed up recovery.  It can feel great, but it can be a time vampire if you try to “roll-out” every muscle in your body.

Movement Patterning

Prepping the body for the movement patterns and skills you will be practicing for the day.  Example before overhead presses, you may practice a few forearm slides or wall slides (if you have the range of motion available to you) to prep the pattern.  Your squats would benefit from “mobilizing your ankle, knee, and hip joints.  You could get on the floor, hands and knees and rock to mimic your squat pattern; depending on your ankle mobility, tucking your toes under can be more difficult.  If you have a kettlebell goblet squats can be a great movement to pattern your squats.

Related Post: Press RESET with Original Strength

Muscle flossing

Compressing a muscle or joint by wrapping with a band (voodoo floss bands is a name brand, generics available also).  Typically you leave the band on for certain number of minutes (remove immediately if you feeling tingling); some will go through ranges of motion.  Example would be wrap ankle and then move ankle or wrap knee then perform a few body-weight squats.  Powerlifter Donnie Thompson talks a lot about ankles and recommended wrapping the ankles and then have someone pull on your ankles and your toes a bit.  It felt great . . . but my wife wasn’t a fan of wrapping and pulling my toes.  Seems like a bit much to set up pre-workout 7+ minutes.. but was nice in the evening while watching t.v.  If you are interested in this I’d suggest you check out some of Donnie Thompson or Kelly Starrett.

Banded traction or distraction

Using a band to pull against joint to relieve some compression and create more space in the joint. You might be more familiar with this concept from the Teeter Hang up commercials or from videos of athletes using gravity boots.  Many of my Crossfit friends are really into this form of mobility.  I liked the idea, tried it but never got into it.  If you are interested in this form of mobility you can check out many Crossfit websites especially Kelly Starrett’s content.  Joe Defranco also had some of this in one of his books, but not nearly as much as Starrett.

Body tempering

Think about a metal foam roller that someone rolls over you!  Powerlifters Donnie Thompson used a 130lb hunk of metal, he called “the X-wife” to roll over his buddy – and he said it felt great!  Then more tried it; and that’s how it was born.  Watching the videos looks like a super rolling pin.  I’d love to try it, but I don’t want to buy one.  I train at home by myself and don’t think I could talk my wife into rolling it over me.  Powerlifters seem to love them.  Chris Duffin sells them on his website: Kabuki Strength.

Before You Go

Again the goal is not to do them all – it’s to give you options.  Remember less is more.

Brandon K. Cole reminds, “For mobility work to have the greatest impact it should be personalized as much as possible. Just like exercise. Deadlifts are a great exercise, but not for everybody all the time.”(3)

*If I missed something you enjoy comment them below.

(1) NASM Essentials of Personal Training (3th ed., glossary 6.32, pp. 505)
(2) ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer (2nd ed.,  pp. 437)
(3) Brandon K. Cole, Level 3 Fascial Stretch Specialist, LifeStretch Instructor, Z-Health Neuro-mobility Coach.  Website:  https://www.athleticstretching.com/

About the author

Robert Brinkley says he is Humble Teacher & Student of Strength . Rob is certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES), Strongfirst, Original Strength and TRX. He's a former powerlifter who began exploring alternative ways to increase his strength and athleticism in his relentless quest to always get better, always get stronger.

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