Along with giving it your all in the gym, it’s important to also supplement your workouts with a few at-home exercises. Two things that don’t get discussed often enough are soft tissue work and mobilization. Let’s break these down!
Soft Tissue Work
Performing various forms of self-massage can be very beneficial to keeping the soft tissues of our body pliable and extensible. Through various stressors that we put on the body, including exercise, the fascia surrounding our muscles can develop areas called trigger points, hypersensitive areas that can cause pain and restriction in normal movement. By using various tools from the gym, like a foam roller, lacrosse ball, kettlebell, or even your own thumbs, you can address these areas with the intent of improving soft tissue function.
The best way to start your self directed soft tissue work is with a general tool like a foam roller (we like this one!) The foam roller allows you to search the areas of your body with a broad approach. The roller can expose the areas of sensitivity and pain where you need to spend more time. Once you find the area of the body you want to address, a more targeted object can be used for a more focused effect.
There are many different ways and techniques for getting the most out of your self directed soft tissue work. This can be done before a workout or after, and can be a great supplement to any additional mobility and flexibility practice.
Your skeleton is a stack of joints. Some joints are built to be very stable, while other joints have the task of being mobile. When you are performing a complex exercise like a squat, the joints of the foot, ankle, knee, hip, and spine all have to do their job to make sure the movement is stable and uses the appropriate range of motion.
If you are lacking in mobility, other areas of the body will have to compensate to allow for the movement to occur. These compensations can lead to inefficient movement, a lack of expression of strength and power, or worse, an acute or chronic injury.
Because of the type of exercise that we do here at Iron Tribe and with current societal pressures that influence our posture, there are 3 main areas that are extremely important to mobilize to ensure you can stay sustainable in your fitness journey.
- The Ankle: the ankle is extremely important as your link to the important stability of the foot and your connection to the ground. A lack of sufficient dorsiflexion (toe up) and plantar flexion (toe down) will show up in exercises like running, squatting, lunging, and jumping
- The Hip: as the joint stuck between two areas that are highly prone to injury, the knee and the lower back, good hip mobility is paramount to making sure that all of these areas stay healthy. A lack of mobility in the hip can cause the low back and knee to sacrifice stability and proper mechanics to compensate in a way that can lead to injury or pain.
- The Mid-Back/Thoracic Spine: we perform a lot of exercises that require pulling and pushing with the arms overhead. Try this: Sit up as straight as possible and reach your arms overhead. Now, slouch down and put your mid-back into a “rolled forward” posture. Try to reach your arms up overhead again. You should see a big difference with your arm position at the top. Sometimes we get stuck in this bad posture, and it’s going to make it very hard to perform the movements in the program.
The body is a system of moving parts that are all interconnected. Any lack of mobility can be a weak link towards achieving the best results.
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