Written by: Corey Southers
If you are in the functional fitness world, then chances are you have spent countless hours foam rolling your muscles before or after a workout. You have likely been told all the amazing benefits of foam rolling.
But, what is the purpose of foam rolling? Is it helping warm up the muscles? Is it improving flexibility? Does foam rolling help with recovery?
These are all great questions.
In this blog we are concerned with improving joint mobility to improve range of motion, functional strength, and to eliminate joint pain like back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, etc...
With regards to improving mobility - Is foam rolling actually meaningful?
I have found there to be two main camps when it comes to foam rolling. The majority of people don't like foam rolling. They don't like the pain of the foam roller, get bored, or don't see the true benefits. Then there are the people that seem to spend "way too much" time on the foam roller. But is their time worthwhile or unnecessary?
Well, what if I told you that you can get far more benefit out of your mobility work without using it anyway?
Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, massage guns, etc - they feel like they work, right?
In reality, we don’t have one shred of evidence that they do anything meaningful to improve tissue extensibility or mobility. That doesn't mean there aren't benefits to foam rolling and these devices. It just means that there isn't evidence they improves mobility.
First, let’s ask this question: What is mobility?
Mobility is not just your ability to achieve a certain position - mobility is your ability to reach and CONTROL positions.
What do we know improves mobility?
Active mobility techniques are proven to increase range of motion and stability. Not passive techniques like the above mentioned modalities or even passive stretching like those static stretches you’ve been told to hold for your hamstrings or lats. Furthermore, most people don’t need to be doing that kind of stretching anyway - but that’s for the next blog post!
What do you mean by active mobility techniques?
Actively moving your joints to the end ranges of their movements, creating tension there, and spending time there - moving them through every bit of their full range of motion.
But why do active mobility techniques help improve mobility?
Let’s go back to where we said mobility is your ability to CONTROL positions. This is how you actually gain control of your joints so that the nervous system will feel more comfortable allowing you to access that mobility. If that comfortability isn’t there, the nervous system will stop you dead in your tracks and not allow you to move any further - it creates the checks and balances system that the body needs in order to avoid injuries.
Do you want to improve the quality of your movements, make your joints feel better, sit into your squat better, and generally feel less tight?
If your answer is yes, then you need to employ active mobility work for your major joints (all joints really, but let’s start with the spine, ribcage, shoulders, and hips).
Especially over the last year and a half as most of us have totally shifted how we approach each work day - moving less, working from home more, and creating new routines - it’s easy to stray from the plan for this kind of extra work.
15-20 minutes a day is all it takes. Call it your warmup or your cool down. Call it your morning movement to prepare for the day. Call it your mid-day work break to get away from your desk. Call it whatever you want, but you need to do it.
Well, what do you do then?
I have a program that I’ve put together that does JUST this. It is run via mobile app so you can access it anywhere. It gives you the exact 15-20 minute routine each day to follow (changing daily). It focuses on improvement of movement health in your spine, shoulders, and hips. Most importantly, it improves the quality of your joint movement - better joint movement quality means more controlled, less tight, less painful joints.
If your goal is to get rid of joint pain, and improve the quality of your movement, then stop spending painful time on foam rollers and balls trying to smash your tissues into smithereens, and spend your precious time doing something that will create real change.
Click here to start your free trial of my Meaningful Mobility program to see how much more beneficial you can make that 15 minutes per day - use promo code PROPELLO20 for 20% off!
About the Author
Corey Southers, PT, DPT, CSCS, FDN, FMS