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Category: Injury/Prevention

5 Best Lower Body Mobilizations

If you are completely unfamiliar with the term mobility, check out my overview article on it here.

 

Before we begin, I’m sure you understand the importance of attaining some basic mobility, if not I will be writing a future article the ‘3 Biggest movement dysfunctions’.  It will go in depth to describe the 3 biggest mobility problems facing people today, and why it needs to be addressed ASAP.

 

Alright.  Now that we are on the same page about needing mobility (especially lower body), here’s my Top 5 best lower body mobilizations.

 

1) Runners pose

Lower Body Mobilizations - Runner's Pose

Photo credit.

Purpose: Primarily stretch out your hip flexors (super important for anyone who sits … so everyone)

Modifications: Can be easily modified by the extent you push your hips forward.  Remember to tighten your butt cheek of the leg with the knee on the ground, and not to lean your upper body away, stay vertical.

Note: Video begins at the 4:00 minute mark.

 

Take it one level further with a banded distraction pulling your hip forward. 

Note: Video begins at the 9:45 minute mark.

 

Aim for:  Around 2 minutes per side.  If you find any problem areas, feel free to spend longer working those out.

 

2) Squat Hold

Lower Body Mobilizations - Squat Hold

Photo Credit.

Purpose: Deep stretch in your hamstrings and pelvic floor muscles, adductors, and calves.  This is one of the primal positions humans are designed to be comfortable holding.  Even if you can easily eat dinner in this position, which I bet most people are not, some time should be spent maintaining that ability.

 

Modifications:

Easier: Holding onto something (chair)

Lower Body Mobilizations - Chair Hold

Photo Credit.

Medium: Holding onto a kettle bell.  It really helps you get a deep stretch in all the muscles

 

Aim for:  Work up to increasingly longer holds.  Start off with 30 seconds and see if you can get to 2, 5, even 10 minutes.

 

3) Pigeon Pose

Lower Body Mobilizations - Pigeon Stretch

Photo Credit.

Purpose: Primarily stretch out the glutes and hip flexors, also can stretch the hamstrings depending on your forward leg position.

Modifications: You can add pillows underneath your glutes to reduce the depth of the stretch.  Holding onto anything nearby can also help.

Note: Video begins at the 5:00 minute mark.

 

Aim for:  Around 2 minutes per side.  Again if you find any trouble areas, work those out.  Play around with your leg positioning.

 

4) Myofascial Release

Lacrosse ball smash the quadriceps & gluteal fold

Lower Body Mobilizations - Lacrosse Ball Rolling

Photo Credit.

Purpose: Break up any adhesions in your quadriceps and the insertion of your hamstring into the glutes.  

Modifications: An easier way to do it would be to use a foam roller, since the surface area is greater.

For the quadriceps, begin just above the knee and slowly work all the way up to the flexors.  If you find any tight spots along the way, pause for a minute and let it work itself out.

The easiest way to get the gluteal fold is to sit on a hard surface and place the lacrosse ball at the insertion of the hamstrings into the glutes, right before your sits bones.  Make sure to have your pelvis directly underneath you.  It may help to sit up as straight as you can  to put your pelvis in the most advantageous position for this mobilization.

 

Aim for:  Around 2 minutes per side.  As with the previous stretches, if you find any areas that you’d like to explore go ahead and camp out there for a while.

5) Internal Hip Rotations

Lower Body Mobilizations - Internal Hip Rotation

Photo Credit.

Purpose:  Restore internal rotation of the hips.  This is essential in creating torque from external rotation, which helps to stabilize the hip joint during squatting movements.  It may sound counterintuitive, but if you think about it the more internal rotation you can achieve, the earlier ‘starting point’ you will have to begin the external rotation = more torque = stability = performance.

Modifications:  Let your legs fall as much as you’d like, further and you will have a greater stretch.

To perform, lay on your back and bring your feet out wide.  Let your knees fall inward toward the opposite leg.  Try one at a time, or two, whichever your prefer.  Be really conscious of keeping your hips on the ground and trying to feel the stretch in the hip joint.

Aim for:  Around 2 minutes per side.

 

Conclusion:

The beautiful thing about all of these mobilizations is that you can personalize them to fit you.  If you feel a particular range of motion or side of the movement is tighter/stickier, spend some more time there and really dig into it.  Kelly Starrett is a big proponent of ‘hunting’ for those tight areas and really working them out.  The greatest changes in your physiology and performance come directly from working out those problem areas.  Also another note,  test your movement positioning before and after each mobilization.  See if you end up making changes.  If you don’t experience any changes, try a different variation of it or experiment with holding it longer.

 

5 Best Upper Body Mobilizations here!

Anyone in Limerick, Ireland?  Be sure to check out Colm at his gym, and blog. He’s a physiotherapist who understands the mobility and stability requirements of anyone, especially athletes.

 

If you’re interested in a  great video for a lower body warmup, Matt Ogus has a great one here.

 

Need a lacrosse ball or foam roller?  Amazon has several great options, here are my favorite:

Foam Roller

Lacrosse Ball

Be sure to check out my Voodoo Floss Band review if you want to take your lower body mobility even further!

What is Mobility? Lets Break it Down!

Mobility is “the ability to move in one’s environment with ease and without restriction.”  In terms of human movement, mobility is the ability to put one’s body into the correct position for various movements such as a squat, deadlift, overhead press etc.

 

Dr.Kelly Starrett of San Francisco Crossfit and mobilitywod  have been the main sources behind this term becoming more popular.  Kelly says that mobility is “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.”  In other words mobility is super important when we are talking about fitness, and even just general everyday life.  Having mobility means having the ability to move the way our bodies were designed, that is the correctly and safely.  Incidentally having this mobility will also allow for greater performance through higher force and therefore power production.

 

While you can break down mobility into many subcategories, as Dr. Kelly did above, I believe the three most pertinent categories are as follows:

  • Soft tissue restrictions
  • Tissue elasticity
  • Joint Range of motion

 

The majority of improvements in mobility will more than likely come from these areas.  Additionally they are all easy to work on individually which is very important for those of us who cannot afford a personal masseuse or chiropractor.

 

Soft tissue restrictions

Think scar tissue and matted down old tissue that hasn’t been required to move in a long time (ie you haven’t done a full squat in decades).  All those adhesions serve to tack down and restrict the movement of different layers of tissue.  The goal here is to break up those adhesions and restore the sliding surfaces of the various layers of tissue.

The main tools used here are self-myofascial release tools, such as foam rollers and lacrosse balls.  If you’re unsure how to use either I’ll be making an article on the both of them and  the importance of myofascial release soon.

Mobility - Lacrosse Ball Rolling

Photo Credit.

Lacrosse ball smashing the quadriceps.

 

Tissue elasticity

Think stretching.  A shorter tissue will have a decreased range of motion when compared to a longer tissue.  If you have yet to attain the maximum range of motion this is an excellent place to put some work in.  Kelly is a big proponent of Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).  PNF is essentially stretching a muscle, isometrically contracting it, then stretching it further.  Commonly you will perform multiple cycles of it.  Couple PNF with prolonged static stretching (I prefer up to two minutes) and you’ll see noticeable changes in your mobility.

Mobility - Runners Pose

Runner’s pose.

 

Mobility - Pigeon Stretch

Pigeon Stretch.

Joint range of motion

Lastly the range of motion of your joints needs to be addressed.  This is usually done through the use of banded distractions.  Here’s an excellent video of Starrett demonstrating some banded distractions.  The main idea is that the band applies pressure to put the joint back in the correct position, then you can move around a bit and stretch out the end ranges of motion.

 

Some things to note here are that mobilization is not the same as a warmup (although it should be incorporated into a warm up).  Generally a warm up is designed to increase your heart rate a bit and get more blood flowing.  Mobilizing during your warm up will serve to put you in better positions during your workouts, thus making you stronger and less likely to get injured.

 

Some of my favorite movements are the runners pose (first stretch she demonstrates), deep squat hold, and pigeon pose  all of which address both tissue elasticity; and, when coupled with a band, joint range of motion.

 

Background on Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s response to a perceived harmful stimulus such as foreign bacteria entering the body or a broken bone.  It serves to increase blood flow to that area to speed up healing, and restrict the movement of the tissues/joint/area in an effort to mitigate further injuring that area.

 

Oftentimes an athlete will realize they have a problem with the onset of inflammation.  It is important to be aware of the outbreak of inflammation and to treat it quickly, whilst noting the reason(s) for its occurrence.  Inflammation as experienced by athletes usually falls into one of two injury categories.  Acute or chronic.

 

Acute inflammation occurs when a singular event leads to injury.  Examples include a torn ACL, sprained ankle, broken arm.  Here the injuries can be explained by putting too much force into the body in such a fashion as it couldn’t handle (falling on your wrists and breaking them) or poor movement patterns (such as valgus knees leading to non contact ACL tears) leading to one event where the injury occurred.

 

Chronic inflammation in the athletic sense normally occurs from repeated poor movement patterns coupled with a workload that one’s body is not capable of handling; both putting stress on tendons/ligaments/bones in a fashion they were not designed for.  These are commonly overuse injuries.  Examples include painful swelling in the knees arising from Osgood Schlatters disease, plantar fasciitis, and others.  

 

How to Deal with Inflammation:

The initial phases of acute and chronic inflammation should be treated in similar fashion.  The goal is to decrease the immediate swelling sustained from the injury to speed up the healing process and the return to previous activity levels.  Commonly athletes are told to Rest Ice Compress Elevate (RICE) their injured areas.  This is a mostly solid healing protocol.  However in recent years the icing recommendation has come under fire with certain people noting that icing primarily serves to ‘turn off’ the nerves of that area for a period of time and thus diminish the feeling of pain; while decreasing the blood flow to the area and clogging up the lymphatic system (primary system responsible for the elimination of inflammation).  Thus their argument is that icing is counter productive for healing an injury.  I tend to agree with them, with the stipulation being that prolonged icing is the main culprit of decreasing blood flow (greater than 5-10 minutes).  Rest, Compression and Elevation are all beneficial for the initial onset of inflammation.

Once the initial phases of the inflammation are dealt with, athletes need to continue the healing process by increasing the blood flow to the injured areas and supporting the lymphatic system.  I recommend a gradual progression of increasing activity when recovering from an injury.  Starting with progressively longer walks, more intense stretching and moving into lower intensity exercises with higher repetitions.  The progression will depend on each situation and should be dictated by how the athlete feels.  To stimulate the lymphatic system, contraction surrounding the injured areas is needed.  This can be provided from muscular contraction or from outside compression such as a Rogue Voodoo floss band.  If you’re interested in seeing how the Rogue Voodoo floss band can drastically decrease the inflammation of an area check out my review of them here.  The point here is that once the initial inflammation subsides, the athlete should gradually increase their activity levels and stimulate the injured area to increase the rate of healing.

 

Conclusion:

I cannot stress it enough that inflammation (as commonly experienced by athletes) is merely a symptom of some root cause.  If the inflammation is treated, yet the underlying reason behind it is not, you can rest assured that the problem will still be there and will recur when activity starts ramping up again.

 

One of my hopes is that through accumulating information from this site and others athletes will be able to identify faulty movement and loading patterns before they are exposed to inflammation and injury.

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