Our Top 5 Must-Have Mobility Tools
Written by Calvin Sun
For many people, mobility is a bit like rowing upstream. It takes a focused and consistent effort in order to make any progress towards achieving superior suppleness. Minimal effort will only maintain your current level of mobility and flexibility at best. And putting in no effort allows you to be swept away by the current into postmortem levels of rigidity.
We do our best to incorporate mobility drills into our group coaching warm-ups but those exercises are usually geared towards the workout of the day, not your individual issues. Ideally, you should spend a few extra minutes each day working on your specific limitations. We also realize that not everyone has the time to show up to class 15 minutes early or stay a few minutes after to work on a few stretches or drills. However, that doesn’t excuse you from the need to work on improving your mobility.
For the price of a 60-minute massage, you can put together your own mobility kit that will last you indefinitely. We recommend having a few of these tools on hand at your home or office so that you can make sure you are consistently moving towards mobility mastery.
The foam roller is best for larger areas of the body such as your quads, hamstrings, upper back, and lats. Avoid purchasing the cheap, white rollers made of low-density foam as they tend to be too soft for most athletes and don’t last as long as the higher-density rollers. Consider a textured roller like the Rumble Roller or the Trigger Point Grid Roller if you really want to be able to dig in.
The lacrosse ball is best for getting into hot spots like the deltoids, pec major, calves, plantar fascia, and other areas a foam roller isn’t effective due to it’s larger surface area. Tape two together to make a “peanut” and you’ll have an effective tool for dealing with that stiff, Quazimodo-like thoracic spine of yours.
If you think of the foam roller as a shotgun that can hit a large area at once, and the lacrosse ball as a handgun for getting a little more up close and personal, then the Theracane is the precision sniper rifle of mobility tools. It’s a deep pressure massager that allows you get into some very hard to reach places like the pec minor, mid back, and traps.
If you have ever been to a physical therapy office, you have probably seen a stretch out strap in use for various types of stretches for nearly every major area of the body. I prefer it over rubber stretch bands because there are numerous loops built-in to give you more options when stretching out. I like having my clients use the strap for daily stretching of muscle groups like the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, adductors, and shoulders. It’s also easy to travel with so toss one into your carry-on so you can stretch out your stiff body after a long flight.
First popularized by Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD, we have found these bands to be effective tools for improving mobility and facilitating recovery. According to Dr. Starrett, there are three major effects that help recovery: compression of the tissues increases shear thus freeing sliding surfaces that are “glued” together, compression helps move lymph and metabolic waste products out of the targeted muscle tissue, and the compensatory vasodilation that occurs after removal of the band brings increased blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscle. Check out this video by Dr. Starrett for a primer on how to floss the knee. Also consider purchasing his book, “Becoming A Supple Leopard“, for more ideas.
As I mentioned earlier, make sure you put in a consistent effort towards improving your mobility. Having a few tools at home makes it a little easier to get in some easy smashing and stretching. And don’t tell me you don’t have time either. You can stretch out while you watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. If you still aren’t sure where to start, feel free to ask an Invictus coach for some guidance or post a comment.