For the past couple years, I’ve been starting my workout sessions with a quick joint and muscular mobility routine. Mobility has the power to not only prevent injury, but also to heal, revitalize and shuttle nutrients to your joints and muscles.
Introducing a quick mobility routine might very well be one of the best things you can do for your body. Almost immediately you will find that many existing aches and pains disappear. Some even think that mobility exercises can reverse damage incurred over time from trauma and injuries, over-activity, and the simple wear-and-tear of everyday life.
Here are a couple tools that are great and easy to use to improve your mobility:
Glute smash: Using a rubber lacrosse ball, which you can pick up at your local fitness store, position the ball under one of your glutes and sit down on it, rolling around for two minutes with as much weight on the ball as you can handle. Then switch to the other glute and repeat.
Scapula smash: Your scapula, or shoulder blades, hold a lot of tension. How many times have you massaged a friend and felt some serious ‘knottage’ in the scapula region? Take the ball and wedge it between your scapula and your spine and lay down on it. It should hurt. Lift your hips in the air with your feet flat on the ground, and move around on the ball with as much pressure as you can handle for two minutes. Switch to the other side and repeat.
Another great tool that you can pick up at your local fitness store, foam rollers have become a popular and important tool to release muscle tightness and improve mobility.
You can literally foam roll almost anything:
Back: Keep your butt firmly on the floor, and arch your back over the roller as you roll out your lower back for two minutes.
Lats: Lay sideways with the roller in your armpit. Roll from your armpit down to halfway down your side, or to the bottom of your lat for two minutes. Switch.
Quads and hamstrings: Lay on the roller and roll out your quads and hamstrings for two minutes.
IT band: Commonly, knee pain is associated with tight hamstrings and tight iliotibial (IT) bands. After stretching your hamstrings, lay sideways on the roller and roll slowly with as much pressure as you can handle from your hip down to just above your knee for two minutes, then switch sides.
Neck: Lay down, using the roller as a pillow. Resting your neck on the roller, apply pressure downward on the roller, tucking your chin to your chest, and then look up to the ceiling slowly. Repeat for two minutes.
Now that you’ve done a few quick mobility tricks, let’s talk about some basic mechanics you should pay attention to. In the gym, flawed mechanics affect our performance, hands down. What injury? Let’s add 40 pounds to my deadlift! The majority of us are not worried about getting injured. Generally, we feel pretty good minus the stiffness, aching, soreness, and general yelping when touched. We have six-packs for god’s sake, of course we can continue to lift heavy things, rounded back be damned. Well actually, we can’t.
I’ll leave you with a few scratch-the-surface beginners’ basics everyone should know before you touch a weight. Besides, what the point of all that great mobility if you’re just gonna go grab a heavy weight and hurt yourself?
Set up well before you touch a weight. Get your back organized before you even look at the barbell.
Squeeze your butt to eliminate an arched back. Squeeze your butt before you do anything in life. Ever. This applies to: bench, press (shoulder or bench), squat, deadlift, bicep curls. Seriously. Everything. Do it.
Before you lift, screw your feet into the ground externally without splaying them out like a duck.
Push your knees out whenever you bend your legs. This applies to: squat, deadlift, push press, and everything else that requires you to bend your knees.
Shoulders back and down. Like, now. Don’t pretend you’re not slouched while reading this.
Put these tips to practice, and you should notice immediate, noticeable improvements in your life.
The Phoenix Effect, a metabolic bootcamp that gets you in shape fast, is offered exclusively at Mansion Fitness, 7914 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.