Built To Last: Mobilization Is Key

By on July 7, 2014

In the current era of high intensity workouts, grueling obstacle races, and the desire to increase our performance to highest pinnacles possible many people forget the importance of self-maintenance.

It would be fantastic to have the time and resources to train at the same level as the Lance Armstrong’s and Rich Froning’s, but when it comes down to it, you are genetically not them and I promise you that you do not put a big enough effort into self maintenance as these guys do.

Another word that can be easily interchanged with self-maintenance is mobility, I know you have hopped on the foam roller a time or two because someone told you it feels good and it is like a mini massage.

However, I bet you probably did not spend more than thirty seconds steamrolling those brittle IT bands before you said that is enough and then proceeded to jump right into a heavy dosage of thrusters and burpees, all while still feeling that knee pain or that back pain and continuing to press through it.

I am here to tell you that the Lance’s and Froning’s invest a lot of money in Dr’s to work on them constantly to prevent injuries not fix injuries. In the world of HIIT the only person who is going to look out for you is you.

In a group class of thirty your coach is not going to be able to work through every little ache and pain you might have that could possibly manifest itself into something greater later on down the road, nor is it their responsibility.

The self-maintenance must come from your end, especially If you want to be coached and workout at the intensity level of a professional athlete.

James Harrison, former linebacker for the Bengals and Steelers, has reported spending upwards of $200,000 dollars a year on therapists, chiropractors, massage therapy, dry needling, you name it, the man sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber for crying out loud and what do you do? Pop four fish oils, get six hours of sleep, sit at a desk for eight hours or more and still expect to have a sub three minute Fran or a four hundred pound back squat.

Your coach may be good but he isn’t a miracle worker, it takes due diligence and effort on your part to create a thorough maintenance (mobility) routine.

So where do you start? If you look anywhere online now there is a plethora of free material and videos out there that provide you with myofascial release techniques or stretches for any musculoskeletal issue you may be having.

Therein lies the issue though; you should not wait until the point that there is a musculoskeletal issue or injury that you have to look up how to fix it. Prevention is the name of the game. If you want to continue to train like superman for a life time, you need to be in the mindset of preventing any pain before there is any.

So how often should you mobilize? Once you have found a few good mobilization techniques, the amount of time and frequency is key. It is better to split your mobilization in to smaller more frequent periods throughout the day instead of one long period.

It is not ideal to mobilize everything at once and go into heavy snatches feeling like Gumby. Save your longer mobility sessions for after your workout or for a rest day.

Otherwise pick two to three pieces daily to work on and split them up throughout the day. One useful tip is to set an alarm every hour or two to get up and do five minutes of some mobilization.

Especially if you work in a high stress environment where you are constantly in a heightened state of awareness and stress, it is good to take a few moments and down regulate with some foam or lacrosse ball rolling. This will help lower your heightened parasympathetic nervous response from elevated stress levels and help kick start your recovery.

If you are wound up all day, stressed out, producing cortisol, you will not recover as quickly. So five minutes every hour or two will do you and your body some good in increased recovery along with lowering your likelihood of injury.

How long should I do each mobilization piece? If you are foam rolling, rolling on a lacrosse ball, stretching, it is essential that you do them for a minimum of one to two minutes each. It takes upwards of a minute to make any physiological changes to the tissue that you are working.

A measly ten to fifteen seconds will not provide much benefit at all. As we age our tissues become more and more brittle, a good way to pictures this is to compare it to molding clay, as the clay dry’s it hardens and becomes stiff and rigid, but once you add water to it become pliable again and you are able to remold it.

Myofascial release (foam and lacrosse ball rolling) brings the water to your tissues, allowing them to be more pliable once again. These techniques are good to perform before your stretching or dynamic warm ups making them much more beneficial and effective.

How do I choose what mobility pieces to do daily? As with any warm up you need to find your staples that you do on a regular basis. However another great way to devise your maintenance plan is to plan around your workouts.

If you are going to be performing highly demanding Olympic movements attack your pecs, shoulders, and lats to make sure everything is firing correctly. If you are going to be doing a hefty amount of running spend a good amount of time rolling out the front and back of your calves prior to doing your regular preparatory warming up and stretching.

The key is to develop three to five daily essentials and then pick one or two more pieces prioritized around your workout.
Here are two absolute essentials to add to your repertoire, if they are not already incorporated.

  • Glute Mashing – Sitting all day does a number on your glutes by locking them in an elongated and deactivated position, so rolling those tissues to restore them to proper activation is essential for spinal stabilization, especially under heavy load. This can be done on the foam roller or a lacrosse ball, it is as simple as just sitting your glutes on a lacrosse ball (or foam roller) one side a time and digging in them for a few minutes. The lacrosse ball is more advanced so starting with the foam roller and then eventually progressing to the lacrosse ball is ok. Here is an example


  • Thoracic Extension – As you sit all day long your upper back gets locked in an elongated and rounded position due to gravity, you can reverse this and get those muscles reactivated by leaning over a foam roller as such. This one is great for delaying the aging process and keeping you upright for a lifetime.


Here are the key points to take away

  • Have a daily maintenance plan because it is just as important as actually working out.
  • Take care of your joints and tissues and they will return the favor.
  • Try to mobilize periodically throughout the day, especially if you sit for prolonged periods of time, it is essential to reclaim proper joint range of motion to prevent injury.
  • Remember professional athletes get paid to do take their bodies to the extreme and if you want to train at that level you must also maintain at that level to if you want to do this for a life time
  • Educate yourself on different mobilization techniques. The more you know the better.
  • Always hit every piece for a minimum of 1 to 2 minutes each.
  • Preventing injury is always better than fixing an injury, listen to your body, if you have a nagging injury change it. Just taking a day or two off from working out won’t change your poor mechanics that got you to that point in the first place. Be proactive about your bodily signals and learn to prevent, not fix!

Garry Dubs

Garry Dubbs

About Garry Dubbs

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