You have a consistent workout routine going, that is awesome! You are on the right track. Working out has many benefits as we know as far as weight loss, gaining muscle and mental health benefits. But the most common missed component of fitness for many is flexibility and mobility. We can all use more of this.
Exercise tightens the muscles in use. This is why we need a well-balanced program of strength and flexibility. In a balanced program you should be strengthening the weaker muscles and stretching the tight muscles. For many chest, shoulder and hips become over tightened due to our lifestyle and jobs. We must stretch those muscles more and strengthen the posterior chain or “backside muscles”, glutes, low back and upper back. Failing to do so can lead to overuse injury down the road.
Two common ways to help improve mobility and flexibility are:
Static stretching – This is the most common method of stretching many people use. Static stretching is holding a stretch for a certain period of time. The problem is these stretches generally only get held for ten to twenty seconds. This can relive some tension but will not improve your flexibility. In order to improve your flexibility, you must hold these stretches for at least one minute. The longer the better, which will lead longer more pliable muscles. Static stretching should be done after a workout when muscles and joints are warm.
Foam rolling – Foam rolling is a great way to help improve mobility. Foam rolling works by rolling on a particular muscle with a roller or a harder ball such as a lacrosse ball. The idea is to find the point of tension or the “knot” and try to release this point of tension. Think of it as a massage therapist working out a knot in your back. When we are under stress from a physical injury or intense exercise our fascia (a thin sheet of tissue over our muscles) will get knotted up. This decreases our mobility and range of motion. For example, maybe you cannot lift your arms fully straightened overhead. This could be because of tight fascia that has built up overtime from working at a computer all day. Releasing these knots or trigger points will improve mobility, decrease injury and improve quality of life.
Just like exercise and nutrition stretching and mobility work needs to be done regularly in order to see results. If you wait until you have pain to stretch, you waited too long. Be proactive, take ten minutes to stretch or foam roll after each workout.
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