When working on improving your mobility, stability, strength, comfort, and function, you need to utilize multiple techniques that focus on each aspect, and the order in which you do them is an important factor to consider.
During a therapy session, we have limited time to determine what needs to be addressed during the session, and what can be continued outside of therapy time. We see you for a very limited time in a week. What you do when you’re not in physical therapy is even more important that what we do while you are in physical therapy.
You already have some strategies to set you up for success, but now let’s address what order you should work in.
While there are always exceptions to rules, here is a basic guideline of how to progress through your prescribed exercises.
We like to start with soft tissue mobility work. That means getting the muscles and connective tissues loosened up and ready to move. During a therapy session, we may do this with hands on work, such as massage or joint mobilizations, but at home, we still want you to have this tactic available to you.
We will often teach you soft tissue mobility work to do with a lacrosse ball, a foam roller, or another tool you have available to you. The idea with this approach is making the tight restricted tissues more pliable so you get more benefit when working on stability, strengthening, and joint motion. A few minutes on each area everyday leads to big results.
When using these tools, you want to find a tender spot in the targeted area. You will move around to localize, and then take a few breaths. We expect the area to soften up with a few calming breaths. As the tension reduces, move a nearby joint to further enhance the soft tissue mobilization. Repeat and increase the motion as tolerated.
If you feel the pressure is too intense, then reduce how much pressure you are applying. If you can’t tolerate pressure on a specific point, then you can work along the edges of that point. Also, for several mobility techniques, you can reduce the pressure by moving from the ground to working against a wall. Using a lacrosse ball is more point specific than using a foam roller, so a foam roller is likely to be better tolerated, and may be a good starting point for many exercises.
As you progress, you will want to apply more pressure to reach deeper layers. You can do this by applying more body weight, moving through a larger range of motion, or progressing from a foam roller to a lacrosse ball.
Soft tissue mobility work is great to start a workout, whether it’s a stretching based program, or you are working on building strength. You can’t go wrong with starting soft tissue mobility to begin your session.
After you have your soft tissue structures loose and pliable, stretching is a great tactic to create lasting changes of tissue length. Many times, pain and limitation is caused by restricted tissue mobility. While softening the tissues with a mobility tool is relieving, it generally won’t last on its own. You need to also stretch that tissue to lock in improvements in motion.
When you transition to your stretching portion, you want to aim for a mild stretch which you can tolerate for longer durations. You want a stretch held for 30 seconds or longer, and for a total time of at least two minutes. Don’t bounce or force motion, and do use your breath to calm your nervous system and facilitate the stretch. The sensation should be an elastic tension that you could gently push more if you wanted.
Stretching can be done after soft tissue work with a tool, or after a workout as a cool down. Like many things, your muscles and connective tissues move better when warmed up. These longer hold stretches are not ideal right before a good workout, as the long holds of the stretching actually inhibits your nerves resulting in less muscle potential. If you are going to stretch out before a workout, keep it between 10-20 seconds holds to not have that inhibiting effect.
A combination of soft tissue work and stretching will help improve mobility and get you moving better and into new ranges. This will help restore soft tissue health as our body thrives with better movement.
Think of these two tactics as your mobility strategies. They are general concepts that can be applied throughout the body, can be self applied at any time, and require minimal equipment if any. Getting better mobility is a key step in any recovery.
Use mobility strategies to get pain relief, ease into a workout, recover from a workout, and improve overall ease and efficiency of motion by removing resistance throughout the muscles and connective tissue.
After you improve mobility, we need to reinforce how to use that new mobility, and for that we need stability. We not only need to improve our motion, but we need to improve our control in that motion. Working on stability will be a goal for any weak areas or new areas we identify. #snowbeastperformance