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The Basics of Mobility Training- Part 2

Want to improve your mobility or flexibility? Here's the follow-up explaining all the broad training techniques to consider for improving your mobility.
The Basics of Mobility Training- Part 2

In my last article, I touched on what mobility training is and how it differs from flexibility.

I explained the difference between too much mobility and not enough, how my approach differs between the two and also showed you how to assess if you have excessive mobility.

I got into some philosophical thoughts on movement quality improvements and why mobility training doesn't always mean stretching. Then I touched on how I generally integrate this type of training into my client's routines.

But I neglected to write about the importance of mobility as a measure of quality of life though.

Everyone notices that the older we get the slower we move, the more stiff we look/feel and the more challenging every day life activities become — hip fractures quickly become one of our biggest fears.

Mobility is perhaps the single biggest factor to keep our independence as we age.

Need to bend down to pick something up? You need mobility. Want to grab something off the top shelf in your kitchen? You need mobility.

Look no further than at someone like Jack Lalanne who at 96 years of age, moved like he was 20-30 years younger and maintained his independent lifestyle right up until his death.

Don’t you want that life for yourself at that age?

I know that’s my prime motivator for my mobility work, the idea of not being able to take care of myself later in life scares the crap out of me.

What I want to do with the rest of this post is give you a rundown of the numerous methods I typically use to help others change their levels of mobility and maybe touch on some key mobility points of interest.

The Tools of the Trade

In no particular order because the tool you choose should largely depend on what the perceived problems are. For instance, if you are on the hypermobile end of the spectrum I would not typically suggest you do a lot of passive static stretching.

Instead, you probably want to do a lot more mobilization and other forms of active stretching.

At the other end of the spectrum you may want to do a lot more passive forms of stretching. In other words it's a spectrum:

  1. Massage/Self-Massage
  2. Passive Static Stretching
  3. Active Static Stretching
  4. Dynamic Stretching (Mobilizations)
  5. Ballistic Stretching (Explosive/Agility Training)
  6. Resistance Training (Surprised?)
  7. PNF Stretching (Contract-Relax Stretching)
  8. Resisted Stretching
  9. Yoga and/or Pilates
  10. Relaxation Techniques

And now let's give you the who, what, where, when and why.

I) Massage/Self Massage

I'm sure most people have heard of massage therapists or masseuses even if you haven't had one yourself.

I'm not going to get into the details of all of them or their validity. It's some kind of surface-level manual tissue manipulation by a generally licenced practitioner.

There are lot of massage professionals, and health professionals using a wide variety of techniques. Everything from Swedish massage to deep tissue sports massage, to Graston Technique, Active Release Technique (A.R.T.), Rolfing, and many other styles and practices of massage techniques.

Generally speaking massage feels good and has an almost immediate impact on range of motion.

However, it's also generally very expensive in western countries. I remember getting $18 hour-long massages almost daily in Bali while on vacation but my most recent registered massage therapy treatment was easily over $100.

If you afford to do, or have health coverage for it, you may want to opt for a professional massage technique from time to time. I'm not sure it's always the right medical treatment per se but that's a whole other can of worms.

Touch feels good and will relax muscles. So getting a friend or spouse to give you a massage once and a while might be a viable alternative for a lot of people too. I find it helps to know a bit of anatomy but even in the absence of another human being there is a surprising amount of massage work you can do yourself.

AKA Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). Self-massage is a process of restoring a more neutral neural tone to muscle and fascial tissues with external (often cheap) tools like:

  • Foam Rollers
  • Lacrosse Balls
  • Tennis Balls
  • Peanut Rollers (2 tennis and/or lacrosse balls hockey taped together)
  • Stick Rollers
  • Golf Ball(s) (for the feet)
  • Vibration Massagers
  • A seemingly endless number of niche products for specific purposes ...

I get a lot done with the first six on that list almost exclusively but I'm not opposed to vibration tools. They just tend to provide less value than other tools to people doing this kind of work at home.

I get it, it is annoying to get down on to the floor at home to use a foam roller. I'll give you that, but vibration massagers are expensive and so far do not appear to be superior to regular old foam rolling approaches. If you have the money and prefer a faster treatment you can do standing/seated, go for it, but I generally stick to the first 6 tools still (personally).

How I Use It

I use a quick 5-10 minute session before most of my training sessions to gauge how I and my clients feel prior to training. I expect to see and feel standard ranges of motion and similar levels of discomfort.

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Contrary to popular opinions on warming up, this is not to "loosen tissues up" so much as stimulate the nervous system.

For example, the literature suggests that foam rolling prior to training improves things like sprint performance. It's probably very minor but I'll take whatever I can get. It's not hurting performance in any case. Whereas the effects of self-massage post-workout appear negligible by comparison.

Rolling with the gluteal fibres

I start with a broad approach using a roller typically before getting into any specific noteworthy areas like the glutes or pecs or shoulder girdle or spine with more precise tools. And I almost always roll the bottom of my feet with a golf ball – there are a variety of tools you can purchase that do something similar though.

If you need to improve flexibility somewhere more specific I would also highly recommend rolling before you do that work too. For example, when I prescribe static stretches to clients to do before bed (a great time to stretch) I will typically tell them to roll any muscles they are about to stretch.

Most flexibility issues are neural. Thus, massaging a muscle before you stretch it generally increases the range of motion. Ensuring that whatever mobility work you do, will get to end range faster and can be done for less time overall.

A colleague Mike Robertson has a great basics of foam rolling free ebook here.

II) Passive Static Stretching

This is what everyone calls "stretching." Or at least it's the perceived traditional static stretching method. Whereby you use another limb or a secure object to hold a joint(s) in a stretch for something like 10 seconds to up to five minutes.

Wall Supported Rectus Femoris (AKA Hip Flexor) Stretch

Who has the time to hold every stretch for 2-5 minutes??

Generally speaking I use 10-60 seconds (sometimes longer, but not often) because I encourage you to roll before you do this kind of work or use other methods (like PNF) to get to end range faster. And I generally emphasize muscular flexibility because most of what you can control here is neural in nature.

It's worth noting that an extreme lack of mobility can be ligament related – you can't stretch through bone though. In rare instances where I suspect that's the issue this may warrant longer stretches but I'm very selective this approach. i.e. it's rare for me to do.

My rationale?

Once you stretch ligaments, they don't really tighten back up and remember back from part 1; I'm much more wary of excess range of motion than not enough. So if you're going to go down that path, you better know what you want to accomplish and why.

Most people can get to clinically normative ranges of motion without having to do long-duration passive static stretching in an effort to get beyond muscular stretching and into the joint itself.

According to Johns and Wright (1962) the relative contribution of soft tissue structures in joint resistance are as follows:

Structure Resistance Level (%)
Joint Capsule (Ligaments/Cartilage/Etc...) 47%
Muscle (Fascia) 41%
Tendon 10%
Skin (I know right?) 2%

As you can see the joint itself does make up most of the typical joint stiffness but muscle is not very far behind.

How I Use It

I rarely do any of this before I train because passive static stretching tends to lower neural tone too much that it impedes training performance. That said, if you're stretching your hip flexors, and you know you won't be doing any sprint or strengthening work for the hip flexors for another 20 minutes (the length of time neural tone stays lowered) it can work.

Selectively you can some of these stretches as fillers if you know a muscle group isn't going to be worked until much later (or already has been worked) but generally I do it at the end or as part of a separate short flexibility session closer to bedtime.

And I like to vary the tempo of stretches, like I vary the tempo of exercises I use with clients and it is especially useful to tie in stretching with breathing instead of watching a clock.

Maybe you have a big clock you can pay attention to, but who wants to set a stopwatch while they are stretching and trying to relax?

This is a technique I learned from Chris and Ann Frederick of the ‘Stretch To Win‘ clinic, who refer to varied tempos within a stretching protocol as ‘Wave Stretching.’

They use 4 different waves but only the first two are really 'static stretching' in my view:

  1. Very Slow = Three Deep Breaths
  2. Slow = Two Deep Breaths
  3. Fast = One Fast Breath — synonymous with dynamic stretching (one complete breath only lasts a couple of seconds)
  4. Very Fast = Synonymous with ‘Ballistic Stretching’ – See Below

Deep breathing equates to a breath that lasts about 10 seconds. For example, 4 seconds in, 6 seconds out; Or 4 seconds in, 4 seconds held, 6 seconds out; Or even  or 4 seconds in, 7 seconds hold, 8 seconds out.

There are a bunch of deep breathing techniques out there I think will work here, the only thing I really emphasize is that he exhale lasts longer than the inhale. Because exhaling actually relaxes autonomic neural tone better and that's the thing* that tends to impede flexibility. *I see this with high stress individuals.

The first two are most appropriate with static forms of stretching, including the active variety I'll discuss next. If you have an observable lack of flexibility at a joint, you find an appropriate stretch for addressing the perceived need. Then I'd use this after you train (muscles will be warm and neural tone generally low, so you will be able to get to end range rather easily. However, as I said, it's probably preferably to roll later in the day (well after a workout) and stretch closer to bed if you're able.

Mistakes People Make

Where most people execute this type of passive stretching incorrectly, is that they do not actively contract the opposing muscle group for hip/shoulder/spine stretches. If the opposing muscle group is not statically contracted, these joints are very often moving, minimizing the training effect.

It's less important for hinge joints like the the knee or elbow and mildly important for ankle/calf stretching perhaps.

For instance if you are stretching your hamstrings, you should try to actively tighten your hip flexors to get the best stretch gains. If you're trying to stretch your hip flexors your glutes should be tight. If you're trying to stretch your t-spine, you probably want some tension in your your abdominals to limit hip and lumbar spine contributions to the range of motion.

Mindlessly stretching a joint passively will lead to minor flexibility improvements, at best.

III) Active Static Stretching

This is similar to passive stretching in that it is typically held (or accumulated at least) for 10-60 seconds statically.

The difference is that with active stretching you are using the strength of opposing muscle groups to get a stretch on the muscle group you want to stretch, which in turn can provide strength to the tissues that are responsible for maintaining the balance between strength and flexibility.

In the photo above, instead of using my hand (and wall) to help lift and hold my ankle towards my glute; I'd use my hamstring muscle strength to lift and hold the leg as high as I can. Look ma, no hands!

Remember it would be still be best to contract the hamstring (even though my hand is providing most of the help) even in the passive stretching scenario. But active stretching takes that principle to a new level.

As the strength of the opposing muscle group improves, the greater the stretch you will be able to get, but you’ll also achieve better balance in terms of mobility because the limitation will be on the mechanical advantage of the contracting muscle group.

This means it is very hard to ‘over-stretch’ with this type of static stretching. Making it the ideal approach for people who are hypermobile or have too much flexibility at certain joints that they still want to maximize control of.

How I Use It

Good luck holding any of these positions for longer than 5-10 seconds at a time. My advice is generally to accumulate upwards of 60 seconds of stretching via multiple repetitions.

For example 6x5 seconds, 10x5 seconds, 4x8 seconds, 3x10 seconds or 6x10 seconds holds. This is effectively isometric training in a manner that improves joint control and flexibility, which I hope to do an article on some day.

One of my favourite implementations is called Active Isolated Stretching (AIS).

If you're doing this as part of your warm-ups (and you certainly can) I'd lean towards lower volume (three to six, 3 or 5 second holds for example) because these are fatiguing and will impact your training performance if you do too much of it by generating excessive fatigue. You just want enough to prepare the nervous system, not impede performance.

I prefer to use these as fillers (between exercises) when appropriate or at the end of workouts or as active recovery training for lower volumes (mentioned above).

If you're using any type of stretching as a filler, it's important that the action won't impede performance.

So if you're doing deadlifts (for example) I wouldn't hesitate to use some static stretching for the hip flexors if I know that my quad/hip flexor work has already been done. But I wouldn't use an active static stretch version because this will fatigue the hamstring, which is the dominant muscle working in the deadlift. I might do an active dorsiflexion stretch though because it likely won't impede deadlift performance and dorsiflexion can be a mobility limitation for some people in this lift.

IV) Dynamic Stretching (Mobilizations)

Likely my favourite, the type I use the most, and perhaps the most useful — especially when used in combination with massage techniques. Typically done at roughly the tempo I mentioned above:

  • Fast = One Fast Breath — synonymous with dynamic stretching (one complete breath only lasts a couple of seconds)

However, it can be done to a deeper breath in some cases too I feel but never more than one breath per rep. Generally I'm looking for an entire repetition to last anywhere from 1-8 seconds but most often 1-4 seconds. Controlled, but not "held."

Anything slower than this ends up being held at end range and becomes more of an active static stretch and anything faster progresses towards ‘ballistic stretching’ (mentioned below).

You can think of these as active static stretches but you don't hold end range for long, maybe 1-2 seconds at most. They always feature a ‘release’ phase, whereby the joint is eased out of the stretch to the opposite end range (typically) but the muscles involved under active contraction.  

This will induce a strong brief stretch in combination with a strong co-contraction of the opposing muscle groups. Consequently improving stability while minimizing any excessive increases in uncontrolled range of motion.

These tend to be ideal for everyone because maintaining flexibility is generally the most important consideration once you achieve the desired balance. And of course people who have excessive flexibility benefit because there is that element of active muscular control (like active static stretching).

How I Use Them

The warm-ups and active recovery days I design are riddled with these – and variations of low volume active static stretching in some cases or stability exercises.

It doesn't look like much but this is one of my favourite multi-joint mobilizations

Squatting in your workout? You can bet there will be some kind of dynamic squat action in your warm-up like an overhead squat; A squat and reach; A squat and rock; Or a squat and hip lift. It's a low fatigue approach to warming up, enhancing stability and range simultaneously. Best of both worlds in some respects.

I cycle these drills to address different areas as I would resistance training (mentioned below).

Basically a mobilization (or ‘mob’ for short) is when you put your body into active positions that need your musculature to actively support but also create a brief stretch on a particular area of the body.

I still tend to tie this into breathing mechanics; Inhaling during the extension or exertion phase and exhaling during the flexion or relaxation phase – although not exclusively, you'd likely do the opposite with resistance with some breath holding in between.

V) Ballistic Stretching (Explosive/Agility Training)

This is a very quick type of stretching that puts the muscle into a deep quick stretch like swinging, punching, kicking or jumping.

Most people tend not to think of this as ‘stretching’ but any activity that lengthens tissue is actually a 'stretch.' The myotatic stretch reflex and the nervous system play a large role in mobility development, so we need to consider it in our mobility training.

Most people will be able to achieve significantly better flexibility outcomes when implemented at high speeds near end ranges. I can kick much higher than I can slowly lift my leg onto something in front of me. Many athletes have high degrees of ballistic flexibility – remember that the nervous system is the dominant modifiable resistance to range of motion.

This is why I like the 'wave approach.' People have different flexibility potentials at different speeds. It's very easy to see out there in the real world.

And a lot of people caution doing this kind of flexibility training but I'm less conservative in this regard. If you participate in any kind of sport, you are likely doing a lot of ballistic stretching already. Whether you realize it or not.

When programmed well, I don't think leg swings are any higher risk than other types of stretching. If anything, long duration, deep stretches are probably the most worrying variety.

You may not want to jump right into this type of thing without working up to it. i.e. I'd have a good base of dynamic stretching under my belt if I were you.

But the tempo of mobility training clearly matters and so matching adequate ballistic mobility to any athletic pursuits you have at least warrants consideration.

Explosive/Agility Training

It's hard for me to draw the line between ballistic stretching and other forms of explosive power training or agility training. Anything done at high speeds requiring a strong stretch reflex is a type of ballistic stretching in many respects.

Albeit one where the joints don't reach end range much.

There is a forceful and fast stretch on the muscles themselves but not at end ranges; This fast 'stretch' triggers the stretch reflex and helps increase power output.

And this is actually very tendon intensive, which, as you saw above contributes only about 10% to the equation but is still a very important aspect of high speed flexibility as a result.

You need ballistic mobility to execute explosive power activities and agility.

Agility is typically defined in sport science as ‘‘a rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus’’ (Sheppard, 2005).

It's more simply defined as the ability to move quickly and easily in direct response to external environmental changes(AKA a stimulus).

Meaning agility involves a reaction to a stimulus. For example, walking down the street and at the last minute need to dodge someone not paying attention to you. You'd have likely weight shift and swing your body out of the way quickly and then regain your balance. Or recovering from a near slip or misjudging a step down. I'd argue these are all fairly typical displays of agility for the average person.

Yes, there is more of these actions in sport but agility still applies to non-athletes.

Most people would leave this one off an article on mobility/flexibility but I feel as though agility training is really mobility training at faster tempos. In other words, they are kind of one in the same.

Moving efficiently and effectively is always goal, so agility should be trained as a mobility or movement skill.

And I'm cognizant of the fact that explosive power is a quality we do less of with age; When we should probably be doing more. Hip fractures and falls being what they are for older adults.

So I'd encourage everyone not to stop jumping, swinging, kicking, throwing and challenging this system as you age.

How I Use It

Well first I'd probably do a needs analysis to see what (if anything) is warranted. There are still some ballistic movements that most people will benefit from, even if they play no sports in their spare time.

Then most of it will go first in a training session. Either as part of the warm-up, or as part of the power training (the latter warrants it's own article or five).

Leg swings (if you play soccer or similar sports for example) could be warranted but jumping, sprinting etc ... can all have a place too. And like most things done at high speed, once you've warmed up (worked up to high end speeds) these activities will fall first in the training session too.

Yes at the gym it can include basic footwork drills, change of direction drills, locomotion drills like crawling or navigating obstacles, agility ladders, hurdles, cones, etc…

But to make those things 'agility' training you need some kind of open chain stimulus eventually. So you need audio, visual, an opponent or other non-verbal cues to react to in the context of whatever you're doing.

Low volume is all that's required. A few exercises mixed up semi-regularly, done for a few sets tops is very often sufficient in non-athletic populations.

VI) Resistance Training

Not exactly what people think of when they think of 'mobility training.' In fact, most people assume the opposite, that resistance training makes you tight. But the truth is, every study comparing full range of motion resistance training to more common flexibility methods like passive static stretching finds it improves flexibility to a similar degree.

Don't believe me? Read some of these:

Who knew? Right? It's a surprisingly consistent finding that upends the typical stereotype given to people who lift weights.

I speculate that these gains only apply to the fullest ranges of motion that are tolerable with good technique. And anecdotally believe that excessive short-range of motion lifting would eventually lead to the appearance of inflexibility. Predominantly because we know short-range of motion training preferentially leads to growth in the middle of muscle bellies. Whereas eccentric training at long muscle lengths tends to lay down more muscle in series.

I've written a lot about resistance training on SBF so I'll skip the whole, "how I use it" section on this one.

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This is a step-by-step guide for safely integrating resistance training into your exercise schedule.

VII) PNF Stretching

Is the utilization of a physical therapy modality from the 50's that tricks the nervous system into getting a better stretch through a muscular contraction of the agonist muscle or the antagonist muscle (It’s complicated…).

I have many leather bound books. Also I'm a fitness nerd ...

PNF stretching is only part of the PNF training modality but it's a very effective one for mobility and flexibility improvements.

Remember how I said that the nervous system tone impacts flexibility to the greatest controllable degree and how we usually don't want to stretch ligaments (there are exceptions) by getting into deep static passives stretches for long durations at high frequencies?

That nervous system tone is exactly what this technique manipulates!

It is a highly effective training modality — not just a stretching tool, though the wiki would make you think otherwise — that requires far more attention than I'll give it here. But as a stretching technique is relatively easy to explain.

The training modality follows diagonal and spiral patterns to facilitate improved motor function. For example the chop and lift exercise patterns. These patterns can greatly contribute to enhanced neuromuscular system development and consequently improved mobility. But they fall under more of the resistance training scope of discussion.

I digress ...

Quite simply put there are three ways to apply these principles to stretching. With the final two being the most practical to do on your own:

  1. Hold-Relax: Get to end range of a passive static stretch (usually partner assisted) for about 10 seconds (about one long deep breath), then apply force in the direction you want to stretch but try to maintain the joint position as an isometric (static) contraction for about 4-7 seconds. Then relax and allow yourself to sink deeper into the stretch.
  2. Contract-Relax: Similar to the above, you get to end range passively and hold for a bit (about one deep long breath), but instead of holding an isometric contract against an applied force, you actively try to contract and move your joint away from the stretch. Contracting the agonist for the same ~4-7 seconds (I usually do one exhale after one deep breath and inhale). Then relax and allow yourself to sink deeper.
  3. Antagonist Contract-Relax: This one is the same as contract-relax but instead of contracting the agonist (the muscle being stretched) for 4-7 seconds, you contract the antagonist (the opposing muscle group).

Each of these approaches can generally be repeated more than once if increased range of motion is observed after the contraction part of the sequence. i.e. you will contract once; Then you'll be able to sink deeper into the stretch; Then you can hang out the for another deep long breath before you contract again.

Typically you'll be able to sink even further into the stretch after this second contraction. And some people will see additional range of motion after 3 or even 4 contractions in some cases. But generally I'd say 2 contractions will do.

I want to note that I personally favour a shorter duration contraction at a submaximal contraction intensity (about 50% effort) instead of a full contraction. We don't need a maximal contraction (which is more fatiguing) to lower neural tone and increase range of motion. You don't need to try and rip the muscle apart for this technique to be effective.

Ultimately, these 3 techniques are playing tricks on your nervous system. PNF offers a way to relax the nervous system to allow you to achieve a deeper fascial stretch on a muscle, or most cases muscle group – you can't really 'isolate' a muscle with stretching.

This relaxation is brought on by a manipulation of your stretch reflex, which permits more subsequent range of motion. And then stretching at that end range becomes a more effective approach to passive static stretching.

Plus the contractions improve joint stability at end range, especially when you do both agonist and antagonist contractions.

I Know You're Wondering

If I recommend you contract the antagonist during stretching, what makes that different from this?

The relaxation component, whereby you can sink deeper into the stretch. And ideally some agonist strengthening at end range too. Some stretch positions are better for PNF or passive static stretching and vice versa too. Remember if the joint moves then you're not getting a good stretch on the muscle.

Doesn't massage do something similar? Yes it does. Massages techniques relax your nervous system in a similar way.

But if you start with massage + passive static stretching and you don't see noticeable improvements, this might be your next step. More of an 'advanced technique' of sorts.

How I Use This

Definitely not before training, although in rare cases I might if I know I have at least 20 minutes before the muscle being stretched will be asked to display max strength or speed.

Typically I do it as part of a separate session or after training. The latter assuming that the training didn't already drop neural tone to a point where PNF becomes redundant. I've seen that happen where PNF techniques don't increase range of motion after the contraction, but I've also seen people so bound up that PNF is almost the only thing that seems to work.

Most people don't need to use these PNF techniques if they roll before they do passive static stretching, and they do active static to provide that end range antagonist strengthening/stability.

But this is a faster way to get a lot of range of motion quickly without massage. And I would consider this an option if rolling and stretching isn't having the desired effect.

If you are hypermobile or highly flexible already, this is the type of mobility training to generally avoid because it pushes people passively into extreme ranges of motion.

If after you contract you observe no change in end range, then PNF probably isn't the right modality for you either.

VIII) Resisted Stretching

This is a very effective (anecdotally) type of active or dynamic stretching method, whereby a person (or band if you don't have someone to resist) provides manual resistance against a movement or range of motion. In a manner that extends you into the stretch.

For example, if you were to lay on your back and get into a typical supine hamstring stretch you'd secure a band to a door anchor behind and above you. Then wrap the free end of the band around your leg and shift yourself away from the source of resistance enough that the band provides some resistance at end range. Then you contract lower your leg to the floor (under the resistance of the band) and let your leg come back up in a controlled fashion until you get to end range at the top.

Allow it to pull you a bit deeper into the stretch on every rep and maybe even pause at end range for a second or two before you contract again and lower the leg.

I more often am the partner providing manual resistance but a band is a great substitute so long as you have something you can secure it to.

It's somewhat similar to PNF stretching in effect, but you don't hold end range for very long and the contractions aren't static (isometric) in nature. You move dynamically for multiple repetitions as you would with more traditional resistance training. Just no where near failure.

How I Use It

1-2 sets of 6-12 slow reps typically at the end of a workout or as a separate training session. Let it pull you into end range briefly, maybe pause there for a second or two even but it's a pretty dynamic approach.

The contractions in the agonist reduce the neural tone permitting a deeper and deeper stretch. So if you're using a band, be sure to be far enough away that it applies tension well past your starting point.

I don't think this approach is desirable for hypermobile people because it does provide resistance at end range but it can be used because it does encourage muscular control. I'd want to pair it with some kind of antagonist strengthening in that case (like active passive stretching).

But if you care about strength development and want to be flexible 'enough' this is absolutely one of my favourite ways to improve flexibility and strengthen muscles at lower thresholds at the same time. This is an excellent approach for active recovery training days so long as you stay far away from failure.

IX) Yoga and/or Pilates

Most of what I covered above is the science behind many methods these activities have popularized. I'm a little more calculated in my approach but certainly if you don't want to go through the mental process I laid out above, you can simply participate in one or both of these.

They both have their merits, but typically people associate this type of training with improved core stability, stabilizing muscle control and improved flexibility.

They also tell you myths like, ‘it will make your muscles longer and leaner looking’ or ‘it will make your core strong.’ So just be wary that these practices are riddles with pseudo-science, laced between techniques that absolutely work.

My only concern with these activities, is at the extreme end, where increased flexibility at-any-cost is encouraged. A lot of practitioners and teachers have falling into the trap of 'more is better.'

And as I've continually said already, you only need enough flexibility, not maximum levels of it. It's a range to maintain, not a never ending pursuit.

Remember that there is a such a thing as being too mobile or ‘hypermobile’ if you consider these practices as useful for your needs. And sadly, a lot of people in that category end up going to the extreme ends of these practices.

That's fine if that's what you want to train for, but please be mindful of control and stability.

Anyways, I don’t want to list everything I like or dislike about these modalities because they are both generally pretty good. I just want you to know they are options. Options I give with possible caveats.

X) Relaxation Strategies

Lastly, I can't tell you how many times I've encountered someone who is incredibly stiff and also incredibly stressed, neurotic or high-strung. No amount of stretching seems to stick in these individuals until you address the stress and mentality these individuals possess.

However, I encourage everyone to consider relaxation techniques like progressive relaxation, guided meditation, visualization practices, in some cases medication and many other pseudo-therapies like steam, sauna or hot-tubs. You can take up a hobby even if it gives you an outlet for stress.

It has been my experience that anything that helps you relax can help you achieve a deeper higher quality stretch after their completion and may be a useful tool for enhancing your mobility.

But also, most of them just feel good.

Honestly, I encourage everyone to try little bit of everything, just to familiarize yourself. A holistic approach seems to work best. When mobility work is done at various tempos it appears to yield optimal results relative to activities of everyday life.

And when it's applied methodically to areas of need, it's most effective. Don't assume that just because something 'feels tight' that it needs stretching. Feeling tight and being clinically tight are not the same thing. And of course depending on the activities you participate in, you may need more (or less) mobility.

But keep in mind that some kinds of stretching are more, or less, appropriate for individuals who are potentially excessively inflexible or flexible. If you're already pretty flexible, seek out active forms of mobility training. If you're not particular flexible, you likely want a lot of the passive methods.

Massage and relaxation strategies works well for both populations.

Further (Non-Scientific) Reading on Mobility Training:

  1. Stretch to Win
  2. Relax Into Stretch
  3. Super Joints
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard