Recovery

Mobility Part 2

In the last article about mobility I  touched on a few of the baseline tests you should be doing to see where you stand. Every two weeks I'll film myself going through these tests, as well as taking the same pictures I used in the Assess Yourself post. These metrics have given me a much, much better insight into how my body moved and lets me fine tune my assistance exercises and warm ups to focus on where I need to improve. So, after you go through the three tests from the last post you can use these exercises to improve your mobility in those areas.

Squating

The best way that I've come across improving your squatting is...wait for it...to squat. Shocking, I know.

The key isn't to force it though. Just because you decide to do 10,000 shitty squats (heels coming off the floor, rounding your lower back, etc) does not mean that you'll get any better. The key is to  keep your form tight, and just go down to where you're form starts to break. IT might seem a little futile at first, but by practicing perfect body weight squats with a partial range of motion (possible for your warmup) you'll be ingraining what feels right.

To increase the range of motion and get to the point where you can do a full squat you'll need to focus on stretching. Specifically your gastroc/soleus, glute, and hamstrings.

Stretching your gastroc and soleus is as simple as finding something you can stand on with your toes and letting gravity push your heels down. I touched on this in the flexibility article, and there is a video here. To shift the tension to your soleus, just bend your knee.

If you have trouble getting your knees forward during the downward portion of the squat you'll want to make sure you pay extra attention to your soleus.

To stretch your glutes, I prefer to do the "cheerleader" stretch. I'm sure it has some other, fancier, name but this is the way I've always seen cheerleaders sit, so it works. To do it, sit on the ground with your left knee bent at 90 degrees and your left upper leg pointed directly to the left. Your right upper leg should be pointed straight ahead, with your right knee also bent at 90 degrees and your lower leg pointing to the left. Sound confusing? Look at the picture.

Lean forward, keeping your back flat, and you should feel the stretch right on the outside of the ass check of the up leg.

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Hamstring flexibility is also crucial to being able to fully squat. It's also super important for many other things, so it's touched on later in it's own, special, section.

Thoracic Extension

You've heard it all before...sitting and driving and hunching over the computer all day every day is ruining your back. Bad posture, especially when it's held for the majority of the day, can seriously fuck up the way you're able to move.

The good news here is that working on your thoracic extension can help to get you back into a decent posture and work out some of the issues you get from hunching over your laptop all damn day.

You can do this movement from a bent over position, from a lunge, or from all fours. The video below has me doing it from a bent over position, which I feel like lets me focus more on the movement.

Some people will say you should put your hand on your head, which isn't necessarily wrong. My preference, though, is to keep my arm pointed straight out and to follow my hand with my eyes. This gives me a point of reference as I turn, and lets me gauge just how far I'm able to turn based on what my hand is pointing at.

Hamstring

Ask any person what muscle is the tightest on them and you'll most likely hear them say their hamstrings. Now, I've said it before, mobility and flexibility are different parts of the athletic equation. But you can't be mobile with out being flexible. Because of this I focus on dynamic stretching over static stretching. The differences are that instead of stretching until you feel discomfort and then holding it for 20-30 seconds like you do for a static stretch, a dynamic stretch has you moving back and forth from "normal" to the point of discomfort and holding for 3-5 seconds. The stretch will encompass 20-30 of these "pulses".

My favorite mobility/flexibility exercise for the hamstring is the towel stretch, or seated towel stretch. To be honest with you, I don't really know exactly what it's call. All I know is that I had to do it for what felt like hours at a time when I was in rehab after knee surgery. Do 10-20 pulses of 3-5 seconds for each leg. Depending on just how tight you are it wouldn't be a bad idea to run through it 2-3 times total.

The hurdler stretch is another one of my favorites because it's much more involved than a normal seated hamstring stretch. Check out the video to see how to do it (it's too simple) and follow the same 10-20 pulses held for 3-5 seconds as above.

My 3 Balls

I have 3 balls. These balls go with me everywhere that I go. When I go to the gym, they're there. When I walk down to the beach, they are in tow. When I go to work, I carry them with me. If I'm going on vacation, they are the first thing I pack.

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These balls are an essentially a part of me that I refuse to leave behind. No matter the circumstances, these balls are mine and they mean the world to me.

They mean so much to me that I can't fathom the thought of keeping them hidden for any longer.

Here...look at my balls...

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What balls did you think I was talking about? Ohhhhh...you pervert.

Why I Carry These Balls

These tools (I'll refer to them as tools from here on out because I'm pretty sure I've used more than my fair share of references to my own genitals for the year) each have their own purpose when it comes to improving my physical abilities.

Let's start it of right and show you the biggest one first.

The Softball

I use this bad boy for rolling out my legs in place of a foam roller. There is nothing wrong with a foam roller, but after using one for almost a year I got to the point where even the hardest ones weren't doing it for me.

Plus carrying around a giant hunk of solid foam started to become a pain in the ass. So in comes the softball.

This is an indoor softball, so it's a tad bit softer than the regulation ball used for games, which will make using it at first a bit less painful. At this point I've used it for 3-4 months and will probably move to a regulation softball here pretty soon.

The best part of the softball is that it allows you to get into the nooks and crannies of where your glute and hamstring meet. For me, my booty is too bootylicious for a lacrosse ball or baseball to do any good. The softball is the perfect size to put enough pressure on the trigger points in the deep part of the upper hamstring/lower glute and small enough to be able to justify carrying it along in your carry on when traveling.

Lacrosse Ball

Like I mentioned earlier, the lacrosse ball is a bit too small for me to use on my entire leg. For some of you it might work just fine, but again, my booty is just too much for the lacrosse ball to make a difference for me.

With that being said, it's still a fantastic tool for the upper body and the foot. In the past few months I've begun sprinting much more than I have since high school, so the bottoms of my feet are a tad bit sore.

Fun fact - the bottom of your feet are some of the most concentrated areas of nerve endings in your body and your foot is made up of 20 individual muscles and 26 bones. By simply rolling out the trigger points of those muscles you can ease some pain and discomfort you might be feeling farther up your legs.

When I'm not using it on my feet I'm pressing it between my upper trapezius and the wall to keep my back/neck in tip-top shape.

Racquet Ball

This little fella is my all day, everyday companion pretty much. If I'm not bouncing it off of the wall, practicing my crossover, or tossing it back and forth between my hands I'm squeezing the shit out of it.

Does bouncing it up and down help my hand-eye coordination? Maybe, but honestly I usually just do it to pass the time.

Squeezing it though, is purely for improving my grip strength. Obviously it's not as impressive as rolling up a frying pan, but rolling up frying pan after frying pan can get pretty damn expensive!

I simply just squeeze it a bunch of times with all of my fingers, then work my through using my pointer-middle and then my ring-pinky. After that I'll attempt each finger individually. It gets harder as you move from the pointer through to the pinky, but that's the idea. Doing this while reading, driving, or just sitting in a meeting will most definitely help your grip strength.