Weekly Wednesday Blog – July 13, 2022
This week’s topic is on increasing joint range of motion. We will discuss the difference between flexibility/mobility, stretching 101, and the role resistance training can have.
Flexibility and Mobility are words that get talked about often when “stretching” is discussed. I want to start off by defining each term so that moving forward when we discuss the topics you have a good understanding of what each is covering.
Flexibility = Passive ROM
Flexibility of a joint/muscles is when you are allowing someone else or gravity to do the work. A good one to think of would be a physiotherapist moving your Hip through different ranges while you are passively laying down.
Mobility = Active ROM
Mobility refers to your range through your joints being achieved by your effort. Think about yourself trying to bring your biceps into your ears. A few ways we can have limited mobility is lack of flexibility (flexibility will always be equal or greater than our mobility), poor end range strength, or poor proximal stability (core strength).
Do you know if you lack mobility or flexibility??
“I stretch because I am tight” …..
The next two terms I want to cover are Tightness vs Shortness.
Tightness is a sensation that most individuals will feel at end joint ranges. This is a GOOD thing as it is a built- in mechanism to protect ourselves from “overstretching” and possibly straining a muscle or damaging our joint capsules.
On the opposite end SHORTNESS is a distinct state of being. For example someone may be 2” short of full range of knee flexion. This then gives a measurable marker of progress to continue to look at when you decided to include some sort of mobility or flexibility program (based on what you are missing)
Some examples of stretching are static, dynamic, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretch(PNF).
A common prescription for a static stretch is 15secs to 1:00 performed in a relaxed state and your end range of whichever muscle you are targeting. Since this stretch is performed in a slow manner the stretch reflex of the muscle is not activated. This allows you to lengthen those muscles slowly throughout the period you stretch for. Overall this can create some short term changes in your ROM. However unless you follow a very strict stretching program 2x a week for close to 5 + weeks you may not achieve the changes in overall ROM you were hoping for. A great time to perform these static stretches is following a workout or even when you need to calm yourself down by pairing it with some long slow nasal breathing.
This includes movements that may mimic the exercises you are going to be doing that day or for athletes positions that will mimic the needs of their sport. An example could be doing skipping drills before running to move the hips, knees and ankles through the range needed. This is what we referred to from earlier as mobility work. An example could be completing some 1 Arm Overhead Carries for distance to improve the “biceps to ears” test I mentioned earlier. (It’s called Shoulder Abduction). Typically spending 5-15 minutes before physical activity completing examples of these will help increase ROM, prepare joints and increase potential performance in sport.
This type of stretching is more often seen when working with a Physiotherapist, Athletic Therapist or Massage Therapist. This is because it requires having a partner as well as a level of expertise to follow the correct procedure. Essentially through this stretch you will perform both an isometric (no movement) and concentric (shortening of muscle) of both the muscle being stretched and in some cases the opposing muscle. This is all in hopes that over the altering of both muscle actions you will increase your range.
Have you ever had this performed on you? Did you find it beneficial?
Resistance Training has shown to effectively increase ROM in joints. This is because if a Romanian Deadlift for example is performed through it’s full range there will be a time where you are performing an eccentric contraction (muscle is lengthening while you resist the load) and results in a muscle that is being “stretched” and strengthened (End range strength = increased mobility). If you are performing a variety of exercises that expose you to multiple eccentric contractions across all joints you will effectively increase your full body flexibility and mobility.
Hopefully I have made some of the confusion become more clear around topics like mobility, flexibility, range of motion and stretching. At Titan Performance we believe there are benefits too many of the variations we described above to increase ROM but, the most important detail is to pick the right tool for the job.
If you are wanting more information or have any questions, reach out and I will always answer! ([email protected]).
– Coach Riley