Who doesn’t love being able to move like a velvety jungle cat? I mean, there’s nothing better than being able to drop into a deep squat or slide into a smooth lateral lunge like it ain’t no thang. But unfortunately, not everyone has the necessary joint mobility to be able to do these things. And despite countless attempts at trying to stretch things out, it just doesn’t seem to get any better.
Well, what if we told you stretching was only one way to improve your mobility? What if there were other methods that were even more effective at improving joint mobility? WELL THAT WOULD BE JUST STUPENDOUS!
So stop your endless and mindless static stretching. Let’s take a look at three somewhat unknown things you can do to improve your joint mobility.
#1. Breathe better.
Uh… breathe…. what?
Yep, you read right. Breathing is a movement pattern in and of itself and if you’re doing it incorrectly, it can wreak all sorts of havoc on your ability to move well.
You see, breathing is the only aspect of your autonomic nervous system that you can actively control. Because of this, when you learn how to do it properly, it can positively impact all sorts of things like posture, movement capability, muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, and even digestion.
Improper breathing mechanics can cause you to rely on accessory breathing muscles, like your neck and chest, to get air into your lungs as opposed to using your diaphragm. And seeing as how we take close to 20,000 breaths per day, this can lead to all sorts of unnecessary tension in the wrong muscles due to overuse. This can throw our posture out of whack, which can lead to even more mobility issues.
View this post on Instagram
The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. _ First thing you see me do is assess shoulder internal and external rotation. (I know it’s not a perfect assessment, sue me). _ Next thing I do is perform ten breaths focusing on creating some posterior tilt of my hips and movement of my ribs. _ Reassess… and boom. Increased range of motion without any sort of traditional mobility work. _ If you ask me, I’d say some kind of breathing work prior to any training session would be a GAME CHANGER for most folks. _ And not for nothing, these drills can make a tremendous impact on stress, anxiety, excess muscle tension, and digestion. _ #breathebetter #movebetter
Learning to breathe properly by using your diaphragm and allowing your ribs to move with each breath can essentially ‘release the parking brake’ with regards to your mobility, as the video above will show.
Breathing drills can help shift your nervous system into more of a ‘rest and digest’ state, as opposed to a ‘fight or flight’ one. This helps relieve excess muscle tension, which can drastically help improve joint mobility.
#2. Get stronger.
Your body is incredibly smart. It also cares about one thing: self preservation and survival. This means that if it needs to create some tightness in a joint to prevent you from hurting yourself, it will do so. And it doesn’t give a damn about your feelings either because it knows better than you.
For example, it’s not uncommon for hypermobile individuals (people whose joints are super loosey goosey) to still feel ‘tight’ somewhere despite the ability to do a full split. But more often not, it’s not true tightness they’re feeling. Instead, it’s the body’s attempt to create stability in the form of tension to help prevent those super loose joints from going through excessively large ranges of motion that might result in injury.
The body is just looking out for numero uno.
The same thing happens when one muscle in the body is weak and another has to compensate and pick up the slack. The glutes and hamstrings are a perfect example for this. If the glutes, the main driver for hip extension, are weak, the hamstrings will try to tighten up to make up for the weakness. And you unknowingly go and blame your hamstrings for being tight when they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Spend some time strengthening your glutes, anterior and lateral core, and your upper back. I bet a pretty penny you’ll magically gain some mobility.
#3. Spend more time in positions where mobility is lacking.
This one is simple. Perhaps too simple.
If you can’t perform a deep squat, spend more time in a squatting position.
Your joints live and die by the phrase, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. Basically this means that if you don’t take your hips into deep flexion on a regular basis, your body will basically flip you the bird and stop allowing you to access the range of motion necessary for deep hip flexion.
Remember, your body’s main concern is self preservation and survival. According to its logic, it’s not going to waste precious energy and effort maintaining these huge range of motion capabilities if you’re never going to use them. That’s like paying rent on second apartment that you never visit. That’s just stupid.
So if you’ve noticed that certain positions and movements patterns for you feel limited, well… start doing them more often!
The only caveat is that when you spend more time in these limited positions, make sure they are unloaded, aka no external weight.
If your deep squat sucks, deep squatting with weight is REALLY going to suck because you’re gonna end up hurt.
Go through these motions unloaded, learn how to brace what needs to be braced, feel muscles that should be working, and just learn how to ‘relax and hang out’ in these limited positions. Warmups are a great place to do these things, perhaps after, oh I don’t know… some breathing drills?
Wanna learn more about these methods? Drop us a message!