Awareness of the role mobility plays in preventing injury is finally becoming common among athletes and non-athletes. In almost any store that has a sporting goods section and a hardware section, you can find everything you need to keep your body up and running in the best shape possible.
Below are the five tools every athlete and gym goer needs to maintain optimal mobility and flexibility.
1. Lacrosse Ball
What: A small hard ball, slightly smaller than a baseball.
Why: Lax balls are great for targeting trouble areas in muscle tissue. Have a knot in your right trap? Grab your lax ball and try to get the tissue to release by applying pressure with the ball. A lax ball also works wonders on smaller muscles that are difficult to hit with a larger, bulky foam roller.
Movement: Trap and Scap Roll. Grab your ball, put your back to a wall, place the ball on your traps and roll the ball between your body and the wall, applying and releasing pressure as needed.
2. Foam Roller
What: A large cylinder of dense foam.
Why: To release dense muscle tissue and fascia that has adhered together. Foam rollers work great on larger muscles like the quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes and back.
Movement: Seated Glute Roll. Set your roller on the floor. Sit on it with your knees bent and feet close to the roller. Take one leg and fold it up, placing your foot on your knee. Lean toward the hip with the raised leg and roll back and forth to dig into the deeper glutes and hip rotators.
3. Stick Roller
What: A small "stick" with some sort of dense rotating balls or discs in the middle. Some also may have small spikes.
Why: Stick rollers offer more of a direct attack on an area than a large roller, but not as direct as a lacrosse ball.
Movement: Roll the stick up and down the inside of your thighs to hit your adductors, which can be tough to reach with any other tool. A stick roller is the perfect solution.
RELATED: Three Easy Workout Recovery Tips
4. PVC Pipe
What: Small, plastic tube made of hard plastic. Find them at any home improvement store.
Why: PVC pipes have multiple uses for mobility and technique practice.
Mobility Movement: PVC pipes can be used like a stick roller when you want a harder surface than a foam roller or some of the small balls on a stick roller. Also, performing Overhead Squats with a pipe can help correct issues in the shoulders, hips and ankles.
Technique Movement: Almost anything you can do with a barbell you can practice with a PVC pipe—e.g., Back Squat, Overhead Squat, Snatch, Jerk, Split Jerk, Goodmornings and RDLs.
5. Resistance Band
What: A large rubber band.
Why: Resistance bands can be used for strength exercises as well as to improve flexibility during static stretching.
Movement: Band Pull-Aparts. Hold a band in front of your chest with your arms straight and hands about 6 inches apart. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band apart. Focus on pinching your shoulder blades together.
Now you know what tools to use, but how often and for how long should you use them?
This is where we talk about adopting a daily practice.
To improve your movement patterns and get rid of any recurring aches and pains, you need to consistently work at it. Every day, twice a day, block out 10 minutes to devote to mobility and flexibility work. That's only 20 minutes every day.
Personally, I prefer to schedule one of my 10-minute blocks right before bed as a way to wind my body down and get something accomplished at the same time.
If you have any questions with anything fitness-related, don't hesitate to shoot me an email at email@example.com, and I will be happy to answer any question you have!
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock