ARTICLES

Mobility Gone Wrong

By Dr. Quinn Henoch | In Mobility | on February 26, 2014

5 Common Mistakes and Quick Fixes

Today we will discuss five very basic activities that are commonly used to improve joint mobility, muscle flexibility, tissue extensibility, etc.  More specifically, we will discuss how these activities can be poorly executed – which in turn, can waste your time, and in some cases, cause harm.  Finally, proper usage or execution of such activities will be covered.

1.  Foam Rolling

There was a time when I was the guy spending thirty minutes on the foam roller before training, and another 30 minutes after training.  We had a relationship.  Me and the roller.  As one.  Forever.  Or at least long enough to make my training sessions last 3 hours.  After all, I had to break up all those adhesions, right?  Yes, I did “feel” a little better after rolling around for an hour; but when it came down to improving my movement patterns under load, there wasn’t much carry over.  It took me a long time to come to the realization that rolling around on a foam log with my extremities strewn about wasn’t going to take me far.  Here’s what the literature says:

a)    Short bouts of foam rolling do not improve performance measures such as vertical jump, sprint speed, agility.  (not surprising)

b)   Foam rolling is less fatiguing than planking.  (hahah I know. Research is funny sometimes)

c)    An 8 week foam rolling program was ineffective at increasing hamstring flexibility.

d)   2 one minute bouts of foam rolling was shown to increase knee range of motion, and did not decrease force production.

So, is foam rolling harmful to performance?  No.  Will it potentially improve specific physical traits? Maybe.  Is it worth spending the majority of your movement prep on?  Absolutely not.  Find your tender areas and torture yourself for 5 minutes.  Then get off the damn thing and do something that is going to prepare your body for the loaded movement patterns that you plan to destroy.

Whatever you do, don’t be this guy..

2. Banded Shoulder Distraction

This has become very popular over the last few years.  I am referring to hooking a band around a rack and holding the other end of the band, in an effort to stretch the shoulder joint.  The separation of the joint surfaces is termed distraction.  I have become more and more against this practice as a general go-to for the average person.  As is the case for many women (who tend to have looser joint capsules) and those with a history of shoulder instability, distracting the joint may exacerbate pain or dysfunction.  I prescribe distraction to some, but only after I have concluded that it can benefit them.  Below is a video of a modified version of this drill that can improve overhead range of motion, while keeping the shoulder in a more stable position.

3.  Pec Stretch

One of the most common stretches known to man.  I am referring to the ole’ grab-a –rack-and-pull stretch.  You are probably asking yourself, “You can screw that up?”.  The answer is YES, and in a way that can do harm.  The way I typically see people performing this stretch is by letting their arm hang way back behind them, giving them a pinpoint sensation right in the front of the shoulder.  At this point, that is not the pec muscle that they are feeling, it is the anterior capsule of the shoulder and biceps tendon.  There are very few instances where I would recommend mobilizing those tissues in that way.  Most shoulder dislocations involve the head of the humerus popping out the front, so weakening that area of the capsule does not seem like a good idea.  Not to mention, you are stretching the biceps tendon (which is attached to the labrum) in an unnatural way.  Below is a video of what I am talking about, as well as the corrected version.

4.  Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

This is another very common stretch that I see performed incorrectly a majority of the time.  It is very similar to the pec stretch, in that the athlete simply hangs on the front of his or her hip joint capsule, with no regard for pelvic or lumbar position.  While lengthening the anterior hip capsule may pose less potential harm than that of the shoulder, I do not believe it is optimal.  Not to mention you are reinforcing a shitty pelvic position that carries over poorly to anything else.  The shoulders and hips should be stacked, and the abs should be engaged to support the trunk.  Below is a video of the incorrect and correct versions.

5. Hamstring Stretching

Hamstrings…  The bane of all existence.  Everyone and their mother has tight hamstrings.  It is true, many people do have tight hamstrings – but it’s because these muscles are in a constant state of stretch due to a lack of pelvic control.

qhenoch1

 

Nowadays, we are much more savvy to the fact that “tight” hamstrings can be alleviated by training the trunk musculature to do its job more effectively.  In the past, it was just to keep stretching and stretching.  All the stretching in the world won’t cure a bad position.  What we want is for the hamstrings to be restored to their normal resting length by repositioning the pelvis.  Below is a video of a widely used progression to restore a proper straight leg raise.  The straight leg raise is a useful indicator of movement capacity, because it requires a stable trunk and a mobile hip.

Sometimes it’s good to revisit the basics.  No matter how simple an exercise is, there’s an optimal way to perform it.  Be mindful of this in your training, as being disciplined with the little things can be what separates you in the long run.

Quinn Henoch has a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Indianapolis.  He is the head of rehabilitation for Darkside Strength and Core Sports Performance in Louisville, KY.  He also works for the Kentucky Orthopedic Rehab Team managing orthopedic and sports related dysfunction.  Quinn played football at the Div 1-AA level at Valparaiso University as a defensive back.  He has also competed in track and field, Crossfit, and powerlifting.  Currently, he trains full time as an Olympic weightlifter, with the goal of breaking onto the national stage in 2014, as a 77kg lifter. 
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References

  1. Miller et al.  Foam Rollers Show No Increase in the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscle Group.  UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research IX (2006)
  2. Healey et al. The Effects of Foam Rolling on Myofascial Release and Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  March 2011. Vol 25
  3. MacDonald et al. An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.  March 2013. Vol 27 (3). p. 812-821
  4. Healey et al.  The Effects of Myofascial Release With Foam Rolling on Performance.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  Jan 2014.  Vol 28 (1) 61-68
4 comments
Quinn Henoch
Quinn Henoch

@Skeptical  Hi Skeptical.  Thanks for your comment.  Interesting name by the way.  Your comment confuses me.  I'm not sure what about my writing you are skeptical about. 


To your first point - Yep, the quality of literature sucks.  That was kind of the point I was getting across.  I cited what I found for all to see, so being critical of me for referencing my search seems silly.  You're more than welcome to perform a literature review of your own.  


Your second point is void due to the fact that you dismissed the journal.  So taking any position about the results after that makes no difference; but I'll address it anyway.  


Only 2 out of the 4 possible final measurements improved by 20% in the treatment group.  The range of improvement was 9-14 degrees.  I don't know if you have experience measuring joints with inclinometers and goniometers, but there is user variance of at least +/- 5 degrees, with poor interrater reliability.  I can also look at the picture and see the researchers were not securing the opposite leg.  So in reality we are talking about 5-10 degrees of improvement in 8 weeks at best.   


Re-read my conclusion:

"Will foam rolling improve specific physical traits? Maybe"

So again, I'm unclear on what you are skeptical about.

Skeptical
Skeptical

 Miller et al.  Foam Rollers Show No Increase in the Flexibility of the Hamstring Muscle Group.  UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research IX (2006)

This is hardly a "journal" that one should conclude anything from. In fact, a quick download of the paper shows that mean flexibility actually increased by 20% with foam rolling over the control group. It seems that the data has been misinterpreted.

ShaneMclean1
ShaneMclean1

You just rocked my world. Thanks for the cues. Will use shoulder and hip stretches in this article from know on.

brian t
brian t

Great article. I also have to say that I thought you did a good job on the "offline" segment.

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  1. […] Strength and Core Sports Performance in Louisville, KY posted a useful article entitled “Mobility Gone Wrong” highlighting five common mistakes and how to correct them. Here are two that I think will […]

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