One of the worst things you could do pre workout is stretch or perform self myofascial release to increase flexibility and open up your range of motion. I’d go as far as to say as stretching, mobility drills and soft tissue release in general are completely overused and abused by most.
Understand this – Mobility, tissue length and range of motion are governed by the nervous system. If you can’t reach depth in a squat, or are constantly digging at that knot in the upper outer quadrant of your pec under the clavicle – it’s not as simple as saying the region is tight and needs more passive treatment.
Your brain is smarter than you. If it senses weakness or instability in a particular region – say at the external rotators, quads or calves – it’ll lock you out of particular ranges to protect you from injury. Now if you go ahead and stretch, foam roll and release the area directly you WILL increase your ability to get into a greater range of motion. And that’s not a good thing.
Even though you’re now able to reach new ranges of motion via stretching or soft tissue release – you haven’t improved your strength or stability in that particular range. There hasn’t been any direct, active improvement in neural efficiency to the surrounding musculature to support that range. All you’ve achieved is opened up yourself up to further injury risk.
It’s not about stretching or soft tissue therapy to give you the ability to GET into that range of motion. It’s about improving your ability to FUNCTION in that range of motion – through improving neural facilitation of weak muscles – giving your tissue the capacity to contract properly in that range of motion. The result is, now you OWN that range and won’t have to spend half your time pre workout dry humping a rumble roller.
Surprise surprise – it’s comes back to training intelligently and to a plan. Proper programming, exercise selection, sequencing and the use of techniques like isometrics and eccentrics are all essential to improve this ability for your muscles to fire properly to allow you to build muscle, strength and active range of motion.
There are many ways to do this depending on the issue presented. Here’s the result of 3 minutes of isometric loading for improved shoulder mobility on Ben Cant.
To improve Ben’s range of motion, we haven’t gone through any stretching, soft tissue release or mobility drills. I didn’t even touch him. Instead, he performed a specific isometric contraction on his left side – dramatically improving his neuromuscular stabilisation, waking up dormant tissue through his upper back.