The story of a recovering mobility addict
Before each and every workout, I’d arrive to the gym with plenty of time to spare. With my foam roller, lacrosse ball, bands, and all of the other gadgets I’d have rigged up, by my side, my work towards being more mobile would begin. At first it was just a few minutes of foam rolling before starting my warm up. Then it turned into more specific “mobility work” where I’d “smash out my adhesions,” “free up my fascia,” “grind out corners,” “stretch my capsule” and so much more. This endeavor to become the “king of mobility” and reach my true “mobility” potential continued to take up more and more time - eventually having separate sessions in the morning and even their own days. In order to truly do each part of my body the “justice it deserved” I found myself at times reducing my lifting to focus on “moving better.”
Then something happened - I had read a different perspective on what I was doing. The other perspective challenged how I was spending my time. It not only questioned the effectiveness of what I was doing, but the actual mechanism of it. For so long I had spent a significant amount of time trying to make my body adhesion free and nice and supple, yet to be honest I had seemed to not really make much progress.
When I first was confronted with this differing view I had a backfire effect and thought it was wrong: this perspective didn’t understand how my mobility work was different. You see I had spent a considerable amount of time learning how to improve my “mobility,” listening to experts, read their books, practice it on myself, and even use it with clients. I HAD SEEN THE RESULTS! - at least I thought I had.
This information sat with me over the next while as I continued my same routine. At first I’d do little “tests” through my routine that seemed to only give me more support to continue what I had believed. I’d try to squat, go through my “lower body” portion of my routines and test it. Sure enough I’d feel like I was moving better. Similarly I’d do a push up or pull up, go about my “upper body” portion of the routines and test it with similar results. This furthered my feelings “I knew I was right.”
Then one day I had to decide between my extended as hell warm up or lifting due to time conflict. Fortunately I chose to focus in on lifting that day. I gave myself a minimal “mobility” warm up and then hit the weights. This surprisingly lead to me having an incredible workout. After that day I wanted to experiment with reducing my "mobility work" and seeing what happened.
Over the course of the next couple weeks, I had gone from an extended “warm up” that often lasted 30-45 minutes filled with soft tissue work and stretching mostly, down to a basic warm up of 5-10 minutes that was primarily movement based. Much to my surprise I found myself moving better!
When I made that transition it was my plan to only do that for a few weeks to see how I felt - basically anticipating going back to my old routine. However, after watching footage of myself lifting and comparing it, I saw that I had been making improvements in my movement and opted to not change back.
That change occurred approximately 4-5 years ago. Going forward there would be days or situations where I’d return to the roller/ball/band to give some “TLC” to an area that seemed to be acting up. Most often it was in the form of a circuit that lasted a few minutes where movement was performed, then some “mobility” work. However, it would seem that this would even disappear as time went on.
Today I personally don’t perform any rolling/soft tissue work and nearly no static stretching. My warm ups are basically whatever my first activity of the day is, interspersed with the occasional exercises to help encourage better positioning as needed.
While this doesn’t mean that there is no place for foam rolling, soft tissue work, static stretching, or other aspects that fall under that classic thought process for “mobility work,” it does mean that for most people there could be better opportunities for usage of the time devoted to it.