Help Yourself Heal Yourself: Creating Your Own Mobility Toolbox
One of the basic tenets of Kelly Starrett's Mobility WOD is that 'all humans should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.' While this may not be the most financially beneficial stance to adopt as a PT, I could not agree more. Let me repeat that, I COULD NOT AGREE MORE!
Working out and being active brings with it an inherent possibility of injury. For most people, myself included, this "possibility" of injury is honestly more aptly termed ‘the reality of ever present always changing soreness.’ These little strains and aches should NOT sideline people for weeks simply because they were waiting to get in to see a doctor or have no idea where to even start when it comes to fixing themselves. People should be able to at least attempt to improve their situation and get some relief, if not full recovery. To that end, I've come up with a list of the top mobility products I feel that EVERYONE, regardless of age, preferred activity, or level of experience should have.
I have no financial interest in whether or not you buy these products. For all I care, figure out a way to make them from things you have around the house. I've included a 'Lifehack' section under each item with suggestions on how to fashion said item from things you may already have at home, but the real things do tend to get the job done a little better. In the end, I just want you to be able to help yourself heal yourself. Note: The links included all pretty much direct you to Rogue Fitness. Feel free to get your gear from wherever you like. Second Note: In the following list I use terms such as trigger point work, myofascial release, soft tissue massage, tack and flossing, re-perfusion, and joint mobilizations. I’m going to assume that if you’re at the point where you want to create a mobility toolbox, you know what these words mean. If not, I recommend you read up a little first so you what exactly you’re doing to that body of yours.
1. Lacrosse ball
Uses: Trigger point release and massage of more localized, specific areas. If you buy nothing else, buy one of these.
Lifehack: Just get a lacrosse ball. They cost 3 bucks.
Notes: If a lacrosse ball is too hard, try a tennis ball. For smaller areas, a golf-ball can also be used.
2. Foam roller
Uses: Myofascial release of pretty much the entire body. Great for performing more generalized thoracic spine extension mobilizations.
Lifehack: Not really so much of a lifehack as a more aggressive substitution. For those of you looking for more intense pressure, large diameter PVC piping can be used.
Cost: $19.99 (18 inches) or $26.99 (30 inches)
Notes: These things come in different lengths, different densities, some have bumps on them, etc. I have the basic high density roller listed above, and I also have one that is a bit softer for when I’m being a baby and can’t take that much pressure. If storage is a concern, the 18 inch model will likely be able to meet all of your needs unless you’re super wide, or looking to lay on it vertically.
3. Mobility band
Uses: Joint mobilization and stretching techniques.
Lifehack: Bike tire inner tube. This honestly seems more difficult than just going online and buying a band, but I live in Brooklyn where there are more bikes than people, so yeah.
Notes: There are a ton of different resistance options for these bands. Most mobility and stretching drills can be accomplished with bands that offer between 50 and 100 lbs of resistance. For the Rogue Monster bands, this would be the green and black band respectively. If you're on a budget, go for the 50 lb band, as you can do pretty much everything with this resistance. The heavier band is great for hips and bigger folks.
4. Peanut (no, not that kind)
Uses: More localized thoracic spine extension mobilizations. Also great for soft tissue work to the paraspinals.
Notes: I like using leukotape instead of traditional athletic tape. It’s a bit stronger and also smoothes out better. If a lacrosse ball is too firm, tennis balls can be used instead.
5. Voo Doo Floss Bands
Uses: Compression tack and flossing of injured, gunked-up, stuck-down tissues. Re-perfuses tissues and can help with swelling.
Lifehack: Non-existent. Please don’t wrap some random rubber band-like item you found in the back of your closet tightly around any of your extremities and injure yourself in the name of mobility.
Notes: These things are AWESOME but also pretty aggressive. I strongly encourage you to read up/watch some videos on MobilityWod.com about these bands before wrapping one around your limbs.
6. The Stick
Uses: Myofascial release, soft tissue massage, trigger point work. Just think of this as a hand-held version of the foam roller.
Lifehack: Rolling pin
Notes: Great for using on legs, especially that anterior shin compartment. Because you need 2 hands to use this well, it's not so good for arms, and pretty much impossible to use on your back. I have the original stick (OG) and it suits all my needs just fine.
7. Thera Cane Massager
Uses: Trigger point work and soft tissue massage.
Lifehack: A good friend or that trusty ol' lacrosse ball.
Notes: EXCELLENT for the neck and back. The hook design allows you to gain pretty good leverage and really get into those knots in your neck and back. I highly recommend this guy.
8. OPTP Stretch-out Strap
Uses: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It's a strap that you use for stretching. No further explanation needed.
Notes: Can also be used for joint mobilizations if you're clever.
9. A heavy(ish) weight, preferably a kettlebell
Uses: Smashing those muscles.
Lifehack: A good friend or anything in your house that is heavy and unbearable, like those books from grad school you never use but can't bear to part with.
Cost: Starting at $11.24
Notes: I really only use this for psoas smashing. Can be done in either prone or supine. The 8kg-12kg kettlebell is fine for me. Bigger folks might want more weight.
Uses: Shoulder mobility drills, shoulder external rotation stretching, first rib mobilization.
Cost: Free 99. C'mon, you have to have a broom or at least a swiffer at home. If for whatever reason you don’t have either of these (no judgement, but honestly, how do you clean your apartment?) you can pick one up at Home Depot or the like for $4.35.
Notes: Don't use the pointy side of the swiffer stick when doing first rib mobilizations.
11. The Orb
Uses: Soft tissue massage and trigger point work.
Cost: $19.95 (5 inch diameter), $24.95 (7 inch diameter)
Notes: I find this a bit better for bigger folks. I'm a 5' 6, 130 lb female and honestly use this the least of all the tools in my mobility toolbox.
It's not imperative that you buy all of these at once, however, like that can of WD-40 you have under the sink, once you get each new tool you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. Check out mobilitywod.com for ideas on how to use your new tools or email me at TheMovementMaestro.com with any questions. Get started healing yourself. Your body will thank you.