As a CrossFit coach and yoga instructor, I am constantly hearing people complain about their lack of flexibility or limited range of motion.
It’s true that there is a genetic component to this, but genetics plays a smaller role than most people believe. Most of the causes of athlete’s limited range of motion is due to scar tissue or adhesion development between their muscle cells and the fascia that surround them. Myofascial trigger points (muscular “knots”) are another common explanation for limited joint mobility. Nutritional deficiencies also play a role, as I will discuss.
So what do you do about these “adhesions” and “trigger points” so you can improve your range of motion and finally be able to do proper front rack position or get into the bottom of a squat pain free?
You book an appointment with me, that’s how!
Okay just kidding.
But in all seriousness, here are 9 ways to improve your range of motion and get that textbook Olympic lifting form you’ve always dreamed of.
1. Foam rolling
Foam rolling your muscles before and after workouts is a great way to prevent losses in the range of motion you already have, or to maintain increases obtained through other means. Use the stiffest foam roller you can handle – the pressure should be strong enough to produce discomfort. No pain, no gain!
2. Static stretching
Holding muscles in their stretched position can improve flexibility, however, according to research, the position needs to be held for a minimum of 90 seconds. Holding for 1 minute will maintain current flexibility, but not increase it. It is always best to do static stretching when your muscles are warm. Bring on the hot yoga!
Cupping is a soft tissue therapy technique in which a cup (glass, plastic, or silicon) is used to create a suction effect. The cups may either be left stationary, or moved along the length of a muscle (running cupping). The suction effect promotes blood flow, relaxation and assists in removing adhesions that may have developed between muscle cells and the fascia that surround them.
Regular massage should be a part of every CrossFitter’s recovery regime. Lifting heavy is hard on our muscles and tendons, and often leaves them in a state of contraction. Massage treatment stimulates blood flow to the muscles being worked on, allowing fresh oxygen to nourish the tissue. The removal of waste products and toxins is also promoted. Overall, muscles are left in state of relaxation after massage therapy, allowing for increased range of motion.
5. Intramuscular stimulation (IMS)
This is my favourite technique for improving range of motion and taking care of myofascial trigger points.
IMS is also referred to as dry needling. This therapy involves using acupuncture needles, although it is not technically acupuncture.
Decreased range of motion, pain, and tenderness in muscles and joints, are very often due to trigger points or “knots” in muscle tissue. These trigger points are muscle fibres stuck in contraction. There are a number of reasons why and how they come about, which will have to be a future blog post. The point is, they are a problem that needs to be taken care of, and well executed IMS is very, VERY effective at doing just that.
After receiving even just one IMS treatment, patients experience significant release, and their muscles are often visibly more relaxed.
Check out my demo video!
Attaching an electrical current to tight muscles is another method of inducing relaxation in them. There are various methods of electrostimulation, including TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), microcurrent, and eletroacupuncture. TENS machines are available for purchase for home use, so that is another treatment you can do without needing to schedule an appointment with a health professional. In my practice, I commonly use electroacupuncture for this purpose.
7. Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization
Yet another awesome technique for breaking up adhesions that develop between muscle cells and fascia. With instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, a stainless-steel tool is used to identify and treat areas of fibrosis, and dysfunctional soft tissue.
Heat in general is a great way to improve muscle relaxation, so if you’re not into saunas, a hot bath or shower are also beneficial. Sauna therapy has additional benefits, so if you have access to one, opt for a 5-20 minute sauna session, several times a week.
Magnesium probably should have been #1 on this list, because I think it is the most important aspect of a good therapeutic plan to increase and maintain range of motion. Magnesium is needed for muscle relaxation. If you are deficient, (which most athletes and Albertans are), you may notice some improvement in range of motion after one of the above mentioned treatments, but shortly after you return to your baseline. Unless your magnesium deficiency is corrected, this will continue to be a problem.
There are many different forms of magnesium available, knowing what form and what dose are right for you requires the guidance of someone who is trained in clinical nutrition (ie. a Naturopathic Doctor ;)).
If you are one of the many athletes whose performance is being hindered by their restricted range of motion, click here to book an appointment with me.
Let’s get you lifting like the animal you are!