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Therefore, if you want to improve flexibility, you need to incorporate the correct muscle activation.
Contrary to popular thought, just like strength, flexibility can be improved and maintained. Working on flexibility shouldn’t be something you do for temporary mobility, only to tighten back up later. Why spend all that precious time working on it anyway?
I tell my clients daily that if we can make a change on the table, that change can stay. The secret to this lies in your muscles’ ability to contract and lengthen at end ranges of motion. When you lack joint mobility, portions of muscle fibers are unable to contract/relax and therefore get stuck in a shortened state, which further inhibits the muscle from being able to actively move the joint (a sign of muscle weakness). Strength and flexibility go hand in hand; therefore, if you want to improve flexibility, you need to incorporate the correct muscle activation.
Loaded mobility, in my opinion, is the single most effective way to improve your mobility while also leading to permanent changes in flexibility. The concept is simple: it involves the combination of deep stretching techniques with muscle activation within the motion you are trying to promote. By taking your joints to their available end ranges while also activating the muscles needed to make that motion, you improve your muscles’ ability to move your joints on their own. This allows for flexibility improvements to be maintained. With consistent loaded mobility training, you can keep building off these improvements to end up moving like a well oiled machine.
Loaded Mobility Exercises
Shoulder Dislocations – Repeat 3 sets of 10:
Begin holding resistance band in front of your arms at shoulder height.
Squeezing your shoulder blades back and down begin to lift your arms up and over your head and behind you as far down as you can comfortably go.
Bring your arms back to the starting position following the same arc of motion.
Active Cat Stretch – 3 sets of 10 or hold 30 seconds 3 times:
Begin on your knees and bring your hands with thumbs up and elbows straight onto a surface.
Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down and engage your abs to pull your torso downward and stretch the shoulders.
Jefferson Curl – Hold 30 seconds 3 times:
Begin standing on the edge of a surface holding a moderate weight.
Slowly begin to bend forward. When you get the end range, engage your low abs to pull your trunk further into the flexed stretch.
Natural Leg Extensions – 3 sets of 10 or hold 30 seconds 3 times:
Begin in a kneeling position.
Bring your hands as far backward and place on the ground. If you lack the mobility for this, just lean back as far as you can with your knees bent as much as they can be.
Engage your abs, squeeze your shoulder blades back and down and use your glutes to push your hips upward.