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Ask Dave: Can Foam Rolling Build Mobility?

“Hi Dave, really like the Hip Mobility book.

Have to say I completely agree with the simplistic way you describe mobility and the program looks awesome for increasing strength while increasing mobility.

For people who need to greatly increase their mobility what would be your thoughts on self myofascial release before this type of workout and assisted passive and active stretching. As this will bring stretch muscle/ move joint into positions that the body will not allow it self and also activate the muscle in that range allowing for neuro stimulation”

Now hows that for a question?

It’s from an up and coming young coach with a strong background in Gymnastics. So as a gymnast, he already knows a thing or two about mobility and strength.


So what about foam rolling or self myofascial release?

It’s something of a controversial topic at the moment as the research struggles to explain as to how and why it works. But we do know, it does have a therapeutic effect and can give an immediate albeit temporary improvement in movement.

Personally I’m not a huge fan of foam rolling but I do have certain people use it and wouldn’t stop anyone from using it, unless they’re either doing something stupid or rolling their IT band. Which amounts to the same thing.

Just don't.

Just don’t.

Where I do stand with foam rolling (SMR) is that it can be helpful, but if you start to rely on it, it becomes a crutch. Most people who feel the need to roll a lot would be better served looking into the reasons for the tightness, such as getting themselves assessed.

But back to the question. Can we improve the hip mobility program by adding some rolling?

It’s certainly possible.

Check this video for a lower body series I developed for one of my BJJ players a few years ago (before I learned about AiM), it did wonders for him and has been used with many people since, always to good effect:

A run through this, will allow you to get deeper into the positions used in the Hip Mobility program potentially enhancing the effects. The reason the Hip Program works so well is that many of the movements will, if done with correct attention to detail, help improve tissue quality and movement mechanics themselves.

The rolling may get you into a place where you get get more from the movements, but in time the movements themselves should hopefully remove the need for the rolling.


Of course, foam rolling after a workout is always a good idea as it does seem to improve recovery, reduce DOMS.

So what about additional stretching?

When it comes to both active and passive stretching, my question is always why?

Now fair enough, if you’re in the world of gymnastics/dance/martial arts where flexibility is essential, then stretching is essential. I grew up stretching for my martial arts.

My client Aneta showing off some impressive flexibility

My client Aneta (left) showing off some impressive flexibility

But for average Joe, stretching, in my opinion, has little benefit to them at all. They need to strengthen the range they have which usually then allows a greater range. I call it “asking your body permission to stretch”

To get real gains in range of motion, the central nervous system has to deem that range of motion safe. And for that to happen, the current range of motion must be safe. If you are not strong through your current range, forget about trying to increase it.

Almost every person that takes up kettlebell swings or Romanian Deadlifts notices an increase in their hamstring flexibility way beyond what they’ve ever achieved through the usual passive stretching methods.

Kettlebell swing

Kettlebell swing

For those that need high levels of flexibility and somewhat rapid gains is range of motion, then active, pnf style stretching is a good way to go.

In this case I’d generally advocate working 2, maybe 3 stretches for a period of 2-3 weeks, then switching to a different couple of stretches. Keeping the number of stretches to a minimum should help prevent too much soreness and allow you to get the most out of each stretch.

Stretching actively in a PNF style is best done at the end of training and/or as a workout in its self. You want to be warmed up for this. I may write a blog post or two on this subject another time.

Passive stretching I have written about in the past and usually refer to it as “TV Stretching” In other words, keep it out of the gym, don’t waste time and energy on it when you’re in a training session. But later that day, get down on the floor in front of the telly box or with a book, and sit into a stretch.

A photo posted by Dave Hedges (@dave_hedges) on May 13, 2016 at 3:36am PDT

As the body relaxes into that stretch, gently prize it open, make it uncomfortable but never, ever go into pain.

As always, if you’ve any questions, I’d love to hear them.

And don’t forget to hit the share buttons.


Dave Hedges

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