3 Questions To Ask Yourself If Your Workout Routine Isn’t Cutting It Anymore (Mobility Edition)
When choosing what exercises to do, most of us elect for what we want to do and ignore what we should be doing. If you’re ready to stop ignoring the latter — here are 3 questions to ask yourself.
Let me ask you,
- Has Your Flexibility Actually Improved In The Last 30 Days?
- Do your joints move like salad bowls or shot glasses?
- How strong is your ‘mind-muscle’ connection in the exercises you’re already doing?
Let’s break down each point and include some real life actionable steps you can walk away with.
Has Your Mobility/Flexibility Actually Improved In The Last 30 Days?
Stretching can feel good. It’s very well known that the benefits you get from a stretching session don’t always last (4). The first changes we see as a result of stretching is simply our bodies tolerance to being in end range. Tissue changes don’t come until weeks later. This study (3) showed that it took 8 weeks of intense stretching to see changes on a cellular level.
So if your stretching routine hasn’t given you noticeable improvements lately, consider this…
1. If you’re generally a ‘stiff’ person, increase both the length & frequency of your stretching
- This means explore how long you can hold a stretch for and stop once you feel pain, tingling, numbness, etc. I hold a lot of my stretches for 2+ minutes.
2. If you consider yourself ‘hyper mobility’, then stretch less and start getting strong!
- This means less static stretching because you already have tons of passive range of motion. Instead, bring yourself into your pain free end ranges (or near end range) and start adding isometric strength training efforts to teach your body how to CONTROL itself in those ranges
3. If you don’t consider either ‘stiff’ or ‘hypermobile’ then take a hybrid approach
- This means increasing the length of your static stretches. Maybe today the longest you can comfortable hold a stretch is 48 seconds. Overtime build yourself up to being able to hold it for 2–3 minutes.
- FOLLOWING the static stretch you’ll now have more range of motion. Start doing isometric strength training sets to build strength & control in those newly acquired ranges.
- If you’re new to training like this, I’d say start off at lower intensities but higher frequencies. That means sneaking in extra stretching or isometric sets throughout your day. Sneaking in an extra 2–4 minutes of focused work throughout the days/weeks really adds up over time.
Do your joints move like salad bowls or shot glasses?
This is not a question I ever thought I would ask myself, truly. That was until I learned about the term ‘workspace’.
Workspace is a word you should add to fitness vocab. It describes how much movement you can express at a joint.
If someone (for any reason) has poor range of motion at a joint and cannot move very well — they likely have less workspace. If someone moves very well — they likely have more workspace. There is a correlation between strength and workspace (1). If you don’t think you move very well, it should be a priority to address that because of the carryover it can have to your strength.
- Shot glass = ⬇️ workspace = ⬇️ strength
- Salad bowl = ⬆️ workspace = ⬆️ strength
Your workouts should incporate challenge you to work in your end ranges. Traditionally named exercises (ie. pushup, squat, lunge, etc.) challenge multiple joints through partial ranges of motion, thus often don’t challenge any one joint through it’s true end range. The above exercises are not bad, they just don’t challenge individual joints in their end ranges. You might not need to remove pushups, but add rotational exercises INTO your routine.
Actionable example: (beginner friendly)
4 Week Full Body Morning CARs Routine:
- Week 1 → Full body CARs (2–3 reps at each joint ~ bodyweight)
- Week 2 → Full body CARs (3–4 reps at each joint ~ bodyweight)
- Week 3 → Full body CARs (2 reps at each joint w/ 1lb ankle/wrist weight)
- Week 4 → Full body CARs (2 reps at each joint w/ 2lb ankle/wrist weight)
How strong is your ‘mind-muscle’ connection in the movements you’re doing?
Let’s look at a study for moment. This study (2) tells us the best exercise for Gluteus Medius is the side-lying hip abduction. It also tells us the best exercises for Gluteus Maximus are single-limb squat & single-limb deadlifts.
But did you know…
- You can ask a room of people to try the same stretch and every person may ‘feel it’ in a different place?
- You could ask that same room of people to try the same exercise and everyone may feel different levels of ‘mind muscle connection’.
If you’ve chosen a stretch to try and target your hamstrings — but instead feel your calf… you need to find a different variation.
Naturally, it’s difficult to get a consistent and desired result when you aren’t ‘feeling the target tissue.
Let’s piece together what we’ve learned and apply it to this point.
- There is a correlation between workspace and strength (1)
- Certain exercises score greater ‘muscle activiation’ via EMG readings (2)
- It can take several weeks for stretching to start making changes to our connective tissues to (3)
- The benefits after a single bout of stretching don’t last forever (4)
If you’ve been stretching for a long period of time without feeling the stretch in the ‘right’ place — the wrong tissues have adapted. If you’re creating adaptation in the ‘wrong’ tissues, your progress is going to hit a ceiling sooner than later.
If you’re trying to stretch your hamstring but your workspace in the knee is limited — your potential for ‘gains’ will also be limited. Your stretching may do great at helping you feel more ‘comfortable’ in a whatever position you chose… but unless you stretch with the appropriate frequency and intensity — the benefits won’t last.
What do you think about these points? Have you thought about any of these questions before? Let me know in the comments!