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5 Ways to Resolve Your Immobility


5 Ways to Resolve Your Immobility

Do neck tension or pain and lower back pain sound familiar to you?

Maybe you’ve told yourself you’re too busy with work, but when you get home from a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is get moving. Or perhaps you’re exploring a new city, but after walking 12 miles, you notice your knees and calves aching. Even driving aggravates your right shoulder or upper back!

If you notice discomfort in reaching for something in the food cabinet, putting on a shirt, or reaching behind you in the car seat, perhaps you are being limited by your lack of mobility.

Below are some simple ways you can add effective mobility work either at home, in your office, or in your hotel room - and all you really need is a foam roller and a band or light dumbbell (if you’ve got one of those on the go).

Give them a try and see how they go!


Do you feel limited when you’re lifting overhead? Perhaps you’re trying to improve your throwing arm so you can win that San Francisco City Rec League game.

  • Foam roller serratus slide and lift off - similar to the video linked, but at the top of the slide, you lift one arm off the foam roller at a time OR better yet, do it on the ground like this.
  • This is great to improve your mobility, stability, and motor control. The serratus anterior muscle is a big player in overhead motion.
  • This exercise focuses on upward rotation and posterior tilt of the scapula - as we want the scapula to be able to move in this motion when going overhead.


Do you sit 8 hours a day at work? Do you notice your shoulders rounding forward or feeling slouched forward?

  • Thoracic spine (t-spine) extension on the foam roller: I’m sure most of you have seen or done this exercise at P4L, as this is a fantastic exercise for those of you with desk jobs or a job that requires bending over often.
  • (Banded) Thread the Needle
    • Adding a band to the exercise helps reach deeper ranges - just tie a band to a something sturdy and hold onto the band as you reach under
    • Rotation can be quite effective in improving T-spine extension as well, so this is a great exercise to help improve both.


Do you notice your shoulders rounding forward or feeling slouched forward?

  • Eccentric dumbbell fly on roller - I love this one when I really need to open up my shoulders and lengthen my pecs.
    • Chronically tight pecs can lead to rounded shoulders and even neck and/or shoulder pain  (the pec minor attaches on your scapula, and when tight, can round your shoulders forward). Paired with the t-spine extension or rotation, these mobilities are a great way to counteract the effects of sitting at a desk all day!


Does your job require you to sit all day? Do you feel like your hips are always tight? Perhaps you have been dealing with some low back pain or even some knee pain.

  • Supine 90/90 hip IR breathing - (for hip IR, walk the feet outwards, keeping the knees against the foam roller) - this is what I learned in the Clinical Athlete Weightlifting Seminar that I attended a few months ago.
    • Poor breathing patterns can actually have an effect on mental well-being and are linked with anxiety, depression and chronic stress. The process in which the diaphragm pulls air into the lungs is crucial in creating trunk stability, and trunk stability are crucial in stabilizing the spine and generating force at the hip or shoulder, which translates directly to workouts.

    • Proper breathing pattern maintains posture. Your body should be able to support itself without much effort - you shouldn’t need to clench your butt cheeks and pull your shoulders back to maintain proper posture. If you’re doing it right, you should just be there naturally.

    • This is good for getting you set in a more neutral position and opening up your hip joint internal rotation. Breathing plus internal rotation tends to be very beneficial for improving your hips’ ability to internally rotate, and gets the pelvis positioned more neutrally (the primary hip flexor, the psoas major, flexes and externally rotates. If chronically tight, it can cause long-term external rotation of the femur).


Do you every feel like you spend most of your day sitting and working? Do you feel like your hips are always tight? Perhaps you’ve been dealing with some low back pain or even some knee pain.

  • Sidelying clamshell - another golden nugget I learned from Dr. Quinn Henoch, DPT at the Clinical Athlete Seminar. This, along with rolling out the tensor fascia latae (TFL) and iliotibial (IT) band can help desensitize the hip before using the clamshell to activate the glutes.
    • Weak and/or inhibited glutes may be related to your low back pain. Try this pairing out if you’re experiencing some low back pain and notice your glutes are “sleepy”.
    • Sure, you have your bridges and clams, but this pairing of exercise and self-myofascial release is extremely effective. Some glute activation in those exercises is great, but it’s even better when you can also maintain breathing patterns and trunk position.


Want Better Mobility? Try Strength Training


Want Better Mobility? Try Strength Training

While the advice seems counterintuitive, if your body lacks the strength to keep itself stable during challenging tasks such as reaching high overhead or squatting down low, it will not be so willing to move all the way into the positions you ask it to. It is important to recognize that your body likes to be comfortable and will always seek to avoid discomfort. Ever wonder why, no matter how hard your try, you can’t seem to get your squat to go low enough, or no matter how often you stretch, your shoulders and neck stay tight? While a lack of mobility seems to be the apparent issue, the cause of your poor mobility may actually be an issue of poor stability.

When you ask your body to move in a way that requires lots of mobility, but you lack proper motor control and key muscles lack the strength to stabilize your joints at the full range of those movements, any number of those key muscles or supporting muscles may tighten up to prevent the possibility of injury. Until key stabilizing muscles have the adequate strength to lengthen and contract fully, and your nervous system exhibits the motor control to keep your joints stable, your muscles and joints will not move beyond what is perceived as safe.

Mobility exercises such as various forms of stretching or myofascial release (foam rolling) and massage therapy are effective interventions, and should not be removed from your regular routine of self-maintenance. However, the effect of these therapies will be temporary if solid motor control is not programmed into the nervous system, and if key muscles are not strengthened to meet the challenges you present them with.

For example, let’s say you have chronic hamstring tightness. You stretch daily, have gone to yoga, and get a massage on occasion. All seem to help for a while, but every morning you wake up they are right back to their same tight selves. What’s going on here?

Well, the first thing to consider is this: when you are not stretching, getting a massage, or doing yoga, what do you spend your time doing? Let’s say you’re someone who works 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, and about 80% of the time you are sitting in a desk chair. That’s 40 hours of sitting per week, about 8 hours a day, and that’s just at work. Because the chair is supporting your weight, and your body loves to be comfortable, all the muscles that normally stabilize your body’s posture, become lazy over time and either shorten or lengthen to accommodate your new posture as your body sinks into the chair. Eventually these key stabilizers become weak and won’t like to move in ways they are not used to. If they are short as a result of prolonged sitting, they will want to stay short. If they are lengthened, they will want to stay lengthened. In the case of your hamstrings, prolonged sitting can chronically shorten the distal end (by the knee), and because you aren’t challenging the muscle in any way for many continuous hours, it becomes weak and stuck in that position. Even worse, your glutes and other muscles that help your hamstrings do their job become weak and stuck so your poor hamstrings don’t get any help when they need to do their job.

Each morning you wake up and do some stretches to alleviate your tightness, but because they are weak in that lengthened position, and other key muscles aren’t doing their job either, so they eventually tighten up again to stabilize the hip and knee or prevent a muscle tear. Because your patterns of behavior (sitting for 40 hours a weeks) do not require much mobility or strength, you have patterned your nervous system and muscular system to be comfortable with poor level of mobility and strength. So what’s the solution?

To fix a poor pattern, you need to combat it with a new and better pattern.

First, get moving.

If you’re sitting for 40 hours a week, and much of that sitting is continuous, even working out for an hour a couple times a week won’t do anything to save your posture and tight muscles. There is no way that 3 hours a week of exercise can compete with 40 hours of sitting. However, this doesn’t mean you need to exercise 40 hours a week either. Just take breaks, and take them often, to perform some slow and easy dynamic movements such as walking or slow squats with an emphasis on breathing. For every 30 minutes of sitting, spend 5 minutes doing some exercises.

Start a regular mobility routine or see a massage therapist if this is not already established.

Movement and strength training is essential for maintaining healthy mobility, however if you’re already tight, you will need the help of mobility interventions to get you back on track. Foam rolling, yoga, dynamic stretching, and massage are great options.


Dehydrated tissues are stiff tissues. If you’re dehydrated, your muscles are also more prone to injury and motor control will be altered to compensate.

Sleep more Seriously, get some rest.

For many people, more sleep may be the key to addressing their issue. Sleep is when you integrate what you’ve learned from your day into long term memory so that your patterns of behavior can become more permanent. Even if you do everything on this list, without enough sleep, the rate of learning your new habits will be decreased and progress will slow. Additionally, it is during times of rest that you build muscle and repair your body, not when you are working out. Therefore, without enough sleep, all your hard work in the gym and throughout the day will be for nothing.  

Have a movement specialist or high-level personal trainer create a strength training program and provide coaching on your movement mechanics.

At the very least, start some sort of regular strength training routine that challenges your body in all its primary movement patterns (squat, bend, push, pull, twist, and lunge/gait). It is important you build strength in this way so that your body has the stability it needs to take one various types of movements in a variety of situations. Additionally pay attention to your breathing as an indicator of how intense you should be going. If you are unintentionally holding your breath while you exercise, the intensity is too high, and really you’re training yourself to hold your breath and stiffen up every time you do an exercise, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to do! However, I recommend working with a movement specialist that has some formal education in exercise science to ensure you are moving optimally. A movement specialist can assess your movement and tailor a strength training program to address weak links in your body’s stability. They can also provide coaching to improve movement coordination and sequencing to ensure you are not performing exercises in a way that is detrimental. This is very important because if you habitually exercise with poor mechanics, you may actually create more instability, even if you feel stronger.

Combining strength training with a regular mobility routine and healthy lifestyle habits is the best way to make sure your body stays mobile and supple, not to mention it’s a really good practice for your health.

If you have any questions on how to get started or any of the advice written above, feel free to contact myself or any of the Perform For Life Movement Specialists. Our contact information can be found here:




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