Are your hamstrings “tight”, but you can bend over and palm the floor?
Are your shoulders “tight” but you can touch your hands in the middle of your back?
Have you have been told “you’re so flexible”, “how do you bend like that”, or “I wish I was as mobile as you”, but you always feel like your muscles are “tight”.
If so...then this article is for you!
Many times athletes who are extremely flexible (hypermobile) feel as they need to stretch more. I often hear hypermobile athletes say stretching “feels good” and they “feel better” afterwards. However, they feel like the changes never last and they end up “tight” again shortly after stretching. Stretching may give them short term relief but is not the long term answer to their “tightness”!
Hypermobility without control increases your injury risk. This is simply because the body cannot control the range of motion in which it has access to. When the body cannot control itself, it defaults to poor positions which are correlated with mechanisms of injury. Some examples of this are scapular winging with shoulder movement, hyperextending the lower back when your pulling load from the ground, and the arch of your foot collapsing during jump-land situations.
The human body is always looking for safety and stability. When we have too much motion and cannot adequately control the motion that we have, our body feels less safe. Our body then creates the stability it needs by “tightening” things up. For the hypermobile athlete; instead of stretching to gain more range of motion and to decrease “tightness”, we need to train the body to control the range of motion that we do have. When the body learns to control the range of motion, the perceived tightness decreases, and the risk of injury also decreases.
Below you will learn a few ways in which you can learn to counteract some of your perceived tightness. You will learn ways to “mobilize” your joints with active motion instead of passive stretching.
It’s important to grasp the major concept involved with this post. To gain control of a joint or position, you need to spend time training your body in those positions. Spending time under tension and showing slow controlled movement in that range is how you accomplish this. When you grasp the underlying concept, you can then extrapolate the knowledge to different positions that you need to “own”. The positions in which you need to own are dependent on the activities you perform.
After completing the mobilizations, I suggest taking the mobilizations a step further and then learning to control entire movement patterns in which your trying to improve. An example of this would be learning to control hip flexion then working to own the hip hinge movement pattern. You can learn to own movement patterns by slowing down your movement tempo and creating pauses in the patterns that you need to control. For the hip hinge specifically it would be by training the deadlift or good-morning on a very slow tempo while maintaining proper spinal control and hip control without compensation.
The combination of learning to control your joints independently and then learning to control your yourself within movement patterns will unlock your ability to perform better, stay healthy, and maintain the feeling of not being “tight”.
Give these mobility exercises a try. If your muscles begin to cramp during these exercises... don't worry, it's normal. Thats a sign that you really need to work on controlling the range of motion that you have.
Kettlebell Supine Leg Lifts:
L-seated leg lifts:
Prone Press PVC Lifts:
Prone Shoulder Extension Lift Off:
Prone Snow Angels:
Couch Stretch Lift Off:
Seated Hip External Rotation End Range Isometrics:
Seated Internal Rotation End Range Isometric:
Just like other mobility techniques. Incorporate these daily. Spend 10-15 minutes per day working on your control. Being consistent with your efforts is what will bring you the results your seeking to gain.
If you have any questions about anything, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll be happy to help!
Dr. Michael Tancini, DPT
Ground to Overhead Physical Therapy
Address: 201 S Estes Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Chapel Hill, North Carolina , Physical Therapy, Crossfit, Sports Therapy, Recovery, Rehabilitation , Movement Specialist, Knee pain, Back Pain, Hip pain, Shoulder pain