E4 – How to Program Mobility Work with Dr. Zach Long & Coach Johnny B
On Episode 4 of the Performance Plus Podcast Dr. Zach Long and Coach Johnny B discuss how to program mobility work.
- The most important detail of programming mobility
- How to structure a mobility program
- When to implement mobility work (before or after a workout)
- The appropriate amount of time to foam roll/do lacrosse ball work
- What to do if lack of mobility is causing pain
For more help improving your mobility, access our FREE mobility checklist!
The Performance Plus Podcast is a short, actionable podcast that answers common questions from CrossFitters and other athletes. Featuring Dr. Zach Log (The Barbell Physio), Pamela Gagnon, and hosted by Coach Johnny Bouchard each short podcast episode will help you achieve your goals. Whether you are training for a competition or want to get stronger, our step-by-step guide is all you need to take care of your body.
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Follow Zach @thebarbellphysio and his website
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Program Mobility Work Transcript
Coach Johnny B: [00:00:00] Hey, what’s going on. It’s good. Johnny. Back with the performance plus podcast today, I am joined by Dr. Zach long to talk about mobility programming.
Zach: Doing good, man. How’s it going? Great.
Coach Johnny B: Just finished up a half Ironman triathlon this weekend. And, uh, I’m glad it’s over the part-time job of running biking and swimming is out of my life and I can go back to normal.
Just one workout a day. Absolutely. Awesome. Uh, I have some blisters on the bottom of the feet from a shoe issue, but other than that, no problems. So
Zach: I know when you typically do. You don’t train for the marathon. You just CrossFit, right? Yes. Is that what you did
Coach Johnny B: this time? I, uh, I learned from the marathon thing, like, Hey, that was a really dumb idea.
Like I fell, I hurt very bad. Yeah. So this time I actually spent some time training and doing it, but I did a lot less. So most people go 20 to 25 hours a week of [00:01:00] training for a half. And I did, uh, between eight and 10 and then CrossFit three days a week as well. So depending, uh,
Zach: Okay. Yeah, I think there’s a difference there.
Well, first it’s pretty cool that you can even do a marathon with not training specifically for it, even though you were kind of beat up afterwards, not injured, but just sore as heck. Um, but the, the tri component to it adds a lot more skill. If you don’t train some swim, you are going to get destroyed.
You cannot recover from a horrible swim. And if you don’t get on the bike ever, you’re also not used to. And that’s the thing that the
Coach Johnny B: heart rate component of everything is super important with it. And if you get on the bike and you treat it, like it’s an echo bike and you’re going to send it, uh, after three miles, you’re going to be done, you know, and that’s very different for CrossFit.
Zach: So I’ve been cycling a lot more lately and yeah, when I first started. You know, trying to get 20 cows down as quickly as possible and five minutes into the ride. I’m like, oh my gosh, this is embarrassing. But if [00:02:00] you dial it down just 10%, you can go 500% further. It’s a really interesting modality.
Coach Johnny B: And the power output component of is so much more important than.
Uh, I think people really under, you know, its powers important everywhere, but like people don’t think about it as much as you do on a bike. So, uh, it’s definitely exciting. It’s definitely fun to kind of change it up and do something different. It’s also cool being, I mean, I lost some weight around this, but like having some sort of muscle and being like standing at the starting line is kind of fun when you’re around a bunch of dudes who weigh like 1 35 and like if the wind blows, it might be a bad day for them.
So, uh, that’s also. So it’s a good time book. Glad it’s done. So, so mobility programming, uh, the answer is, uh, just smash it and stretch it and go home, right? Like there’s no thought just get rad.
Zach: I mean, if you really enjoy, like getting your Chuck stuck in mud and spinning wheels and not getting anywhere.
Yeah. Just smash it and [00:03:00] roll it and see what happens. But realistically, like you and I are big bleeds. And taken a little bit more of a detailed, systematic approach to opening up mobility. And I think that the biggest issue that we see me as a physical therapist, she was a massage therapist and coach and CrossFit is athletes that don’t work on the right area.
So that like, if we take the squat, for example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into athletes. That, that when they squat their hips feel tight. Pinch your pain in the front of your hips. In the bottom position, they’ve been stretching their hips for months or years, trying to get that better. And we look at their ankles and they have no ankle mobility.
And because they lack ankle mobility, their hip has to make up for it. And that results in their. Their hips feeling tight. And so we have to do a really good job of actually taking the time to assess where you actually need to work on your mobility. I’m going to go on a really weird tangent here, cause we’ve been talking about nerdy stuff for the last [00:04:00] few episodes.
You’ve got world of Warcraft on the front of your microphone.
Anything I’ve said dirty so far, this podcast doesn’t, uh, doesn’t compete with that,
Coach Johnny B: man. Yeah, I really would like to say that I like a huge world of workout player. I’m not, uh, I did buy the mic because I had an option between this one and another one, and I have played the game before and I was like, well, of course, I’m going to get the limited edition one, but, uh, I’m not that far down the nerd hole.
Uh, I don’t center my life around my well playing, but, uh, I have my brother and I. You know, spending quite a bit of time on, in the past. So yeah, some layers of the onion get peeled back.
Zach: All right. So that’s a mobility. Um, so it’s really important to just take the time, like that’s not waste 15 minutes of mobility work that you’re doing three or four days a week on working on the wrong areas.
And then that’s not really easy to do for most people that haven’t gone to massage therapy, school, physical therapy, school, et cetera. So that’s [00:05:00] why we created a free resource for every. To be able to analyze their own mobility. That’s our ultimate mobility checklist that you can download on performance plus programming.com.
If you just find like our resources section, um, and it will take you step by step through a number of different tasks. So the areas that we most commonly see cross-fitters Olympic lifters powerlifters limited in that you can actually start to target the right area. So that’s start with that.
Coach Johnny B: So specificity, specificity, number one.
Zach: If you want to improve your back spot, you don’t go do a half Ironman. Doesn’t help you with what we’re doing on everything. Once you have that, I kind of break stuff down into, into three different steps. So let’s say we know that you need to work on your hip mobility, your ankle mobility. There are three steps that I like to incorporate into improving.
Somebody’s. Number one, we first have to open it up so [00:06:00] that that’s going to be anything we do that actually increases the body’s range of motion that could be foam rolling or massage body tempering, things like that, that create temporary changes in what our body’s mobility is. It could be static, stretching, bandaged, joint mobilizations, uh, you name it, anything that just opens up a little bit of range of motion to me is step one.
And that’s the thing that everybody’s always doing. To try to improve their mobility. But I think we have to go further than that for most individuals, especially in sports and activities like CrossFit, where we’re taking the body into a little bit more of an extreme range of motions that we see in other sports.
So I think the next two steps are the most important for, for people to do after they open it up. Number one, I like to isolate, so it opened them. We isolate. So when I say isolate, I mean, like, I want to build strength in that new range of motion that we just talked. Because I believe that that building strength there is like us hitting, save on a word document.
You don’t type up a five [00:07:00] page document without hitting save a few times. If you’ve done that before, and then your computers crashed you. You’ve not made that mistake twice. So let’s not make that mistake in our mobility program. So let’s say we’re we’re. We do some static stretching to the shoulder to improve our overhead mobility.
Then that’s lay on the floor. Grab a PVC pipe we’re laying face down and we’re just lifting that PVC pipe off the ground to try to build strength in ranges. There again, that’s going to hit save. All of our mobility work is like a stock market. Like when you stretch, it gets better for a period of time.
And then it kind of goes back down a little bit better back down. And when we do strength, we tend to see that stock market have a more linear, positive effect on the human body. So. We isolate. And then I like to finish with, like, we have to integrate that to, because the movements we do as CrossFitters, uh, or power lifters, Olympic lifters, whatever your background here are a little bit different.
And then the body’s really [00:08:00] good at when you’re trying to overhead school. Where you’re trying to overhead press is really good at figuring out ways to just get that bar overhead, because that’s what your body thinks is jobs. Like the bar is just supposed to go from shoulders to overhead. It doesn’t know that we want to keep a staff strong spinal position.
It just wants to get the bar over in the middle of our foot. And so we’ll see things like somebody that’s. Limited shoulder mobility. We’ll see, as they press overhead, like arch their back, really big, kind of go into that overextension position if they lack shoulder mobility. So if we open it up, we now have to basically teach a lot like what to do with that range of motion, how we actually optimally want to be positioned.
So in the example of somebody that we’re improving shoulder mobility, we stretch the. We do those list offs. We talked about it a minute ago and then we could do something like, uh, like a antique extension press. So I’m sure a lot of people listening to this are familiar with a pal off press. So this is like a pal off press, but the band is positioned straight behind.
While I’m kneeling on the ground and I do an overhead press. So as I [00:09:00] press over hand, that band is trying to pull me into extension into that like faulty movement pattern that I might’ve been doing before we opened up my ability. And so now I’m basically forcing my quarter brace last final position as I do an overhead press.
So. Isolated integrated after you figured out the exact areas. And I think when people take those three steps, they’ll, they’re going to do significantly better in terms of their long-term progression of knocking out the mobility issues.
Coach Johnny B: How do, uh, how do people determine specificity around, uh, exercise selection with each component of this?
So if I need to open it up, should I be getting as detailed as, uh, I’m going to use a lacrosse ball foam roller for this versus a passive stretch? Or is it.
Zach: Yeah. So pretty much if I’m using lacrosse balls or foam rolls, that is always followed up with some sort of like static stretching or east centered muscle contraction, something like that. I don’t tend to spend a whole lot of [00:10:00] time on a foam roller or a lacrosse ball. Like my general rule is per muscle group that you’re foam rolling across falling like 30 to maybe 60 seconds there.
The research around that basically shows that if we spend much more time than. On a foam roller, we’re not getting any more added benefits. So that’s just get that work done really, really quick. And then move on to stuff that I think is going to have longer-lasting.
Coach Johnny B: So, uh, in, in this little three step model, the isolate and the integrate are the most important pieces in this, right?
Like these are the things where they’re all important, but you gotta make sure you hit those or you’re not hitting save on the word doc.
Zach: Yeah, I think you’re, you’re going to find yourself spinning your wheels. Now you’re going to do better than if you didn’t like assess in the first place. Stretching the right thing.
You’re going to get somewhat better. But I think you’re that stock market is not going to be as positive in its trajectory. If you’re not incorporating those other two steps.
Coach Johnny B: How, as far as mobility program goes, how many, [00:11:00] uh, sessions does it take to get adaptation? Like how long should we? And I know that’s, you know, is there a research out there that says, Hey, if you’re using this model for three weeks, we’re going to see, uh, X percentage of change in mobility.
Zach: Yeah. That’s going to be all over the place. So, um, you know, I, I know people that you can work for two or three weeks and their shoulder mobility goes from, you know, 160 degrees of overhead mobility to 180 for mobility. And on the flip side, I got a friend who used to be a tow offer and was used to weigh 400 pounds through CrossFit, dropped down to about 108.
So his calves are just giant. I perfectly been lucky at basketballs in his calves and not, uh, not normal muscles. So he is probably the last three years working on improving his ankle mobility. And for him that has resulted in him being able to go from wearing the Olympic lifting shoes and to Versalift inserts, to squat, to parallel, to Olympic lifting [00:12:00] shoes in one Versalift insert.
So we’re talking about a lot of time and a lot of. For something that has helped out his performance significantly, but still as you know, from, for most of our patients standpoint, like how much patients we have, that’s not very good, but it just it’s really gonna depend on what you want to hit in that.
Coach Johnny B: Uh, that’s brutal. That’s a, that’s a long time to get very little results. Uh, when do we, when do you advise people to do their mobility program? Pre-workout post-workout.
Zach: To me. It really doesn’t matter. As long as we get it done, unless during that day, something is showing up. That’s going to significantly challenge that.
So let’s say your ankle mobility is poor and overhead squats are showing her. Ankle mobility is crucial for the overhead squat. So that day maybe we do our mobility work before the workout on other days where mobility is not going to be tested that much, then get it done whenever it’s most convenient for you in your schedule.
It’s really about that. Just that [00:13:00] consistently getting after it
Coach Johnny B: consistency over specificity of time. Um, What, where does pain play into this? Right. So I know that’s like a big thing. People walk into my office and have pain and they want me to rub it and make it go away. People walk in their office and, you know, I have knee pain, um, with mobility work, if we’re having knee pain and we’re dealing with ankle mobility, do you respect a pain?
Wait for the pain to go away before attacking the problem or, uh, get on it.
Zach: Yeah. So pain does not necessarily mean to stop. It’s just about, you know, how much pain are we creating? Like you need to listen to and respect your body. If it’s enough pain that you feel like your body’s telling you that you shouldn’t be doing that, then don’t.
Give it a little bit more time to, to calm down and then get after it. If it’s just no uncomfortable, you know that you’re kind of poking the bruise a little bit, but you’re not punching the bruise. Then go ahead and keep going so long as [00:14:00] your symptoms, pretty much, aren’t staying irritated. Long-term from what you did,
Coach Johnny B: right?
You know, CrossFitters, that means it hurts, stick something in it that, that one of my favorite things ever was walking to the gym. And, uh, somebody had gone to see Danny who, you know, here and he had advised him, he’s a foodie and mark pro and all these dude had all the things on himself at the same time and was just like full, you know, full framing it basically.
And you’re just kinda like, I dunno, man. I think maybe you need some specificity without you use. But I love that about Christmas. It hurts. It means it’s good.
Zach: I love how much they just actively want to do things to help themselves out. Now sometimes for us kind of being perfectionist, that knows stuff like it’s frustrating when they want him to just throw the kitchen sink versus.
Really figured it out, but it’s a very unique community and how much they care about their health and fitness and performance and want to do the extra work to do that. It is,
Coach Johnny B: I, I don’t know how many people you work with that are [00:15:00] CrossFitters, but most everybody I work with is CrossFitters because those are the, really, the only people, uh, that like care enough to spend the time.
So it’s, uh, it’s pretty cool. Awesome, man. What that, to me is probably the most concise. Mobility programming conversation I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Uh, you’ve answered the question of what’s most important when that’s our specificity, given us a good template on how to attack programming it and then made it clear like, Hey, we don’t, you, there’s not a specific time in the day.
That’s best unless it’s appropriate to the workout that we’re doing. So, uh, I think that was awesome. Thank you that. Heard heard this conversation a thousand times and never had it so clear. So hopefully everybody out there uh, gets to using it. Um, as far as performance plus stuff. Uh, do you, are there anything that’s a bit on the mobility, um, uh, assessment on the website that you would direct people to go do?
Zach: Yes. So figuring out how to incorporate those steps for a lot of individuals, it’s going to [00:16:00] be a little bit more work and a little bit. Knowledge that maybe what your background is. So if you know that you need to work on your ankle mobility, hip mobility, whatever it is, we have a program out there that is pre-written that incorporates all of the different principles that we talked about today.
So when you just open up our app, get started on it four days a week. 10 to 12 minutes for most of those mobility programs. And it’s going to open up mobility, uh, isolated, as well as teaching you how to incorporate it into the movements that you actually
Coach Johnny B: care about. Third question of the episode. Are you a watch it in sequential order of release Marvel fan, or do you watch it in the super nerdy order that tells the story?
Zach: So I did both. So with Marvel movies, I watched them just as. And then over a quarantine, my wife, who hadn’t really watched, but like random episodes of it, we went back and watched him order of like the data when the movie was supposed to be set. What’s the word for that?[00:17:00]
Uh, so we went back and watched it in order so that we kind of got the full storyline was made a lot of the details. Click a little bit more.
Coach Johnny B: Pamela surprised me when I talked to her last week, she is currently. Uh, she’s watched all the Marvel movies and now she’s like currently rewatching them in different orders to pick up different pieces.
Uh, which I found very fascinating that she
Zach: wouldn’t have thought that you don’t watch it all. I
Coach Johnny B: know she went deep on Amazon, like it was like, wow, you really like it, man. Like Paul Rudd is your guy. So, uh, I don’t know. That’s under appreciated one really, really unappreciated at
Zach: like the first one was hilarious.
Coach Johnny B: The second one. Wasn’t great. I don’t, I don’t think they needed it, but whatever. Uh, anyway. Cool, man. Well, thank you. Uh, thank you for clarifying the mobility conversation for us. Um, anything you want to
Zach: finish up with ultimate mobility, checklists performance, programming.com and make
Coach Johnny B: sure you follow Zack at the barbell physio on Instagram.
Follow at performance [00:18:00] plus program on Instagram. Uh, there’s lots of assessments, lots of
Zach: schools. .