When it comes to basic mobility exercises, most by now have determined the basics of the lacrosse ball and foam roller for increasing range of motion thanks to gumby experts like Kelly Starrett (mobilitywod.com) and Tim Simansky (thewoddoc.com). As an athlete and coach, however, I’ve spent considerable time digging deeper into the world of mobility and explored the most masochistic (ermm…I mean effective) tools to increasing your range of motion, resolving pain, preventing injury and boosting athletic performance through the practice of self torture (oops…self care). Here are my top picks:
MobilityWOD Super Nova – $40
The unique groove patterning of the Super Nova is supposedly the result of 18 months of research and development to creating the highest possible shear pressure. Simply put, this beautiful, glorious little blue sphere is the most awfully delightful contraption of torture I’ve met yet. Though it has large enough surface area to work major muscle groups such as the back, quads and hamstrings, it’s also small enough with the relative size of a softball to fit into my backpack or day bag. The Super Nova might seem overpriced as just a dressed up lacrosse ball, but it’s definitely some next-level technology that has earned its place in my gym bag and earns my recommendation.
Trigger Point GRID STK Foam Roller – $35
If you’ve ever tried Trigger Point’s foam rollers, you’ve probably already been painfully impressed by their patent-pending 3-dimensional surface. If you’re unfamiliar, take my word for it: it’s brutally, painfully awesome. Take that roller, put it on a more portable handheld stick and wah-lah…the GRID STK. Does putting it on a stick really make it better, though? Well… have you ever tried a stick-less corn dog? Lollipop? A shish kabob without a stick is just a boring pile of meat and veggies. The point is, the stick makes a good thing better. The great thing here is that instead of awkwardly rolling around the floor, you can now just grip this thing by the handles and work the affected area wherever you’re at. The more portable quality of the GRID STK means I can use it more often and have less excuses not to mobilize.
VooDoo Floss Band – $24 (pair)
The VooDoo band is active mobility sorcery…in a good way. In contrast to rolling around on a ball or roller, these compression bands allow you to actively mobilize into the position you’re trying to improve…and the results are fast. Prepare to be impressed by some dramatic results in a test versus retest scenario, especially in areas such as knees, elbows, and shoulders. A quick wrap around my knees paired with a dozen or so air squats results in an immediate relief of tightness or aching so that I can hit the heavy weights sooner, harder, and more safely. The floss bands aren’t meant to replace your other mobility tools, as there are areas that you’ll still need to hit with your basics, but they definitely seem to carry some magic in restoring joint mechanics and tissue health based on experience.
AcuZone Cupping Set – $39
Cupping is an ancient Chinese method of massage by creating a partial vacuum in cups by means of either heat or suction that draws up the underlying tissue. In essence, it’s a deep tissue massage in reverse and the sensation is equally as relaxing as it is effective. This method has become increasingly more popular in recent years and we’ve seen the signature marks left by the cups on athletes like Steph Curry and celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston. Although you can get this treatment done by certain massage therapists, often times in concordance with acupuncture, it is also a safe practice to do on your own although we suggest you do some basic research first. The markings left by cups appear bruise-like and may turn a few heads or get some questioning stares, but we say the results are worth it.
After repeated and regular use, I’ve experienced less chronic muscle tightness and even noticed a significant change in the coloration of following treatments. There’s a noticeable correlation between areas I associated with pain or stiffness and the darkness of the marks left by the cups and with each use, these marks tend to become lighter in color. The AcuZone plastic cups are durable enough to withstand being dropped and are easily applied with the hand pump and extension tube so that you can apply them to hard to reach areas without assistance. Despite the awkward angles, I could easily self-apply cups to areas such as the low back and posterior shoulder.
Mobility is a brutal battle in which you trade temporary agony for delayed gratification of the results, however, with these tools in hand we believe those benefits will be greater than ever before and totally worth gritting your teeth for.
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