Before we get too deep into the tactical side of “How To” lets build out a mobility kit that suits your lifestyle and gives you the highest chance of success (actually doing it).
What I am competing with in mobility training is time. You have your personal life, career, and just enough time to train. So to add anything extra may seem defeating already. Have no fear, we will address some of the oppositions of time management, productivity, and organization along the way.
Resistance Bands The benefit of bands is what we call accommodating resistance which means the band has the ability to increase intensity as you go through the range of motion. When you begin it is easy, then as you go to the end range of motion it is more difficult.
Indian Clubs The Indian club remains a staple item in my bag because it is phenomenal for rotational movements for the shoulder. I usually only carry one 1lb club in my gym bag but I have several at home.
Ankle Weights are great for loading the extremities. They also do not require a grip which allows you to focus on the drill at hand. The downside is that they are heavy if you are carrying them throughout your day. I typically do not pack these in my kit unless I am training a client.
Tennis Balls are great for isometrics, soft tissue specific work (isometric Ramping), dexterity drills.
Sticks are great to stabilize in standing, isometrics and repetitive movement training for active recovery work.
Yoga blocks are great for to change the level of your starting position and isometric training.
There are 3 types of bands that come to mind.
1. Looped (top in picture) a solid loop without any handles. They are easy to tie around objects and are my band of choice based on its diverse use and durability. I also recommend saving the bands that come tied around them to keep them organized in your bag and buy small rubber bands to keep in your bag because you will lose them. A small investment that pays dividends.
2. Handle Option (middle in picture) I would highly recommend ones that you can take the handle off encase the band needs replaced and ease of travel.
3. Ribbons (bottom in picture) I use these a ton for shoulder and foot drills. You can easily offset the tension making one side longer than the other however they do rip if you add too much tension.
If you can't train with the utmost intensity with a ball, a block, and a stick then the problem is not in the tools but rather the methods or training.
Isometric training is heavily underrated. I know my introduction to isometric training was pushing into a wall for 15 seconds. How lame is that when learning about exercise? Especially when all the other examples of training were demonstrated through fun games.
Lets see if we can update your interest in isometric training.
Think of isometrics as the transition in explosive movements. To get from eccentric to concentric or vice versa there is a split second of isometric to transfer motion. So isometrics while they can be performed for slow long duration's of time they are also the split second from change of direction in explosive movements.
This is a gross simplification of isometrics and frankly only the tip of the iceberg but to stay on topic I want to stress that isometrics are performed in all athletic movements even if it is a split second and it is the bridge between eccentric and concentric movements. To punctuate the importance of isometrics it is also important to understand that it's not just about speed it's about load. If you cannot absorb the force than you will not be able to do so quickly. While I highlighted speed in isometrics strength is its equal part.
Towel Since almost every hotel provides towels it makes them a convenient training tool when traveling. They are also super durable!
Tennis Ball I use tennis balls the most for squeezing. When you squeeze a tennis ball the isometric tension "bleeds" into surrounding tissues, recruiting more motor units under training.
Foam Yoga Blocks Much like the tennis ball I use yoga blocks for squeezing isometrically, driving my weight into them isometrically, and to allow me a variety positions to set up...you guessed it isometric training. The video above is a good example of this.
Sticks A great example of how I use sticks isometrically is the video above. I will add that I do this in a variety of positions including quadruped (all 4's), standing, kneeling, and lunge positions.
The often needed and easily forgotten method to restore the health of your joints is rotational training.
Much of our traditional strength training gives an advantage to flexion and extension but the capacity to rotate is often neglected.
Why Does Rotational Training Get Neglected?
Because we have been taught that training should replicate sport. When we think of athletic movements like running and jumping we don't see where rotation is needed.
If we were to take a still frame of the whole evolution of a play series we would see the need for rotation. Even in running where you might not see a lot of joint rotation we have to realize that ROTATION IS ABOUT MAKING ROOM NOT REPLICATING MOVEMENTS.
When we rotate our joints individually we are accessing the maximal about of room that is available. We call this "workspace".
The more workspace you have, the more degrees of freedom you have, the more athletic options you access.
Think of degrees of freedom + control through those degrees = Cheat Codes
That is a snapshot of what we are after when we do mobility training.
Starting to make sense?
The first answer that comes to mind is none! Just the force of gravity can be enough to train rotation especially if it is not as familier of training. But since we are talking about mobility kits lets get into it!
Ankle weights fit nicely around the ankle and wrist and do not require a grip or allow your grip to be used for an additional object
Indian clubs are fantastic for rotational training because the club weight can be manipulated depending on whether you have it facing towards the sky or the ground. I also love them for what we call axial rotational training which we will dive into in the future!
Tennis Balls allow you to used tension holds so that you can engage more tissue into the exercise. This dovetails well with what we spoke earlier about with isometric training.
KEEP YOUR KIT SIMPLE!!!!
If you're going to bring a band, bring one style and no more than 3 bands. If you are going to bring a weight choose between a club or a strap weight. Do not bring every item on this list. Not solely because of inconvenience but the more choices you have the more potential for stagnation through decision fatigue.
Buy A Mesh Bag
Most of these tools come with a bag. If it's fancy it may even have a draw string. These bags 9/10 times are trash. I recommend buying a small mesh bag. You can see through it and it fits all your items nicely into your travel or gym bag.
If we use these items as ways to replicate the movements we do in the gym but at higher reps we will not get stronger. In fact, I've seen a lot of injury occur this way.
We are after the end ranges of motion that we can isolate in a specific position.
What ranges are the most untrained, overlooked, and underdeveloped for you?
Mobility IS Control & Strength through the entire range of motion
Mobility IS Strength at the end ranges of motion
Mobility IS Specific Strength Training