Why Your Stretching and Foam Rolling Isn’t Working

I hear all the time about how athletes will stretch their hamstrings or hip flexors and/or they foam roll them every day and they can’t seem to “loosen them up”.

If foam rolling/self myofascial release and stretching was the key for health and athleticism, then everyone would be doing it and everyone would have great mobility and be injury free.

That is just not the case.

I am not bashing or criticizing self-myofascial release and mobility drills, but it needs to be part of an all encompassing program to help improve and maintain new mobility/flexibility.

One common reason why I see only stretching or foam rolling not working is because that’s all that’s being done.  There isn’t any strengthening or stability program implemented in to help maintain this “new” mobility to be maintained.

Ok, so what do I do to work on this?

I find that once someone has manual therapy (dry needling, manipulation, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, Cupping, etc.) OR they have done foam rolling on themselves and they have done some form of stretching/mobility drill, you need to train your body to control this new mobility or range of motion.

Your body, specifically your nervous system (brain/spinal cord), only knows what your “old” mobility was.  When you improve an area in mobility, you need to train those areas to be able to control this “new” mobility, otherwise, the body will have a tendency to revert back to what it knows.  The body will have a tendency to “tighten back up” because it doesn’t know how to control these areas.

Now, there are many, many drills in the strength and conditioning and physical therapy worlds that can be used to accomplish what we are looking for in training the body to control improvements in mobility.

This list is not all encompassing and there may be other drills that work as well.  If you are dealing with a mobility issue and it isn’t improving, make sure to seek out a licensed medical provider to assess you.

Upper Body


Quadruped Assisted Reach, Roll, Lift and Flex

Quadruped Assisted Reach, Roll and Lift

Supine AROM Shoulder Flexion

Supine AROM Shoulder ER/IR

Modified All Fours Belly Lift with Press Off

Lower Body

½ Kneeling Chops

Modified Resisted All Fours Belly Lift with Hold

Modified Side Plank with Reach

Split Stance KB Hip Airplanes

Again, these are just some of my favorite, “go-to” drills for maintaining “new” mobility once someone has worked on it.  There are other drills that can also work as well. I like to put these into my athlete’s warm-ups or superset them into their respective workouts.

Now, make sure to check out next week for Part II on the next step to not only improving your mobility, stabilizing it, but how to maintain it and become stronger in it.

Andrew Millett