You can imagine my roommate's surprise when I walked through the door with three lengthy bright-orange sticks. They were each as thick as a fist and ranged in length from four to six feet.
“What can those possibly be used for,” he asked.
“Stretching,” I said, as I tried to balance one of the sticks straight up in the air on my finger.
They’re light and surprisingly bendy, with a satisfying feel in your hands that keeps you going back for more every time you put them down. I knew I was going to have some fun with this unorthodox exercise device.
What is Stick Mobility?
Stick Mobility is reminiscent of TRX bands as a full-body fitness product to be used in a customizable training program that provides companion certification courses for coaches and physical trainers. The system emphasizes joint mobilization, strength training, and deep fascial stretching to improve performance and recovery. Six principles in particular govern the Stick Mobility experience, and they are leverage, stability, feedback, irradiation, isometrics, and coordination. Basically, the principles encourage you to see and feel when you’re out of alignment in a pose, and to use the Mobility Stick to get you back to where you’re supposed to be. To get started, you can simply access their extensive video library to engage with instructions and demo videos on how to use their signature dowels made with blended materials for target-area exercises.
Dowels are skinny rods that can be any length, and are often made out of wood, metal, or plastic. You’re more likely to find them at your local hardware store than anywhere else. Yoga practitioners have used them for decades to assist with alignment and balance, while weightlifters like to practice their clean and jerks with the light bars. They’re cheap, easy to find, and versatile.
Naturally, I was skeptical of Stick Mobility when I first got my hands on their Mobility Stick bundle. It can only be bought online, and bundles cost $169 – that’s very different from walking into my local Home Depot and picking up a wooden dowel for under $10. My initial reaction to their video library also wasn’t stellar. I thought, “how complex can it be to use a stick” and assumed I’d be able to figure exercises out without watching their free fundamentals videos or paid membership videos. As a result, I stuck to the first exercise that came to mind: shoulder rolls while holding the bar outstretched overhead.
As it turns out, I’m not the most creative and could only think of a few more exercises on my own. A 6-foot stick without any directions is more puzzling than you’d think. Their video library became extremely useful for finding exercises that released targeted tension in my body. They have exercises from the bottom of your feet to the top of your neck, and everything in-between.
While experimenting with different postures using the sticks, I discovered the value of their construction materials. Your basic wooden dowel doesn’t bend at all and you could snap them if you exert too much force; plastic dowels have a little bit of give, but not enough to comfortably flex with your movements; metal dowels won’t snap on you, but you’re not going to get them to bend either. The materials in the Mobility Sticks, a proprietary blend of synthetic plastic and natural rubber, enables you to flex the device into a noticeable C-shape without the fear of it breaking in half. Although Mobility Sticks could possibly break, it’s highly unlikely and would require extreme amounts of force to pull off – and I’m no NFL Linebacker.
Speaking of Linebackers, professional athletes from various sports have taken a liking to Stick Mobility and have incorporated it into their training routines. When I heard that my favorite team, the Philadelphia 76’ers, use Stick Mobility, I knew the training system was gaining popularity. Golfers, especially, can benefit from Stick Mobility because of how it improves your spatial awareness, motor control, stability while your body is rotating, and opens up your shoulders and hips. In fact, there’s an entire video library dedicated to Golf Mobility exercises.
Why Should You Use A Dowel in Yoga?
Props are essential editions to any yoga practice. They can improve your stability, correct your posture, and increase your range of motion. Yogis have been using dowels to do just that for years now, so it was about time I gave it a shot.
The key benefits that I discovered through a dowel were leverage and resistance. In resistance exercises with the Mobility Stick, you’re incorporating what’s called isometric contractions into your training.
Stick Mobility’s Bow and Arrow pose is a perfect example of strengthening while stretching with resistance. You get into a High Lunge with a Crescent variation, and then, with a Mobility Stick standing by your hip, you do a side bend and push into the stick. With the force that you’re giving through your arms and torso, the stick should bend like, well, a bow and arrow. The resistance from the stick makes you exert force into it, strengthening your muscles and reinforcing your neuromuscular drive – your body’s ability to coordinate its movements.
While yoga mainly uses static contraction and overcoming contraction through holding poses and pushing against the earth, the flexibility in the Mobility Sticks allows for yielding contraction, which makes you fight to keep the stick in its bended state. Muscles often contract isometrically - contraction without shortening or lengthening the muscle - to stabilize your body, so practicing all three types prepares you for any situation that could throw you off balance.
While straps and the wall can deliver resistance, the pushback from them isn’t as strong as a dowel. Walls are immovable objects and straps only increase the intensity of the stretch; you’re fighting against tension when you push into the Mobility Sticks. Personally, I enjoy incorporating aspects of strength training into my practice, so holding the Mobility Sticks in a bent position was the perfect addition to many postures. The tension that I felt was equivalent to holding light objects in the air for extended periods of time. The tension was apparent and required me to exert more energy than usual, but, it wasn’t extraordinarily tough to bend either. Given that it was strenuous, I would not recommend using the Mobility Sticks for isometric exercises like the Bow and Arrow variations if strength training is not a major part of your practice.
Dowels shine with their ability to add leverage into your practice. Blocks can be push-off points too, but they have to be low to the ground. Dowels add balance and thrust, and you can hold onto them at any point in your practice, so it really expanded the number of poses that could benefit from using a prop. Standing postures like Tree Pose and Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose require power and grace to successfully elevate your leg and hold it in off-balance positions. Dowels provide an extra level of support when you’re raising your leg and keeping yourself upright. Balance is something that I have been trying to improve on, so I loved the confidence that a dowel gave me when I was entering into tricky standing postures.
My Experience with Stick Mobility
I quickly took an interest in the exercises geared toward the lower body. I have limited ankle mobility and stiff hips, so I wanted to work on both of those areas to improve my Warrior II’s. Their video library has a lower-body section filled with 60 unique videos, so finding exercises that stretch and strengthen the ankles and hips wasn’t an issue. While they don’t have yoga-specific videos, many are actually yoga postures that use the Mobility Stick as a prop.
The exercises were great for loosening and strengthening my body in ways that other training systems or props can’t. I could really feel the added leverage from the sticks when rolling my hips forward and holding my way through degrees of dorsiflexion – how far forward I can get my knee over my foot while I flex my foot upwards toward my shin - that my ankles can’t do normally. The yielding isometric exercises confused my muscles. I’ve never experienced a training device like it, and my muscles definitely felt the novelty.
The sticks were also great for rolling out my calves. Although this use isn’t prescribed in any of their videos, sitting in Hero Pose with a stick across both of your calves and then gently lowering down onto it loosened up my calf muscles and felt wonderful.
Eight months out, I’m still using the Mobility Sticks in a few exercises every night, and I periodically grab them throughout the day when I’m feeling tense. If you’ve been struggling with trying to release a specific target area on your body, the added leverage, balance, and resistance that Stick Mobility provides might just be your answer.