All it took was attempting a 95 lb deadlift and OUCH! I was out for a week with a tweaked back. A couple years ago, I thought I was a good athlete. I got plenty of exercise and I ate very well. However, I always seemed to get injured! I would pull a hamstring running, tweak my back lifting, or screw up my neck just wearing a backpack. I stretched all the time and went to physical therapy for my neck but nothing helped.
After desperately browsing Reddit for guides to fixing posture, I finally stumbled upon Kelly Starrett. This man quite possibly saved my life. One of the most important things I learned from him was how to mobilize. What is the difference between mobilizing and stretching, you ask? Well it turns out, mobilizing is MUCH more effective.
Stretching could be considered passively holding a muscle at its end length for 30 seconds or so. This is what I did in yoga and my regular old gym class stretches. It seems like it should work but in reality the effects are really miniscule.
Mobilizing, on the other hand, employs several different strategies for attacking the root cause of a tense muscle or limited range of motion. Whichever strategy you employ depends on what muscle or joint you target and which movement you want to improve.
A good place to start is to check out all of Kelly Starrett's MobilityWOD videos on Youtube. He has hundreds of videos for every part of the body but the first video is a great place to begin. I would also recommend buying at least one of his books. Although a little pricey, these books are one of the best investments I've ever made for my health. I have both of his books: Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run and I reference them daily. Becoming a Supple Leopard is very dense and is more focused on proper lifting technique whereas Ready to Run is easier to read and focused on running rather than lifting technique.
Some of the mobilization strategies he teaches in his videos and his books are:
Joint mobilization: increasing range of motion within a joint by moving it through the limits of its range. Check out the navicular bone drop video.
Voodoo Flossing: wrapping a Voodoo band or old bike tube tightly around a muscle/joint and stretching through end range.
Soft tissue work with lacrosse ball or foam roller: aggressively massaging out knots in soft tissue. (digging a lacrosse ball into my shoulders and upper back does miracles for my neck!)
PNF stretching: more effective stretching that involves going to end range, tensing the muscle for 5 seconds, and then relaxing and stretching into it for 10 seconds. Repeat for 5-7 cycles until at least 2 minutes of stretch has been completed.
Like Kelly Starrett says, you should be doing 10 minutes of mobilizations a day. Right before bed is a good time as it calms down your sympathetic nervous system and allows you to relax. If you ever need the motivation to mobilize, just remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Good luck and happy mobilizing!