Your Guide To Muscle Flossing For Better Mobility

"When you floss your tissues, it’s like unkinking a garden hose."

Your guide to muscle flossing, the stretching-based form of movement that improves your mobility.
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While the term “muscle flossing” may bring to mind images of mint-flavored dental floss, this fitness modality is actually a way of moving that can help relieve soreness and tightness in the body. According to experts, regularly doing the mobility-boosting practice will have you feel loose, limber, and more ready to take on the day.

Muscle flossing is a sort of hybrid between movement-based stretching and joint articulation that focuses on the fascia, aka the connective tissue that runs throughout your body. “It weaves within and wraps around your muscles, making the myofascia — a mix of muscle and fascia,” says The Floss owner Bonnie Crotzer, who coined the term “fascia flossing” in 2019. “Due to accidents, sitting all day, walking on pavement, overuse, trauma — and just life — fascia can become thick, dense, hard, and plastic-like.” Flossing aims to get rid of some of that density, she explains, by using a mechanism called pandiculation, which involves contracting a muscle while you also elongate it.

“Engagement plus elongation is the magic combo to create the ‘floss’ or, as I like to think of it, ‘internal exfoliation,’” Crotzer says. For a visual, think about how cats and dogs get up to stretch throughout the day. They do a big, active stretch, and humans often do something similar when they yawn. And, according to Crotzer, a big stretch is an instinctual way to activate the body and get things flowing. Read on for more info on muscle flossing’s many benefits along with tips for giving it a try.

What Are The Benefits Of Muscle Flossing?

Look at muscle flossing from an Eastern medicine standpoint, and you can start to visualize what’s going on internally as you release your fascia. “We can think of the web of fascia as a transportation and communication network,” Crotzer says. This is called Qi, or the energy that flows through your body. “When you floss your tissues, it’s like unkinking a garden hose, allowing everything to flow more smoothly and creating more space for circulation, lymph flow, and oxygenation,” she says.

Flossing can also release stagnation within the body, which results in not only more space for movement but for more free-flowing thoughts, says Kyle Miller, a yoga teacher and founder of Kyle Miller Yoga. She relates joint space to bends in a river: “It’s where garbage can collect and stagnation can fester,” Miller explains. “The idea with flossing is to keep that space clean and lubricated with synovial fluid, the joints healthy and functional, and the fascia soft and supportive so everything that is meant to flow can.”

By improving your body’s energy flow, muscle flossing can also help you feel more awake and invigorated. On a physical level, it’ll help relieve muscle tension, which is particularly beneficial if you have tight shoulders, an achy back, or any other body soreness, especially after a workout. Get into the habit of muscle flossing and Crotzer says everyday movements may start to feel a lot more effortless, meaning muscle flossing is a functional movement, too. “Those stubborn muscle knots that won’t go away begin to mellow, and living in your own skin becomes more enjoyable,” she says. “If you are feeling tight or low on energy, fascia flossing can brighten you up and help you feel spacious.”

When Should You Floss?

There’s never a wrong time to muscle floss. “I start most of the yoga classes I teach with a joint-cleaning warm-up of spherical movement and articulation,” Miller says. “As we move a joint, we clean it and we warm the fascia that encapsulates everything.” Think of it as a form of dynamic stretching.

If you want to add muscle flossing to your workout routine, start by doing it every other day. Crotzer says just five minutes will offer a benefit to your body. She says she likes to floss before and after a dance class or jog, and it also pairs nicely with cardio. Try it in your warmups or post-sweat recovery regimen and see how you feel.

How To Do Muscle Flossing

An easy way to “muscle floss” is to simply move your joints, Miller says. Think about articulating them through their entire range of motion. Point and flex your ankles or wrists and then twirl them in both directions, for instance. It’ll help increase the functionality of your joints, and is also a great way to warm, lubricate, and open up the body. From there, try pulsing while in a stretch to create even more space.

To give it a try, Crotzer recommends getting into a tabletop position. From there, widen your knees and drop your forearms to the ground in front of you. Push your butt back into a child’s pose and as you do, pull your forearms down and back, as if you’re trying to yank the yoga mat along with you. Keep “pulling” on the yoga mat and then pulse once you’re in a child’s pose, keeping in mind the way a cat might stretch after getting up from a nap. Come back to the beginning, then start again. Do 10 to 30 reps like this and “you’ll feel your tissue change around the armpits, the upper back, and behind the arms,” Crotzer says. And that’s muscle flossing! You’ll find it’s a lot more enjoyable than flossing your teeth.

Studies referenced:

Bertolucci LF. Pandiculation: nature's way of maintaining the functional integrity of the myofascial system? J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Jul;15(3):268-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.12.006. Epub 2011 Jan 14. PMID: 21665102.

Hotta, K. (2018). Daily muscle stretching enhances blood flow, endothelial function, capillarity, vascular volume and connectivity in aged skeletal muscle. The Journal of Physiology.

Kaneda H, Takahira N, Tsuda K, Tozaki K, Kudo S, Takahashi Y, Sasaki S, Kenmoku T. Effects of Tissue Flossing and Dynamic Stretching on Hamstring Muscles Function. J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Nov 19;19(4):681-689. PMID: 33239941; PMCID: PMC7675630.

Kumka, M. (2012). Fascia: a morphological description and classification system based on a literature review. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association.


Bonnie Crotzer, owner of The Floss

Kyle Miller, yoga teacher and founder of Kyle Miller Yoga