This is something we all know. But it is something we almost always neglect.
Why is mobility so important? People that have been going to a conventional gym soon realize that mobility is the most difficult thing to keep up with when they start CrossFit. Ask them to do an overhead squat or a thruster and you can see that mobility, not strength, is the limiting factor.
What ends up happening is people’s bodies adjust to the lack of flexibility. Their back will arch and elbows will soften when trying to go overhead. The knees will cave in and they won’t be able to go all the way down if they have tight hips. So, lack of mobility not only will keep you from doing the movements correctly, but will also increase the probability of injuries, since you can’t put your body into the best position for a movement.
CrossFit is all about functional movements and learning new skills everyday. Both of those depend on mobility. It allows you to maintain a neutral spine, to keep everything stacked for a better “foundation”, and it increases the efficiency of any movement. Everything becomes simpler when you are able to move freely. Getting up from the floor, tying your shoes and climbing over something is nearly impossible if you are tight. Everyday tasks become increasingly hard if you have to adjust a movement because you lack flexibility. That translates to the gym. And hopefully, with what we do in the gym, you can notice where your “sticky points” are.
What is mobility?
Mobility is sometimes confused with flexibility. Every joint has a possible range of motion (ROM). How much of that range you can get yourself into is your flexibility. Mobility refers to how much of your flexibility you can achieve on command. For example, if you pull your finger backward you will find your flexibility, most likely around a 90 degree angle with the backside of your hand. To find your finger mobility, try to raise your finger as close to your flexibility limit as you can without any help. Most people can only get their finger to point straight that way. So mobility and flexibility are related but are not the same. You can be flexible but not mobile.
How do I improve my mobility?
Now, working on mobility is not taking 5-10 minutes in class to do a stretch or roll out. To truly work on mobility you have to spend a long time in your “sticky point”. Is the problem going overhead? Grab a broom, put it overhead, face a wall and try to get low while keeping a good position. Squats need work? Grab the end of the table or the bed, come down as far as you can while keeping your knees out and heels down. Then repeat that. And do a few sets before you go to bed. And when you wake up. THAT is working on mobility.
Another option, famous among CrossFitters, is ROM workouts.
Recently we had a barbell workout that contained overhead squats in it. The weight on the bar wasn’t that challenging but many people had to take it off because they couldn’t properly do the exercise. Those of you who have gone from “poor” to “good” mobility can testify how different it is when you can get that bar overhead and not have to worry about “pushing the bar up”, “keeping elbows locked”, “external rotation” and “keeping the bar moving in a straight path”. When you get the mobility to do the exercise correctly you can just feel how much easier it gets, and how much more power output you can create.
A simple example, and one that most people can relate to, is the front rack. You might remember on your early days of CrossFit, when you were still holding the bar on your hands and how tough it was to do anything with it. If you have a pretty good front rack you know how much easier it is to just let the bar rest on your shoulders. Power output for any movement is increased if you can do them correctly, with good mobility and form!
The first step on improving mobility is to find out where you can improve. Everyone can improve on something when it comes to mobility. The next step is coming out with a gameplan to tackle that issue. Finally, the toughest step, is to commit to work on your mobility every day. If you are unsure how to test mobility or how to improve it, we are always happy to help you! At Celebration CrossFit we are striving to give you the best quality of life by working on your overall fitness, not just to increase your back squat or decrease your mile time. Fitness becomes easier when you can move well and efficiently.
by Coach Matt