Mobility. It should be part of your workout routine every day, just like packing your gym bag or mixing up pre workout. Most of the time stretching or mobility work is looked at like extra stuff or for the older crowd. Well I’ve got news for you….it’s for everyone.
Let me illustrate this by asking a few questions. Do you have issues holding the barbell overhead in the correct position while squatting? Are the bottoms of your upper arms parallel to the floor in the front rack position? Does your stride shorten when running? Do 400m runs cause your outer thighs or ankles to ache? Do your heels come off the floor when squatting? Most athletes I work with would answer yes to at least one of these or I would be able to note them during a movement to some degree or another. Here’s what we do. Every day we work to grow muscle, drop body fat. Get stronger, right? Now this is not a super scientific explanation, so bear with me here. This process of creating small tears in our muscles and allowing them to repair themselves causes the muscles to get bigger, and without any stretching or mobility work, shorten. Shorter muscles decrease the length of your levers, thereby affecting our range of motion. Now this problem is not restricted to muscle alone, but tendons and ligaments suffer similarly as they are pulled on by the ever shortening muscles. Months and months of this go on, as we hop into our cars after a tough WOD or lifting session without taking a minute to stretch or use a foam roller. Muscles tighten, we lose flexibility.
If you’ve watched any professionals in weightlifting, CrossFit, or running, you recognize that they are efficient movers. Weightlifters go to a bottom squat position where they might as well sit on the ground, athletes execute pullups and toes to bar in easy rhythm, and runners elongate their stride and strike each foot softly on the ground. None of these things are possible by strength alone.These folks work their mobility, daily.
So where and how does one start to build mobility into a daily habit? Here’s a few tips to get you started!
- Identify the areas where you feel you lack mobility. Think about where you struggle during certain movements and that can clue you in onto where to start. Better yet, have a coach observe you in a few different movements and give you some feedback.
- Set a goal to spend 5 minutes working on one area after each workout. Don’t get overwhelmed here, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Pick the area you feel needs the most work and start with that. In the beginning it may feel like you’re not accomplishing much in that period of time, but as you get more proficient at the techniques you’ll be able to work through a routine faster. In addition, I suggest you do these after a workout or at least after a warmup like running or rowing. Warm muscles respond much better.
- Dig into some resources. There’s lots of information out there, but my favorite source of all things mobility comes from Kelly Starrett of mobilityWOD.com. If you prefer the printed word, he has a couple of books written on the subject, one of which is more focused on running. He’s a CrossFitter himself, so he understands the issues a lot of us have. In addition, don’t forget your trainer or coach should be somewhat familiar with these exercises and can definitely help you figure out some things to try. If you need pointing in the right direction I can help you out with some exercises to start out with.
- Invest in a couple tools. Some of these techniques can certainly be done at home provided you have the right items at hand. Over time, accumulate a lacrosse ball, foam roller, and maybe a voodoo band and some resistance bands. Without a large investment you will have what you need to work through these exercises. Some stretches don’t require any equipment.
- Start with one area, be consistent, and test your progress. Keep it simple here. Work with one muscle group, get a few sessions under your belt, and test how it’s working. If you’re struggling with tight hip flexors that limit the depth or comfort of your squats, try out some air squats to see how things feel after each session.
Okay. Hopefully mobility isn’t so scary to you anymore! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you’ll feel after just a few sessions, no matter your age or current ability. It all comes back to why we choose fitness, to live a better quality of life. Utilizing mobility is just another way to keep us moving well throughout the rest of our lives. Roll out! -m