Mobility and CrossFit
Why are we even doing it? Matthew Biolsi - June 21, 2016
How flexible are you. Let's be honest most of us aren't nearly as flexible as we want to be. Even those of us who are flexible, what is the point of it? Mobility has become a buzz word inside the gym and it's becoming very controversial. How much time should you spend? Should you mobilize before or after your workout? Should I follow Mobility WOD or ROMWOD? These questions are asked a lot and I have my thoughts about each.
When it comes to mobility everyone has their two cents. I am often asked "how do I mobilize this? It hurts." Well it's probably too late for mobilizing that area. You already have an injury. What we can do now is rehab the injury to get you back to where you were. Mobility is something that should be it's own separate workout. We have become a society where we bypass the warm ups and go right into mobility. From my experience, most of people's problems can be solved by properly warming up before working out. Mobility is great and we do it before every class but it is no where near as important as properly warming up. In my gym we generally do the same warm ups. We start with a 400m run and we do basic calisthenics to get the blood pumping and the body moving. Now I have seen games that get played and other ways to warm up and there is no right or wrong way to do things as long as you get moving. Here is where I see a lot of people start getting lazy. Many people skip the 400m because they don't like running. Well news flash, I'm not making you do it for my benefit, I'm doing it for yours! I want you to get your heart rate up slightly and the blood flowing. By skipping the run all you are doing is hurting yourself. "But Matt I suck at running!" Well news flash again, you aren't going to get better by skipping it. After our warm up we do some basic mobility, mostly with resistance bands sometimes with lacrosse balls. Here is where I think many get confused. Our mobility sessions are designed to teach you how to mobilize, they are by no means the sole mobility you should be doing. Mobility should done on your own either before or after you workout. My personal preference would be to mobilize the joints, with bands, before a workout. The idea behind these bands is to place a joint in the proper location for movement. For example, most of us sit for hours a day so our body adapts to this position by pushing our femurs into the front part of our hip capsule. This puts us at a disadvantage for squatting as we now have a limited range of motion. The other way to mobilize is to smash out with a lacrosse ball or foam roller. This should be done after a workout. I say this because of several reasons, but rolling on a foam roller doesn't do anything to get you ready to workout. If anything it shuts the body down. Think about a massage, have you ever walked out of a massage and said "man I can't wait to workout now!" This doesn't happen because the body starts to go to a relaxed state. This type of mobility is best before bed as you prepare to sleep. The same goes for static stretching. There has been no study ever proven that static stretching provides any benefit before a workout. In fact, static stretching damages connective tissue and hinders strength training. Once again I don't want my words twisted, yoga and couch stretching are not bad, but they are best for post workouts when the connective tissue is loosened up and begins to repair itself. When it comes to Mobility again I say make time to add it to your schedule, 10-15 minutes a day will go a long way to improving your mobility.
Now when it comes to mobility there are plenty of resources, Mobility WOD, ROMWOD, FMS tend to be the most popular. Any one you choose is fine, I am biased to Mobility WOD myself and here's why. I have met Kelly Starett and had the privilege of having dinner with him and some other friends. One thing that I took away from him is his passion for what he does. I have not met anyone who just lives and breaths movement and human performance like he does. My biggest take away was he isn't a flexibility person, he is a human movement person. His idea of mobility is to put you in better positions. Yes it is important to be able to have full range of your posterior chain and be able to touch your toes while hinging at the hip (basic hamstring stretch) but what good is that if you can not control your hamstrings in a way that allows you to perform a squat to full depth and knees tracking over your toes. When it comes to mobility, we have to make it functional to whatever movement we are trying to perform. The purpose of mobility is to help us move better. I have heard big guys say "mobility is overrated" and I have even heard some say "when you can lift as much as me, then you can correct me". The problem is when we talk to people about mobility we aren't saying you are weak but what we are saying is you aren't reaching your maximum potential, and who doesn't want to reach that? Mobilizing allows you to generate the full extent of power that your body is able to. It isn't only about injury prevention and recovery. If you move well, great things will happen.
Always beware of buzz words. When it comes to mobility, there are a ton of resources and seminars to go to, but always know your limits. Know the difference between being injured and sending your athlete or yourself to a doctor and needing to mobilize. If you are truly injured no amount of rolling on a lacrosse ball will fix it. Be smart when you mobilize and always do it with a purpose.