Forgive me if I take you back to the basics, but sometimes we have to look back to be able to move forward. In exercise physiology, we have what we call the five health-related components of fitness: body composition, cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. These are elements that we consider the most important to make sure people can lead healthy and functional lives – focusing on these decreases your risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, while ensuring that you can lead a full life, including the ability to exercise and do activities of daily living (ADLs).
So why does that matter, and what does that have to do with your performance in the gym?
Well, of all of the popular fitness buzzwords, mobility (what we old-timers used to call flexibility) is one of the tops. And although people mention mobility all the time, very few actually train it – or train it correctly. We know that of all the health-related components of fitness, flexibility is the most often neglected. So what we are seeing is that from improving ADLs to movements in the gym, mobility is being left out.
How can we expect people who exercise seriously to work on this when we can’t even get the general public to do it for their overall health?
That said, you’re reading this article because you are serious about getting results and want to learn more – great! There may be some of you who are saying to me, “but I stretch every day before and after my workout!”
Guess what?? That doesn’t cut it.
- Can you get below parallel in your squat?
- Can you squat without lifting your heels?
- Can you keep proper lumbar form when performing all of these movements (no “butt wink!”)?
- Do you fold in half when attempting back or overhead squats?
- Can you keep your elbows up in a proper rack position? I could go on, but you get my point!
Increasing mobility will allow greater and proper range of motion, which will then improve your performance during your WODs. So – when, what, how? There are an infinite amount of mobility issues that can come up during your daily activities and your WODs; each set of exercises will be specific to the particular problem. BUT! There ARE some general rules to follow for increasing mobility. Before your workout, it is important to do dynamic range of motion movements that are similar to or mimic those that you will do in your WOD. A good 15 minutes should be spent doing this beforehand. By the time you are done, you should be able to seamlessly move into your workout without a hitch. We’ve all been there before: you start your WOD and you seem to really hit your stride after 10-15 minutes. . . this means you were not warmed up and mobilized properly. Spend the time to do the warmup and it will improve your workouts immensely!
After your WOD is the time to work on serious mobility/flexibility. At this time, your muscles are warm from working out, and are more easily manipulated to work out your kinks. This is the time to do your static stretching, foam rolling, and getting that LAX ball in your sticking points. AT LEAST 10-15 minutes should be spent daily working on this, even if you DON’T work out that day. (A little hack – take a hot shower or bath and THEN work on this if you have not worked out. This action “artificially” warms the muscles.)
“But, it’s so time consuming!” I hear this all the time. Do you want your fitness to progress? It is a necessary evil. Do you want to be able to tie your own shoes when you are elderly? Same. Luckily there is a plethora of great information at our fingertips. Some great places to start: ExRx, mobilitywod and ROMWOD.
It’s not the most fun but I truly enjoy improving this part of fitness and you will too! If you change your perspective about it you can use it for meditation/quiet time/stress relief. . . But that’s a subject for another day.
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This is a guest post from Gina Sobrero, Ph.D., ACSM EP-C. As well as a Crossfit L-1 Coach and Consultant for several national fitness, nutrition, and supplement companies. Gina is deeply committed to educating people how exercise and proper nutrition can improve the physical and mental health of people in the southern United States. She currently resides in Bowling Green, KY and coaches at Vette City Crossfit, runs a nutrition consulting and meal prep service (Primal Plate), and is currently working with health specialists in the area on development of a therapeutic fitness program for people living with eating disorders.