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For most athletes, the quest to become a mobility ninja is ongoing. When I was growing up, the word “mobility” didn’t resonate with me at all. I absolutely hated stretching and took my body for granted. It was only since I started CrossFit that I realized just how poorly I moved. However, it’s now become one of the most integral aspects of my training and daily living.
The idea of mobility expands the concept of flexibility in that it encompasses the ability to move freely or be easily moved (1). In being mobile, we as athletes are able to optimize our athletic performance due to better range of motion and stability. Additionally, good mobility prevents injury, helps resolve muscular pain and generally helps us live a better life.
Indifferent to previous years, sports culture is now becoming much more aware of the human body and training for performance rather than looks. With growing trends of smarter strength and conditioning programs, we are required to move efficiently, safely and functionally.
The reality is if you want to optimize your athletic ability then you have to move well. This stems from good mobility. And if it’s something you lack, you can at least look forward to moving better. No one can force you to put the time in but the likelihood is you’re going to want to if you take your training seriously. While I am still a long way off where I want to be, I now see mobility as a life project and the feeling of moving better motivates me to continue with it.
If you (like me) struggle with mobility, here are five reasons as to why you can look forward to it as much as I do and better yourself as an athlete.
5 Reasons to Look Forward to Mobility
1. Mobility Prepares You for Your Workout
Gone are the days when a few shoulder rolls and heel flicks would cut it. A good warm-up routine will allow you to be prepared for what is to come. Focus on specific body parts that you are going to primarily use during your workout and get dynamic.
While static stretching has its place, the advantages of dynamic stretching before training include its ability to promote dynamic flexibility and to replicate movement patterns and range of motion required for your chosen activity (2). Additionally, dynamic stretching improves blood flow and increases body temperature. Let’s face it: No one likes squatting cold.
2. Mobility Facilitates Recovery
Combined with sufficient rest, food and sleep, incorporating mobility exercises post-workout prevents the body from additional stress, soreness and muscular fatigue that it has already undergone from exercise. The work in the gym is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to your training. Recovery is key and mobility can certainly speed up the process.
This is a time when I like to take advantage of static or passive stretching to help the body cool down and relax. Plus, after a hard workout no one really wants to be exerting more energy if it isn’t required.
3. Mobility Reduces the Risk of Injury
So many people still don’t seem to remember that poor movement patterns lead to greater risk of injury. Increased flexibility reduces this, as better range of motion around a joint results in better balance of the muscle and therefore decreased trauma and stress (3). Spend time working on your biggest areas of weaknesses to ensure other parts of your body aren’t compromised, eventually causing you to sit out of the action.
4. Mobility Improves Efficiency
Especially in CrossFit, the term “efficient” is used a lot. But for any sport, if you are able to move your joints through their full range of motion, muscles can produce more power and expend less energy for the given movement. The more controlled the movement and the less effort involved, the better.
Take a thruster for example and then someone with a wobbly overhead position and the inability to squat to depth with an upright back. That individual is most likely going to be gassed very quickly in a workout like Fran and it won’t necessarily be because they lack the fitness or strength.
5. Mobility Relaxes You
Because let’s face it: Nobody needs stress. Stretching increases blood flow which allows more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles as well as waste products being disposed. We don’t just need this to happen in the gym but on a day-to-day basis. By keeping mobile, we keep our body flowing and remain relaxed and free from stress. No niggles, aches or pains.
See your body as a machine and then think of mobility as your maintenance. Anytime, anywhere, it can be pretty much be done. If you’re just starting out I challenge you to 30 minutes a day. 15 minutes before you train and then the other 15 at any other time that suits. This is just a starting block and I guarantee you’ll invest a lot more time than has been stated. And trust me: You’ll feel 10 times better for it.
1. “Strength and conditioning from young athletes.” R. Lloyd, J. Oliver. 2013.
2. “Essentials of Strength & Conditioning.” T. Baechle, R. Earle. 2008.
3. “Fitness: Steps to Success.” N. Naternicola. 2014.