Most people understand that you need a good level of mobility to not only be great at CrossFit but also to maintain a healthy, injury and pain free body. However it’s very difficult to know what to do in order to improve your mobility. There’s a plethora or information out there with different systems and programmes that all claim that their way is the only way to improve. As someone who’s mobility has gone from no existent to below average (Which is a big improvement!) here’s what I recommend:
· Identify key areas that need improving. No-one has time to work on the whole body every day so identifying the main areas to work on is key to being efficient with your flexibility work.
· Foam roll but keep it brief. The majority of increased mobility doesn’t come from tissue length changes, what actually happens is a neuromuscular response. Your body allows you to move further as your train through these ranges by effectively relaxing more. (Inhibiting the gogli tendon reflex). Using a foam roller can help to facilitate this relaxation. But it’s effects are brief and only useful if completed immediately prior to moving through the required range of motion. 45 seconds on each area is enough.
· Use active mobility prior to exercise. This is a controlled movement through the desired range of motion. Spend around a minute moving the joint through the range of motion using an appropriate active mobility exercise.
· Follow active mobility with a compound movement that utilises this increased range of motion. For example, if you’ve worked your hip mobility to improve your squatting then follow this mobility work with some squats. This will help to train the improved movement pattern. You need to train at the end ranges of motion to gain active mobility in these areas.
· Use longer stretches post workout or at the end of a day to help facilitate further improvements in mobility. 30 seconds upwards is enough to start seeing changes.
· Have manual therapy. This combined stretching is the best way to see improvement in your range of motion. As my physio Helen Real Slavicky informed me. Studies show a significant difference in the rate of improvement for those who work mobility 7 days a week as opposed to those working for 5 days. So little and often is much better than long sessions 3 to 4 times a week. Test and re-test. If you don’t test then you won’t know if it’s working. Either by yourself or find someone who can test your mobility.
Mobility is so important especially as we get older. In fact Ben Bergeron who works with multiple Masters (Older) athletes explains that the real difference between the best Master’s competitors is their range of motion. So if you want to keep performing into your 50s,60s,70s and beyond you need to be working hard to get flexy.