Take a look at the athletes in this year’s Games. What do they have in common? They are all very strong. They can all run. They are all masters of their own bodyweight. Oh, and they are all ripped and tan. Okay, so those last two aren’t the most important things, but they are certainly attributes we all still look to achieve. The point is, we all want to be just like the Games athletes and so we do whatever we must to be like them. We hit multiple wods a day. We do extra strength work. We take supplements. Unfortunately, most people limit themselves to mimicking only what they are able to see. But what about the stuff you can’t see? I’d put money on the fact that almost nobody sat there watching the events thinking, “wow, these athletes are really mobile”. If you didn’t, it’s because it wasn’t very noticeable. Everyone there was way above par as far as mobility goes, so much so you probably took it for granted as an onlooker. It’s more likely though that you didn’t notice because mobility isn’t exactly at the top of your priority list. Let’s be honest, it isn’t nearly as glamorous as super strength, top notch endurance, or even chiseled abs. Let us also not forgot how painful it can be. Our response? We avoid it like the plague.
Let’s take a look at the Theoretical Hierarchy of Athletic Development (created by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman). Notice the placement of “gymnastics”; it sits just below “weightlifting”. The pyramid is such that “if you have a de?ciency at any level of the pyramid the components above will suffer” (CrossFit Journal, Glassman). The term gymnastics encompasses all body weight movements where complete control of the body is required. This doesn’t just mean the ability to perform lots of push-ups and pull-ups, but also the ability to achieve a perfect squat and to maintain a hollow body position with arms overhead. Any deficiencies in these very basic movements and “weightlifting” (#thecoolthingtodo), and any wod that has weightlifting in it, will suffer greatly. Not sure if this really applies to you? Ask yourself this question: have I ever held the top of an overhead squat thinking “this feels light”, then proceeded to drop the bar forward after only a couple inches of descent? If you answered yes, you don’t need to get stronger! What you need to do is become more mobile. Mobility is to olympic lifting what walking is to running. If you can’t overhead squat proficiently, you have no business trying to snatch anything even remotely heavy. Bottom line, if mobility doesn’t occupy at least a quarter of your extra work program then you’re just asking for range of motion issues. And range of motion issues are not fun.
And what about the 10 components of fitness??? As CrossFitters we pride ourselves on being the best athletes in the world and so we work to improve every aspect of fitness. Remember, for us, fitness means having cardio, stamina, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, balance, coordination, and accuracy. It doesn’t mean picking and choosing the “popular” ones. If you don’t have flexibility/mobility, you aren’t fully fit. Period. Your workouts will suffer accordingly.
So what can you do to get better? Over the past few years we’ve done our best at CrossFit Kinnick to introduce you to numerous mobility/flexibility exercises. All of those can be incredibly useful. If you can’t remember them, ask a trainer. Be sure to take full advantage of the lacrosse balls, our foam rollers, and our resistance bands. Play around with each, in any order, as often as you can. Mobilitywod.com is also a very useful resource. It is operated by Kelly Starrett, the resident CrossFit mobility expert. We get a ton of our ideas from him. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes before your workout, I promise you, if you take the time to work on some of your range of motion issues you will definitely notice the difference during WODS.
Let’s make mobility cool! If getting better isn’t enough motivation for you then think about those CrossFit Games athletes. They are plenty mobile. You should be too! Stop sweeping the problem under the rug and start giving it the attention it deserves.