What is Mobility?

Mobility refers to the capacity to move easily without placing unnecessary stress on the body. Mobility training can help to improve range of motion and to decrease any restrictions in functional movements. This is an extremely important factor for all sports of all levels.

Mobility work includes exercises designed to improve range of motion and joint stability. It is a combination of flexibility and strength work, and is essential to help squat deeper, push harder, and jump higher. Mobility is often confused with flexibility.

Flexibility = The range of motion at a joint.

Mobility = The ability to move efficiently/effectively.

Flexibility and mobility are both equally important elements of effective training programme. However, they should not be used interchangeably.

  • Mobility is ultimately an umbrella term for a range of factors that can affect the range of motion around a joint. One of these factors is flexibility.
  • Mobility training can help to achieve training goals or improve overall performance.
  • If you are suffering from a general mobility problem that inhibits your movement, your body will cease to function correctly.
  • Working on mobility will help athletes to both prevent injuries and reach their goals. Mobility helps to avoid injuries and get stronger.

Understanding Mobility

Many come to CrossFit with the goal of getting bigger, stronger and faster. However, if their routine just consists of lifting and metabolic conditioning, they are only working on two of the three ingredients required to meet this goal. What is missing is the ability to comfortably move joints and muscles through all of their required positions – also known as mobility.

Fitness training involves a lot more than pure strength and cardiovascular training! Focusing on flexibility and mobility will help to refine performance.

Why is mobility work so important?

The majority of people spend significant amounts of time in static positions, this may be in front of a computer, TV or on the phone. As a result, their bodies get tight and lose both a full range of motion in joints and sufficient activation in certain muscle groups.

Completing a WOD with limited range of motion will force the body to compensate which can easily lead to aches, pains and injuries.

How does mobility help?

Mobility serves two key purposes: to help stave off injury and to get stronger. Consider the squat: to attain the optimal position, it is essential to have sufficient flexibility in the hips and mobility in a number of other joints and muscles. Those who do not have the flexibility and mobility required, often find that neighbouring joints (that typically cannot handle so much stress) will have to pick up the strain – the lower back for example. This can lead to soreness, and it increases the chances of injury.

Regular mobility work serves to improve range of motion – meaning looser hips, more flexible hamstrings – and allows the body to correctly utilize the powerhouse muscles required in weighted movements.

A good level of mobility and thus movement patterns allow for more efficiency in lifts, gymnastic movements and even metabolic training, which translates into getting stronger and faster!

How to do mobility work

Mobility should be thought of more as a general skill, much like strength or power, as opposed to a type of workout. Much like strength or power, mobility must be worked on progressively using different techniques. A great place to start is to ensure a warmup comprises of these three components:

  • Myofascial work – such as foam rolling
  • Dynamic stretching
  • Bodyweight movements, such as a squat or a lunge

It is important to move slowly and with purpose. The movements in the warmup should be based on the movements in the WOD. Working on mobility prior to a workout as well as matching the warmup to the workout helps to both activate the required muscles and cements in correct joint alignment.

Finally, for significant range of motions gains, active recover days can be used to work on low-intensity mobility.

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Steph Contomichalos

Stephanie is a sports enthusiast, an avid crossfitter, wakeboarder and yogi. An advocate for women’s sport who strongly believes in the use of sport as a tool for development. She is currently living in Athens, Greece where she runs a hiking and yoga wellness retreat.

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