I’m sure you’ve all heard our spiel before about various parts of fitness and keeping yourself in shape, how you should work hard in class, eat clean, etc. But two often overlooked parts of exercise are a) mobility and b) being warm.
I’m going to start this off with a story. For about 7 years I played basketball in a competitive league. Towards the last 3-4 years of this, I would get some nasty knee pains after practices and games, sometimes lasting for 5+ days at a time. Now as a 13 year old, this was concerning, but I didn’t sweat it too much. When I stopped playing basketball in my sophomore year of high school, the pains went away, and I was happy. This lack of knee pain lasted all the way until the start of 2018, when I started Olympic weightlifting and squatting 3+ times a week. I would ice my knees, take a bunch of warm up sets, etc. etc., but nothing helped. One day I was watching a class and Mike was showing how to roll out the IT band on the side of the quad. When I initially tried it I felt a searing pain, and instant relief. My next sets of squats were some of the first pain free squats I had had in months. I had assumed that my problem was one in the knee, and couldn’t really be fixed, when in reality my IT band was as stiff as a rod. As Americans living in the 21st century, we live very sedentary lifestyles. This means that as a result of sitting on a chair in our offices or in school, we naturally lose most of our natural mobility at a very young age. However, this is not a process which can’t be undone. For most people, 15 minutes of stretching a day is plenty to steadily increase mobility over time. Simple stretches such as good mornings and touching my toes have increased my mobility by leaps and bounds because of repetition over time.
Now you may be asking, why do I need to be more mobile? Well the answer to that is twofold. The first answer is to be able to gain strength and muscle. For those who watch strength sports, the people who have the biggest quads are the Olympic weightlifters who squat ass to grass. Even though powerlifters and strongmen can often squat into the 7, 8, and 900s, they don’t squat nearly as low because it takes far more energy to do so. The second answer is utilization of strength. As a coach, one of the most frustrating things to see is an athlete who is very strong, but can’t utilize their strength due to a lack of mobility. Ask yourself this: if I were to give you a barbell right now, could you hit depth in a squat? If you can’t properly perform a movement because of mobility, then all of the hard work and energy which you’ve put into learning and becoming stronger in said movement is put to waste.
We’re very lucky as a community to have programming and coaches that prioritize mobility and being warm prior to WOD’ing, but with a little more stretching prior to class, you’ll find a noticeable improvement in areas where you were less mobile. How does one go about doing so? Check out Coach Matt’s last article here about the application of doing mobility and stability work.