I am as guilty as the next person. I finish a WOD and jump in my car and head home or to work. I have had my back cramp up so bad driving to work after a WOD that I thought I was going to have to pull my car over. I know that I am not the only one to be guilty of this very bad habit! So lets take some time to go over the importance of stretching and mobility.
First of all, there is a difference between stretching and mobility. According to Kelly Starrett, who runs the awesome mobility WOD site, “Stretching only focuses on lengthening short and tight muscles. Mobilization, on the other hand, is a movement-based, integrated, full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.”
Passive stretching before a workout is not a good idea. When you passively stretch your muscles you are relaxing them. Consequently you are also relaxing your nervous system. When you relax your muscles and nervous system you are inhibiting their ability to produce strength and power by weakening the signal between them. It’s important that both your muscles and nervous system are firing during a workout or training session, especially on an Oly day or technical lifting day. You will reduce your risk of injury, and you will have a better performance outcome.
However, for the same reasons that you do not want to do passive stretching before a workout, it is great to do it after a workout. After a workout your muscles and nervous system are all fired up, and you want them to relax. Relaxing your muscles will get them in an optimal state to enhance recovery and work on flexibility. It is much easier to work on flexibility with warm muscles after a workout then with colder muscles before a workout.
Mobility is perfect for the warm-up. It enhances your neural drive, warms up your muscles more efficiently, and gets your joints ready for exercise. When you warm up by moving your joints and muscles through a range of motion actively, you are stimulating your nervous system and enhancing the signal between it and the muscles. This in turn, leads to a better power and strength output, greater joint range of motion, and overall a much more efficient performance. You also get the synovial fluid (fluid in your joints that helps cushions and lubricate) going in your joints, greatly reducing joint friction. This is why we often do a lot of dynamic movements in our warm-ups at CFABQ.
So where do I believe we can improve? We are already doing dynamic warmups at the beginning of class, led by one of the coaches. However, at the end of class, most people hang out for 10 or 15 minutes and then get in their cars and drive home or to work. So instead of just hanging out by the GHD machines, why not hang out and do mobility and stretching at the end of class? Rather than go through numerous stretches and movements in this post, here is the link to Kelly Starrett’s website www.mobilitywod.com. You can also ask a coach for stretches and movements.
I am making the commitment to 10-15 minutes at the end of my workout to be devoted to stretching and mobility starting today. Who’s with me?