Whether you are new to CrossFit or a seasoned veteran, I’m sure you have heard the term “mobility” thrown around. In the world of CrossFit, the person that most readily comes to mind when you hear this word is Kelly Starrett, who created the website mobilitywod.com and recently authored an entire book on mobility entitled Becoming a Supple Leopard. His website (and YouTube) and his book are both great resources for learning more about mobility, and I would highly recommend them if you are interested in doing a self-study on this topic.
MobilityWod proposes the idea that “all human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves”, and their program is “designed to help you hack your body’s mechanics and provide the tools to perform basic maintenance on yourself”. (1) So what does this mean? Basically, our day-to-day activities usually don’t help our bodies to perform the way they were designed to, and we need to continuously perform maintenance (i.e. mobility) to ensure our bodies will operate optimally and remain free from injury.
You could spend countless hours watching videos, reading, or talking to a coach about mobility, and during that time you would learn about different gadgets, bands, and balls to assist you in becoming more mobile. Some of this stuff is tricky and might take some additional research to ensure you are utilizing it correctly. I want to provide a couple simple exercises that require no equipment and target areas where most people could benefit from being more mobile.
- The Famous Couch Stretch
Now, this stretch has many variations, but the simplest method is to actually perform this on your couch or a padded chair, which will be more comfortable on the knees. Most of us spend a great deal of time sitting, which can really tighten the hip flexors. Tight hip flexors lead to many difficulties, such as not being able to squat comfortably or getting full hip extension. Performing the Couch Stretch on a regular basis can help keep the hip flexors supple and counteract the negative effects of hours of sitting in a poor position.
Step 1: Spend about 2-3 minutes really trying to work your hip open and bringing it down towards the seat of the couch or chair. Then switch sides and repeat the process with your other leg. (Figure 1)
Step 2: Spend another 2-3 minutes trying to bring your butt back towards your heel, and focus on keeping your core engaged pushing the front of your hip forward. Again, switch sides, rinse and repeat. (Figure 2)
- Overhead Opener
This stretch targets opening the chest and providing more end range of motion for the shoulders, along with some core stabilization through isometric holding. All of these will help with any exercise where you have to go overhead (e.g. overhead squats, jerks, snatches, etc.). Again, spending time sitting or poor posture can wreak havoc on your overhead exercises and positioning. However, this stretch will help remedy the situation. I would like to give a shout out to Jessica Morales for introducing this one to me.
Step 1: Spend 4-5 minutes letting gravity pull your arms to the ground. Be sure your lower back is always pressed into the floor and keep your core engaged. (Figure 3)
Step 2: Over time (or if you are already pretty mobile in this position) start trying to extend your legs more and more, eventually trying to have them completely straight. Be sure you keep your lower back pressed into the ground; if the lower back lifts off, then bring the legs back into a position where the lower back stays grounded. (Figure 4)
Remember, mobility exercises should be used to improve movement and will never replace consultation by a medical professional. If you think you might have an injury, be smart and go get it checked out by a doctor. However, if you just have some range of motion issues or want to ensure everything moves smoothly, mobility exercises are a great choice.