To excel in CrossFit you need to fix your mobility restrictions. Stretching and mobility are the most commonly skipped parts of fitness, and also the most misunderstood. A person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions in their range of motion. Spending time to improve your mobility function will result in more PR’s, easier reps, and a quicker recovery.
Often times athletes and gym goers will wait until an injury or soreness arises before they consider adding mobility stretches to their training regimen. Taking a proactive approach towards mobility will reduce your likelihood of injury, while also increasing flexibility and range of motion. Focusing on soft tissue work, stretching, and joint mobilization are three keys to improving your mobilization and your performance at the gym.
Soft tissue connects, supports, or surrounds bones and internal organs. Trigger points can form overtime within the soft tissue (most commonly known as knots) which can be painful and limit your performance. Often times knots will form on your back, neck, or shoulders, and a great tool to remove these is by using a foam roller or lacrosse ball. Using a foam roller can be painful at first, but foam rolling before and after workouts will loosen muscles and remove knots that are hindering your performance. With time spent building muscle it is normal to plateau (just like with any other exercise), so increasing the amount of time foam rolling and using other tools will improve your soft tissue. Massage sticks, theracanes, and other tools are great alternatives to help you improve your mobility as well!
Static and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching are the two most common ways to stretch. Static stretching is done on your own by holding a particular stretch for a specific amount of time, say 20 to 30 seconds. PNF on the other hand incorporates another person to assist you. For example, a hamstring PNF stretch would have you lay on your back while a partner pushes your leg back as far as possible keeping your leg straight throughout the stretch. It can be tedious and may seem like a waste of time, but stretching pre and post workout will reap long-term benefits that your future body will be thankful for.
When mobilizing joints, stretch bands are going to be your best friend. The goal of using a band is to extend the muscle, which will allow for a larger range of motion. Until you can reach your full range of motion you are limiting your body's full potential. Here is a list of 6 exercises that will help you increase your mobility and improve your performance.
Mobility stretches should not be confused as or replace a warm up. Warmups are meant to prepare your body for movement, while mobilization’s primary focus is to improve positions that will increase power and performance. Enhancing your mobility will pay dividends for you at the gym, so arrive a little early for your next workout and begin implementing these stretches to see improved performance in the box.