In the world of mobility there are a crazy amount of thoughts and opinions. Unfortunately, the best Marketer has the best knowledge....
The smart way for you as the athlete or coach, is to ‘self doctor’. If something feels good then it’s good, if something hurts then it is not good. Especially for any coach: if you have not tried it yourself I would not recommend teaching it. When it comes to mobility, common sense is the most important thing.
In my opinion, the rubber bands and lacrosse balls are a step too late. I do teach those techniques, and I am not disregarding that they have a place, but my argument is: how do you know you’re not creating more instability within a joint? If something is “tight”, think: why is it tight? What is it trying to protect? Wouldn’t taking a joint through its end ranges be enough to “activate” and “mobilise” if that’s what you’re really doing? Plus, how do you know that the effects of 15 minutes on a foam roller will actually transfer when you are put under load again? If you’re needing to beat yourself up every time before training then maybe it’s time to see a good physiotherapist that can tell you your imbalances without the use of Doctor Internet.
These are some of my favourite exercises that promote a good range of motion and strength, they are actual ‘training’ but the benefit is mobility.
1. Deep lunge with rotation
I would probably hit this stretch every day and it’s a great test for feedback from your hips. If you struggle with this stretch in the morning then it would be a good idea to spend a bit more time warming up before any ass to grass squats. If you notice one side that is a lot tighter than the other then spend more time on that side.
Getting your elbow down to the floor with a vertical shin is optimal to get a good range of flexion and extension throughout the hips. As most of the movements in Crossfit are bilateral, lunges should be a part of your day every day otherwise you are only half the athlete you could be!
2. Standing hip CAR’s (Controlled Articular Rotations)
These techniques really are a game changer, if you have been following the works of FRC, you cannot disagree with their principles. I love the couch stretch, pigeon stretch and many hamstring stretches but I have found with myself and my athletes that a lot of “tightness” can be avoided just by taking your joints through their full ranges. The best part about the drills too is that EVERYONE can do them. Your mobility is completely relevant to you and because you attained the position yourself it is more likely to stay. Try these as a warm up before your next squat session and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how strong and even you feel. Tight hips are weak hips!
3. Tabletop bridge
With the obsession of attaining a good overhead position, shoulder extension does seem to get left out by a lot of people, but ultimately for healthy shoulders, you do want both extension and flexion. The great thing about the tabletop bridge is that it hits the glutes at the same time so it’s a big “bang for your buck” movement. It’s not overly complicated and if you wanted to walk around in this position too it is a good conditioning exercise, which can be called the crab.
4. Goblet squat curls/heartbeats
Goblet squats are where most people should start before hitting the barbell, dead safe and user friendly! Use the kettlebell to get to the deepest squat position you can then to keep you down there do curls and heartbeats.
Challenging in their own right but what is great about them is that they cause automatic stabilisation through your trunk, if you do them wrong you’ll fall over. They are great to open your hips, improve your ankle dorsiflexion and help improve your torso angle for your Olympic lifts, they make a regular appearance in my Olympic lifting classes.
5. Active/passive hangs with rotation
Hanging should be a part of everyone’s day. To build strength and awareness, active and passive hangs are awesome, not only do they teach you how to engage your lats but they also help you to learn how to use your shoulders independently without bending at the elbow which is a big compensation for people (even people that think they don’t often do that..).
If you’re wanting to compete in Crossfit or just generally do cool stuff you cannot miss out on these movements, they are too important! I would even go as far as to say if you can’t do the single arm variation then you have no business learning the kipping pull up. Strong foundations lay a path of success.