You know mobility is important. So much information is available about stretching and rolling that it is hard to ignore. It is great that more people are starting to add mobility work to their routines, however it is often rushed and incomplete. The large muscles that are relevant for the workout get all the attention and the supporting cast gets neglected. The large muscles are usually not what limits mobility. The neglected supporting cast is where the greatest mobility gains will be found. We will focus on 2 commonly neglected body areas and show how making them a priority can impact performance. We will also point out other areas that are often ignored.
On the slow road to recovery for my darling shoulder I have come across the importance of the lower trapezius muscle this last week. As an athlete and especially to all my CrossFitters, Swimmers, and Desk Workletes, we have a tendency (and by tendency I mean a deeply even unconscious habit) of using our upper trapezius muscles for pretty much everything. Whether it is overhead positioning, all swimming strokes, and the everyday stress of sitting at a computer and freaking out about deadlines, those little suckers hike up to your ears all on their own.
I totally had a poster of Kriss Kross, in their backward overalls, hanging on the ceiling over my bed when I was wee girl of 10yrs old. Gosh they were soooo cool. Let's be honest the 90's were soooo cool. Anyway, totally off topic but while I was singing "Kriss Kross will make you jump jump!" on the bus today it made me think of all the Crossover Symmetry I have taken up due to a recent shoulder injury. I went to the doctor's office last week (shout out to Khem!) and discovered that I've got some not so sweet scapular dyskinesis aka scapular winging going on. Don't worry, this sounds much scarier then it is and in fact happens to many people, totally common. One of the strongest suggestions the doc had for me was to make sure I was all over the Crossover Symmetry everyday I was at the gym. Many, if not hopefully most, of you are at least somewhat familiar with the Crossover Symmetry System but I wanted to run down why it is important and exactly what it is working/doing.
Some kids like Buzz and Woody and Mr. Potato Head, some love battery operated nightmares called Furbies (I have officially hidden them all from the kids I nanny and may burn them) while other more sensible children crush hard for those sweet-ass drivable kid-sized Jeeps (yes that is me). But athletes? Athletes have a whole slew of toys designed and engineered with the anatomy/pain glutton human in mind. Yes, I refer here to mobility toys!!! They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and levels of torture intended. So this week I'm going to give a little rundown of my favorite pain-inflicters because let's be honest—they are painful as all heck. The last one I mention, the Crossover Symmetry System, will be its separate blog post because it is that deserving and pretty sweet. Bring on the toys!
It's Halloween week, HURRAY! I loooove Halloween — partially for the candy, a whole lot for the dressing up, and mainly for the dancing come Saturday night. But in order for me to reach full dance-moves potential I've gotta loosen up my legs. I do this with a combination of unrestricted access to Reese's peanut butter cups and candy corn and some hardcore mobility work. For all of us out there preparing to pull out our legendary Michael Jackson splits, we ave got to warm up those hammies to reach prime flexibility potential. So here we go, muahahahahahaha!!! (That's my mobile mad scientist laugh)
I am by no means a cyclist and some may say I'm even the opposite of one (no idea what that makes me, a bus rider/walker/frolicker??) but I do have a whole bunch of cyclists in my life and a great affinity for the sport in general. Don't get me wrong, I do ride my 800lb commuter to and from school five days a week, up that gosh-forsaken Broadway hill, swearing the whole dang way, "loving" every minute of it. But my Monday-Friday, quad-burning, lung-killing commute is by no means near the volume or intensity that many of my main buds endure in the name of their beloved sport. So, I thought this week I'd throw out a little tender love and care to my friendly two-wheeled crew (all of my roommates included) and address some common mobility challenges they encounter along their strava-tracked, sweat-dripping, Flagstaff rides. (BOOM. Look at all that bike lingo.)
Last week we discussed the connection between mobility and sleep. Hopefully y'all have had sweet dreams and mobile limbs because of it, since obviously you diligently follow the MOD blog and do literally everything it says to do. Well done, gold stars given.
So this week I thought we'd focus on the other end of the spectrum: Waking up your butt! For those of us that have a hard time sleeping, go to bed too late, or stress through the night, waking up in the morning can turn into nothing short of a miracle. So whether you're exhausted or Monday mornings just ain't your thing, these exercises are inspired to mobilize you into a ball of freakin' sunshine, even if the sun hasn't woken up yet (I'm talking to you wacky 5:30am-ers). Just as stretching and rolling can induce relaxation and sleepiness, more dynamic and stimulating exercises can wake you up, perhaps even more than your bulletproof coffee (I know, bold statement but give it a shot).
A friend of mine jokingly (sort of) asked me if there was a way to mobilize while sleeping, you know in order to optimize efficiency and time constraints. As of yet I have not figured out a way to do this short of falling asleep on your arm overhead and waking up with it totally asleep and I would argue this does not fall under the category of mobilization. But it did get me thinking about the relationship between sleep quality and mobility.
Have you thought lately about the sole of your foot? That lil' sucker supports your whole badass fit bod day after day. And if that wasn't enough, we throw a whole bunch of weight on top of it and ask it to perform at top speeds. For example when you run a 400m with your beloved wall ball (unless you're me and you leave it under the steps when running out the gym), or when you rob a bank and have to flee at rapid speeds, dodging cop cars, while carrying billions of dollars in canvas bags (I assure you it takes the notion of functional fitness to a whole other level, those bags ain't light). Back to the point, our feet support us through thick and thin and this week we will be offering up a little extra TLC to those soulful soles. First, a wee bit of anatomy as always. Yes, I'm determined to make y'all nerds.
We've all been there: you grab the bar and clean it sweetly up onto your delts, right under your chin, balanced delicately on the tips of your fingers. Your elbows might even be high at this point. You look over at your coach and smile, "Look at my rack dude!" And then you try to squat and it all falls to shite. "Blast you Front Squats!!! Why must you torture me so?!"
Unless you are a high-class server at a swanky upscale restaurant, bending your wrist into full extension every evening while carrying sexy martinis on drink trays, the likelihood that your wrist is able to make it through full extension is dismal. We need bomb wrist mobility for a whole slew of CrossFit movements. Similar to my post last week, more wrist mobility can help avoid cramping and tightness from sitting and typing at a computer alllll dayyyyy longggg. This week's post is going to carry us into next week's analysis of the Front Squat position, a beloved CrossFit movement and wrist mobility nightmare. So let's talk wrists and forearms. First, a brief overview of the anatomy and movement patterns of the wrist.
Many of us active, able-bodied athletes would never dream of classifying ourselves as couch potatoes (except for the occasional Sunday when you totally binge watch Parks and Rec) and yet how many of us sit at a desk for eight hours a day? Explain to me how sitting at a desk and staring at your computer screen is any different than sitting on the couch and staring at Walter White crushing Breaking Bad? The fact is we are a vastly sedentary society and unless you are a nurse, waitress, or CrossFit coach you are mostly likely sitting too long.
The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone...the hip bone is connected to the...well, everything really. This week's post is all about hips, femurs, and the stickiness in between. For some of us, when we squat or pull our knee into our chest we feel a pinching sensation in the front of our hip, right where our hip flexor is. You might even feel like you are hitting bone-on-bone when attempting a full depth squat, as if you are stuck or inhibited in your range of motion. Surprise fact: YOU ARE (or at least this is a possibility).
On your horse-drawn buggy to the West, your high-speed train to Paris, even your wild and crazy spaceship flight to Mars with grandma, MOD has got you covered. One of the beautiful aspects of MOD is it can travel with you anywhere you go. And in someways it is even more important during times of travel. How many of us have gotten out of the car on a long drive to Monkey Town, KY(?) and thought, "I literally feel like my spine/hips/shoulders/etc. is trying to crawl out of my body"? How many times have you been on a flight to Beijing(?) and thought, "It may be possible for my legs to physically fall off from sitting too long"?
The treasured and beloved quads. Oh, how I love thee. Let me count the ways:
1) You're large and in charge. 2) You lift cool stuff for me. 3) You are supple, mobile, and flexible. Hold up, your quads are supple, mobile, and flexible??? Ah ha! I knew it! Let the art of quad flexibility begin. Below I have listed out three different ways to increase mobility and flexibility in those beloved quads. The first is for static stretching, the second for myofascial release, and lastly a dynamic mobility exercise. Let the thigh life begin.
I'll admit it, I am a poster child for why mobility work is necessary. From the very beginning of my CrossFit adventures I learned that when my mobility homework goes by the wayside, fit hits the shan (yes that's backwards, keeping it PG here y'all). Mobility can come in two forms: static mobilization and dynamic mobilization. Both are great, but I'm a huge promoter of the latter. It is awesome to be flexible and touch your toes, but can you still stretch those hammies while under a ton of weight? That's where it gets tricky.
MY BADASS SHOULDERS ARE ANNOYING ME
My most recent mobilization eye-opener was about four to five weeks ago. I was mid-handstand pushup and I started to get pain where my deltoid inserts and meets my biceps and triceps. I figured, "Uhhhh so you're tired and stuff is starting to hurt, ehhh whatever keep going." Within about five minutes it got too painful and that little part of your brain that says "hey dumb-dumb, you're injuring yourself!" chimed in. So I backed off, called my coach over, and modified. A day or two passed and the pain dissipated so I didn't give it too much thought. But wouldn't you know, push jerks came up later in the week and the same pain came roaring back. Amazing right, same movement just inverted hurt? Mind. Blown.
At this point, I'm annoyed because I usually think of injuries or impairments as a great injustice to me personally. My inner dialog turns into, "How dare you even consider being agitated shoulder?! Don't you see that I'm trying to do something here (aka be badass)?" So I call my phenomenally, awesomely, crazy smart coach and whined about my grievances. Long story sort of shorter, he looked me over and found I had a lack of external rotation available to me when my muscles were under load. Sure I could externally rotate my arm standing there but when he pinned it down with the 45# barbell and asked me to move it, well HELLO, NO (I may have said more like "HELL NO"). After a short assessment, he came up with a series of exercises that had me suffering (the good kind) in no time.
SO I MADE THEM LESS ANNOYING
I do the exercises every day I'm at the gym (5x a week) and what do you know — not only are my shoulders better, but my lifts have increased, fancy that! When thinking about this blog post I realized I really dodged a bullet by addressing a potential injury immediately — before it turned into anything serious. My dedication to my dynamic mobilization exercises pulled me out of a potentially real problem AND made my lifts turn towards badass instead of fit hitting the shan.
Programs like MOD are designed for this purpose: to prevent injuries and to cut injuries short as soon as they begin. Our bodies are devilishly tricky and will always take the path of least resistance. Frequently, the easy path is the most destructive. But if you create a new path (a more mobile path) you can hightail it up and over those potential injuries. The key for me, and you is the mobility work has to be done EVERY DANG DAY. I know, super annoying. But you know what's more annoying?? Having your badass shoulders, lifts, and confidence go to crud. MOD is a super easy way to make this happen. You've got your deck of cards, you dish a few out and get 'er done! Don't wait for fit to hit the shan, mobilize it now.
Have fun and let me know how it goes!!
How much can your ankles really inhibit your favorite activities?
The ankle is a tiny joint and after all, it only holds your foot onto your leg! For most people ankle mobility is an underrated and misunderstood necessity. You keep hearing (what quickly becomes ever so obnoxious) your coach yelling, "Sit back in your heels Emily", "Get your chest up Emily", "Emily, you have lost all of your lumbar curve, seriously?!" Squats turn south quick without the much sought after supple ankle. So what kind of range of motion are we looking for here and how do we get it?
One of the hardest things about mobility is coming up with the right exercises right when you need them. This is one of the primary problems Mobility on Demand attempts to solve. However, that doesn't mean that we've entirely eliminated the burden of figuring out which mobility exercises to do and when.
It is not uncommon that I will arrive at the gym with some extra time before the WOD starts and be stumped to decide which mobility exercises I should do prior to working out. Then, after the workout, it's common for me to spend some time on a foam roller, but not really with any purpose. Sometimes, I just end up sitting on my foam roller, chatting. Unfortunately, chit-chat doesn't make me a better athlete.
When I talk to other CrossFit athletes, I frequently find myself commiserating over the pain of the overhead position. This position is a real b*tch. I have such a hard time with it, that when I first started CrossFit, my arms would fall asleep. Try holding a barbell overhead with limp arms — not happening.
Initially, my challenge overhead confused me — I have strong shoulders, so I shouldn't have any problems, right? Wrong. I discovered that it's all about position and to improve my position, I need to improve my mobility.
Mobility on Demand has received some great coverage recently. A few awesome bloggers who write about CrossFit related topics gave us some love and we're grateful for the attention and pumped about the positive response.