Let me repeat this message again to let it sink in. Mobility is the most important element of CrossFit. I’m not talking about the 5-10 minutes you do at the start of a class, I’m talking about finding your sticking points and putting together a program to address them.
I know what you are all thinking, but what about strength and endurance and gymnastics and all the other elements. Nope. Mobility is the most important element of CrossFit.
They are all important, but to me, mobility is the most important. At its very core CrossFit is about functional movement and the unknown and unknowable, but without a base level of mobility, you can’t do the simplest movements correctly. It is not just about strength, but strength in the correct positions. It isn’t just about endurance but making sure the movements are as efficient as possible to limit the effect it has on your cardiovascular system in the first place.
The reason why I am so passionate about mobility, from my own experience, is that I believe it is the single biggest limiting factor holding most people back in CrossFit and I also believe that it can prevent so many injuries.
When I first started, I thought that my strength would see me through and that I could just throw the weight around. I realised pretty quickly that most of the movements in CrossFit required me to be strong in mobile rather than a static position that I had been used to. A thruster, even with the bar, is extremely difficult if you can’t squat properly, can’t rack properly and struggle with overhead mobility… trust me I’ve been there!
I came to CrossFit from a 10-year background of going to a normal gym 6 days a week and doing what I thought was a strength program. On my induction day at the CrossFit gym, I attend I was asked to perform a “simple” air squat against a wall. I managed to drop all of about 4 inches before my hips seized up. I spent the next 2 hours realising that I didn’t have any basic mobility at all and how much I had neglected it over the past years.
Why Mobility Is The Most Important Element of CrossFit
With most people having a job that involves them being sat down for the majority of the day, their hips, core, legs and pretty much everything can just get really tight and can massively limit their mobility.
For example, if your hip flexors are tight it makes it really difficult to get down into a proper squat, if your shoulder is tight you are going to really struggle with anything overhead without arching your back. Both of which could put you in a very vulnerable position and can potentially cause injuries.
What you see, and I was one of the worst, is that people’s bodies naturally adjust to try and do the movements. So you arch your back, rather than working on shoulder mobility, you turn your feet right out rather than working on hip or poster chain mobility, you catch a squat clean/snatch forward because you don’t have the mobility to get back onto your heels.
The better your mobility the easier the movement will be for you, and then you can start focussing on increasing strength and improving endurance as you are in a stronger position to start off with. That’s really why mobility is the most important element of CrossFit.
It is only natural that everyone wants to see seconds drop off their Fran time or a 5kg increase in their clean, but without the proper mobility, there is a ceiling that you will hit, as your body just won’t be able to cope with heavyweights in an incorrect position for too long.
If you continue to lift heavy weights, and I’m talking whatever is heavy for you, without the proper mobilisation or form then you are only increasing the risk of injuries and who wants to miss a week or two of CrossFit?
With so much information in the public domain from amazing people like Kelly Starrett (The Ready State / Supple Leopard) and others, it is so easy to find out where you struggle, if you don’t already know, and do some basic mobility drills to help fix them. I guarantee you that better mobility will have such a profound effect on you hitting PB’s on both WODs and weights.
I still struggle on a day to day basis with mobility, but I keep going as I have seen first hand how quickly gains come when you can create torque from being strong in the right positions.
- sam kwant mobility stretching: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.