My Workout World: Tools for mobility

PVC pipe and lacrosse ball
Two of my mobility tools

Keeping my muscles, joints and ligaments healthy is really important. Over the past several months I’ve added daily mobility, stretching and strengthening exercises to my routine. As a result, I’ve noticed I’m not as sore and uncomfortable after workouts as I used to be. Since I work out 5 or 6 times a week, often with no rest days in between Crossfit and Olympic Lifting, alleviating soreness is a must.

I think I overdid it Saturday, though. Some of the muscles in my left hip and glutes started tweaking while lifting weights at home. I should have stopped, but I kept going, and by Saturday night everything in that area was tight. I pulled out my mobility tools and worked on loosening the tension. I was still sore the next morning, so instead of my planned workout, I spent 30 minutes rolling out again. I’m hoping it will help so I don’t have to miss Olympic Lifting on Monday.

I’ve learned a lot about rolling out from the folks at Crossfit Central, the Mobility WOD, and my chiropractors over at Next Level Chiropractic. I bought a Trigger Point kit years ago after a seminar, but I rarely use it. My favorite tools were actually really cheap.

  • PVC pipe
    We picked up a 4-5 inch PVC pipe at Home Depot and cut it down to 2 feet. I use this a lot for major muscle groups, like my quads, lats, hamstrings, calves, etc.
  • Lacrosse ball
    I used to use the Trigger Point ball, but I found it was too soft. Tennis balls are also too soft, but lacrosse balls are perfect for digging in and getting those small areas. My chiropractors have me working on my TFLs (in my hips) every day, but it’s also great for pectorals, biceps, triceps, etc. I picked up a used Lacrosse ball at Play It Again Sports for only 99 cents – deal!

So what was the workout that has me spending extra time rolling out and stretching?

Back squats w/ 5 sec pause 50% 5×2, 55% 5×2, 60% 5×1 → 75/75/80/80/85
Snatch balance + OHS 3+3×4 → 55/55/60/65
Push press + jerk 65% 2+1×2, 70% 2+1×2 → 55/55/60/65
Snatch grip deadlift 3×4 (by feel) → 65/85/95/100
3 rounds: 200m run / 1 min rest

No, it wasn’t the deadlifts. I think it was the back squats. We still don’t have a rack, and my max clean is right around 85# – so I may be feeling the strain from cleaning the bar up and then pressing it over my head into position. I’m hoping to stay active today, keep my muscles from freezing up and becoming even more painful.

The importance of mobility

The is Spring Cleansing Week at my gym, so that means NO CLASSES.  I’m taking advantage of this, so I have no home workouts planned.  But what’s really nice is Crossfit Central offers current clients a ton of free active recovery classes all this week.  My first one was Monday morning: Mobility.

Coach Travis Holley led the group.  Mobility, which (along with flexibility) is one of the 10 general physical skills defined by Crossfit.  It’s important for:

  • Performance
  • Preventing injuries
  • Recovering from and rehabilitating injuries
  • Ideal technique

Here’s what we went over:

  1. Ankle dorsiflexion with band distraction
    This is helpful for getting a low squat without your heels leaving the ground.
  2. Hip flexor/”couch stretch”
    For this, we stuck our knee where the floor meets the wall and straightened up.  It really sucked.
  3. 5 minute hamstring (toes on plate, then heels on plate)
    This was so great — my hamstrings were tighter than I thought!
  4. Lat stretch with band and wrist in external rotation
  5. Front rack with band and wrist in internal rotation

The magic hold time?  About 90 seconds.  And if you’re comfortable, you’re not doing it right.  They kept saying: “find the suck.”

They also quickly went over a number of strengthening exercises, after noting that stretching is great, but to really fix issues, you have to strengthen.  For example, hip flexors are tight because the glutes are weak.  And the chest is tight because the back is weak.

If you’re interested in mobility, you should check out Mobility WOD.  Kelly Starrett knows his stuff, and he has a new mobility WOD each day.  My goal is to do at least one a day.  I saw massive results from each of the exercises we practiced, particularly in the lats and front rack position.

If you can’t see change, there is no change.