Functional movements are key to Crossfit which depends on mobility. Besides promoting good posture, mobility helps prevent knots and injuries, reduces joint deterioration, and relieves tension due to sedentary lifestyles and over-exercising. Without a base level of mobility, you can’t do the simplest movements correctly. From getting up from the floor to putting your shoes on- everything becomes nearly impossible if you are stiff or lack mobility.
As an added benefit, mobility exercises for CrossFit like stretches allow you to move your limbs through their full range of motion and improve your ability to attain optimal positioning during movements. In this article, we will explain what mobility is, and why it is so important in CrossFit. In addition, you’ll also learn how and which stretches you should incorporate into your CrossFit routine.
The Benefits Of Improved Mobility
Improved mobility correlates directly with increased efficiency in executing sports-specific movements which is crucial for high-intensity sports like CrossFit. There are several major benefits of mobility in Crossfit that have been proven by science, including the following.
Enhanced Performance And Efficiency
You can gain strength, endurance, and improved posture by engaging in regular poses or mobility training like stretching that opens up your body. Stretching allows athletes for easier and deeper Crossfit movements. Furthermore, stretching for at least 10-15 minutes/day assists in attaining proper alignment and correcting any imbalances . It’s for this reason that mobility is the most critical element of CrossFit.
Reduced Risk of Injury
Through mobility training, athletes gain resilience to handle more physical stress and muscular tension. In addition, it also reduces the risk of being injured during physical activity by eliminating muscular asymmetries. Furthermore, less tense muscles result in fewer aches, cramps, and pains. Several studies have also shown that a more mobile muscle-tendon unit improves performance and reduces the risk of injury after intense CrossFit sessions. 
Common Mobility Limitations In Crossfit
The most challenging thing about mobility issues is having to deal with them. Despite their apparent insignificance, mobility issues can negatively affect movement patterns, resulting in damage and injuries to athletes. Listed below are some of the most common mobility issues experienced by CrossFitters.
- Tight Hips
Hip flexor pain is caused by strains, ligament tears, and stress fractures. The likelihood of a strain increases when the hip flexor is excessively tight or stiff. It can cause severe hip pain and lead to more serious injuries. Studies have shown that hip mobility restrictions are commonly present as sharp pinching at the front of the hips during deep squats, resulting in the athlete widening their posture. Due to tight hips, athletes may also need to flex their lower back when doing a squat to obtain the correct depth. 
- Stiff Shoulders
The most common cause of stiff shoulders and decreased performance in CrossFit athletes is poor shoulder movement. Generally, the shoulder movement issue that can be seen in Crossfit athletes is “upper cross syndrome”. This condition is caused by overactive upper traps, short and tight pecs, and a weakened rotator cuff. Because of this, there is a high risk of shoulder pain and impingement, especially during overhead lifts and movements like push-ups, snatches, pull-ups, and push presses.
- Limited Ankle Mobility
There are several reasons why ankle mobility can be compromised, but a common problem is tight tissues, either in the Achilles tendon or the calf muscles. It may also be caused by overuse or excessive training, depending on how long you’ve been experiencing it. One of the most common causes of limited ankle mobility is insufficient dorsiflexion. In addition, many studies have also indicated that limited dorsiflexion impairs functional movement patterns such as squats, single-leg squats, lateral step downs, and even landings from jumps. 
Stretches To Improve Mobility
A well-rounded fitness routine must include stretches, as mobility is vital to the fitness process. Therefore, athletes are recommended by fitness experts to incorporate the following three stretches into their CrossFit routines to improve mobility and performance.
- The 90/90 Stretch (Hip Flexor Stretch)
The 90/90 stretch lengthens the gluteal, psoas, hip flexor, piriformis, adductors, and abductor muscles around the hip. In addition to helping with everyday activities like walking or bending, it can also help with high-intensity functional exercises and movements such as calisthenics, Olympic weightlifting, and powerlifting.
To perform this stretch you need to
- Place your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of your body while seated on the floor. Keep your left knee and shin on the ground.
- Now put your right foot behind you and bend it at a 90-degree angle with your toes touching the ground. You should have your right knee aligned with your hip on your right side.
- As you tilt your torso towards your left knee, keep your shoulders and core engaged. Also, your pelvis should be driven down to the ground while you are doing this.
- Take the opposite direction and repeat this movement.
- Wall Extensions (Shoulder Stretch)
Sports performance is reduced when shoulder mobility is poor, as ineffective movements lead to inefficient performance. Using wall extensions can help you improve your shoulder’s mobility. In addition to opening up the shoulder joint, wall extensions help you prepare the surrounding muscles for lifting weights.
To perform wall extension
- Hold your hips and back against a wall while standing or sitting. Make sure the wall and your back are parallel.
- As you stand against the wall, place your arms at a 90-degree angle.
- Now, slide your arms up to extension while keeping your back, hips, and arms against the wall.
- Execute 8-10 slow controlled reps.
- Toes to Wall (Ankle Mobility Drill)
It is necessary to have proper ankle mobility to carry out the proper squat, a skill that many of us lack. The ankle’s lack of mobility can cause our chest to fall forward. This would either result in a failure to lift the weight or a strain on our back if we applied it to squatting with weights. However, with toes to wall drill, you can increase your ankle flexion and mobility.
For toes to wall stretch
- Place your face against an upright surface, such as a wall or the side of your rig.
- Make sure that your ankles are stretched backward by placing your toes on the surface.
- Put your ankles in a flexed position by moving your hips forward.
- To further flex the position, you can pull your upper body forward or have someone push your upper back.
- Be sure to hold this position before switching sides.
How To Incorporate Stretches Into Your Crossfit Routine
Regardless of how experienced an athlete is, stretching before lifting weights or using equipment can benefit anyone. However, whether to stretch before or after exercising is mainly a matter of debate.
Researchers generally suggest that stretching before a CrossFit workout is not necessary. As stretching cold muscles can lead to injury. Studies have also revealed that static stretching before exercise can reduce sprint speed. For this, the most likely reason is that holding the stretch tires out your muscles. 
So, If you want to warm up before your workout, you could walk briskly, jog, do walking lunges, do leg swings, and high steps. Moreover, warming up with dynamic stretches instead of static stretches is thought to be better because they are similar to your workout but at a lower intensity. Plus, It is best to start slowly and increase the intensity of the stretch over time.
On the other hand, when it comes to stretching after a workout, research points to this as an ideal time to do so. Stretching after a workout can help you prevent damage, reduce muscle soreness, and improve athletic performance.  In addition, After doing a workout, one would feel more supple with improved mobility and enhanced blood circulation to the muscles and joints. 
Therefore, the conclusion to this is that stretching is not a necessity before or after Crossfit workouts. The most important thing here is to stretch every now and then. Stretching should be incorporated as an essential part of your training routine. However, you can do it whenever you want – after you wake up before you go to bed, or during work breaks.
Every CrossFitter needs to take care of their muscles appropriately, no matter their fitness level. Spending 10-15 minutes stretching multiple times a week will reap more benefits beyond expectations, giving you a stronger, healthier, and fitter body with enhanced stability and endurance than you may have otherwise.
As mobility and strength are key for fitness, in the same way stretching is imperative for recovery. By incorporating stretches into your fitness routine, your workout will be more efficient, and you’ll perform better at CrossFit. So, start with the essential stretches mentioned in this article, and watch your mobility improve over time!
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