“Mobility programming is like pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good! “
-Danny Matta (yes I just quoted myself)
Here’s a scenario that never happens. A CrossFit athlete leaves his 9-5 job where he just sat at a desk for 8 hours. He drives to his local box and is giddy with shear joy and anticipation over what the mobility work might be for this day’s WOD. He wonders to himself if his coaches will have him work on his hip capsules or maybe he if he’s lucky the sliding surfaces of his latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior.
This is obviously a fabricated scenario because the truth is most people don’t get excited about mobility work. Even though you or your athlete’s might not like it too much, it’s kind of like having to eat your vegetables when you were a kid. You know it’s good for you and you still have a hard time accepting it (unless the vegetables were covered in cheese, then they were acceptable.) Sometimes the toughest part of programming is where to fit mobility work into a WOD. If your athletes are busy people like I am, they may get one golden hour at the gym between 3-5x per week. We want to use our time as efficiently as possible. Programming for a group of people with different mobility problems can be a bit tricky. Here are two strategies you can use to make it more effective.
We’ll use this simple programming below to show different areas you can add mobility work in to your WOD. By the way, this programming is not for competitors, this is an example of programming for a novice to intermediate CrossFit athlete.
Dynamic Warm Up: some type approx. 8-10 minutes
Back Squat: Strength Block work up to 3 sets of 5 reps
(Rest 2 minutes between sets)
Annie: 50-40-30-20-10 Double Unders and Sit Ups, cut off time of 12 minutes.
Cooldown: 3 rounds 200 M run forward, 200 M run backward 5 hand release push ups 65-75% effort on the run. Focus on keeping the forearm perpendicular with the ground during hand release push ups.
* The most basic mobility goal should be to focus on improving fundamental positions that are being challenged in that day’s WOD. *
If our athlete’s are squatting, we want to improve the bottom position of the squat. If our athlete’s are pulling from the ground, we want to improve the position in the start of a pull and so on and so forth. If you wanted to improve the position of one of the movements above, which would you, pick?
My answer to that question would be the squat. It’s the one movement we are dedicating the most time to in the WOD and is a fundamental archetype shape. So if we wanted to improve this movement we have a few options, but here are two that we use most often.
1. Exaggerate reality
By this we mean, program a mobility drill that exaggerates the squat position. This could either be a drill that drivers your knees out further than you normal do squatting, forces you into a deeper bottom position than normal or driving your knees further forward to improve the ankle range. Don’t try and get too complex here, do something that looks like a variation of the squat but exaggerates it in some way.
Here are a few videos of ideas that you could add in for this WOD’s programming.
2. Mobilize the muscles that were the primary force producers
If we take the programming from above, we could say that the quads and hip flexors are going to be the two muscle groups that are most likely to be sore over the next few days. In this second strategy, we focus on trying to help the athlete’s have less soreness by doing some fascial techniques right after the cool down. You can really set your athletes up for success this way, especially the newer athletes that might be sore for a few days after a WOD like this.
Here are a couple techniques you could add in after the WOD to get the quads and hip flexors feeling better.
Fast-forward to minute 3 if you just want the specific techniques.
Now that we have some ideas of what we might want to work on, when should you add your mobility work to this WOD?
If you’re really strapped for time and want to be super efficient I would recommend doing the mobility work during the built in rest periods of the squat block. If you have a built in two minute rest period, throw a band around a hip and open it up for a minute on each side before doing your next set. This is one of our favorite ways to save time and improve a movement position in the process. By the time you get to your last couple of sets, your hips should be nice and mobile to hit that new 5RM PR.
If you can’t add it in between sets for some reason, the next best option is to make it part of the warm up in some way. Maybe add a kettle bell to the rocking sumo technique(show nabove in the first video) and get that heart rate up while improving the bottom position of the squat.
Programming for a group can be hard but if you follow these two strategies it will help get your mobility work organized. You’re never going to be able to pick one mobility technique that’s the best mob for every person in your 5 PM class. Everyone is a bit different, so focus on improving positions used in the WOD and fascial techniques for muscles that are most likely to be sore. This will help everyone get something useful out of their mobility programming.
If you have any mobility programming questions leave us a comment or hit us up on Facebook. We’re more than happy to help you get on the right track!
-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.