Fitness Guest Post by Paula Jager, CSCS
We’ll conclude our flexibility series with a look at the Mobility Wod (workout of the day). Most everyone is somewhat familiar with Pilates and Yoga–two excellent ways to improve range of motion, focus, flexibility and balance in both body and mind. Mobility Wods are a relatively new term developed by Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist and CrossFit affiliate in San Francisco.
The premise of the Mobility Wod is not new and has its roots in proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, aka PNF stretching. PNF stretching was designed in the 1940s and 1950s as a form of rehabilitation and has been very effective in that area. It increases flexibility while improving muscular strength.
PNF is a combination of passive stretching and isometric contractions. In addition to being used for rehabilitation it can also be used on healthy athletes. The improvements seen in flexibility and coordination as a supplement to your strength and conditioning program encourages quick gains in range of motion thus improving performance. An improved range of motion makes better biomechanics, reduces fatigue and helps prevent overuse injuries.
Before taking on PNF stretches it is important to perform a 5 to 10 minute appropriate warm up. The warm up should consist of a light physical activity like walking, jogging, stationary biking or other easy aerobic activity. The intensity and duration of the warm up should be dictated by the fitness level of the athlete. The goal is to simply elevate the heart and respiratory rate increasing blood flow and muscle temperature allowing for a more effective stretch. End result should be a light sweat.
There is much research and detail on PNF stretching on the internet. For simplification purposes–as it could be an entirely separate article–a PNF stretch involves the following. . .
- The muscle or group to be stretched is positioned so that the muscle(s) are stretched and under tension. The individual then contracts the stretched muscle for 5-6 seconds while a partner or immovable object applies resistance to inhibit movement. The effort of contraction should be relevant to the level of conditioning.
- The contracted muscle group is then relaxed and a controlled stretch is applied for 10 to 30 s. The process is then repeated for the desired number of “repetitions” or duration of time. You will find the repetitions, timing and a few other factors differ slightly depending on who you are talking to. Researching, experimenting and personal experience can lead you to determine which provides the maximum benefits for you.
If you are brand new to the idea of PNF stretching or Mobility Wods where should you start and how often?
First begin with some education on the subject; I highly recommend a visit to Kelly’s blog . Not only does he post a daily video on how to perform the designated “stretch”, by typing any muscle group, body part or problem area into the search engine you will come up with several specific recommendations. After a general understanding of how the theory works you can begin to implement and practice appropriate drills and you can do this at home with minimal equipment. I would first watch the video, a few times if necessary and then go to it. You may not get it right at first but with daily (yes, daily) practice of only 5 to 15 minutes you will begin to see huge improvements.
I attended Kelly’s Mobility Seminar in South Florida last month after becoming acquainted with his site, theories and practice and wanting to know more. Within a mere 4 weeks of returning home and implementing mobility wods in my CrossFit facility our client’s performances have been through the roof. Not to mention the reduction of back, shoulder, hip and knee pain. Personally, I have PR’d (personal record) on at least 7 lifts since adopting his practices. Personal records may not be everyone’s goal but I would be willing to bet that resolving aches and pains and improving the function of activities of daily living are. In addition, the mind body awareness is not lost as the focus, breath and time spent on each drill releases more than just tension in the muscles.
While Pilates and Yoga have great benefits Mobility Wods offer a unique yet highly effective route to the same destination. They ultimately enhance each other as well as your strength and conditioning program and life in general.
Give it a try. . . it feels pretty good to set a PR!
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar.
Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results
It has really helped my client’s that hate to “stretch”, performance seems to motivate them more.
I use PNF stretching in my chiropractic practice all the time. It is really effective and for the person that is not stretching at all, it does help emphasize the need to do so.
Jo at Jo's Health Corner
This sounds very interesting. I am definitely going to look into it more.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
If I recall, wasn’t this the type of highly effective stretching Dara Torres (Olympic swimmer) used to make the Olympic team despite the fact that she was in her 40’s?
Yes it was and she kicked butt! I love to see that in women that age:)
I recently had a shoulder injury and subsequently started to develop a frozen shoulder. I’m now in the end phase of physical therapy but this PNF stretching was utilized in my therapy to help me with increasing my range of motion. Up to a certain point my muscles just wanted to take over and the pain was excruciating. The PT would then have me press against his hand (depending on the motion we were working on) and hold for 3 seconds, then he would increase the stretch, resist, stretch and it was amazing to see how much more range I could get. It’s an amazing phenomenon and I’m so thankful for it.