Increasing My Mobility Part I: getting started and setting goals

After years of basketball, sprained ankles, torn ankle ligaments and office desk-jobs, my overall mobility isn’t that good. You probably feel jealous of your kids when they can sit in a deep squat for a long time. Even 400-pound sumowrestlers are more mobile than me. I had trouble even getting in a fairly deep squat not to mention getting up again.

This was especially frustrating during the more complex lifts in Crossfit, like overhead squats, pistol squats, snatch, etc.. I was usually strong enough to get weights overhead but then getting into a deep enough squat was difficult as i was bending forward and thus losing stability. To accomodate this a but i bought lifters (shoes with a elevated heel which allows you to go a bit deep) and this worked well, especially when you’re warm but you don’t wear lifters all the time and i don’t want to depend on them.

More over, during this corona pandemic, when you sit more behind/infront your laptop and can workout less (although outside group classes are possible again) you’re mobility deteriorates rapidly. When having good mobility is just so important in general. Just putting on a sock standing up can sometimes even be difficult. But i wanted to get more out of my crossfit workouts so i set myself a goal of increasing mobility in my ankles, hips, thorax, shoulders, everything.

Flexibility is defined as “the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively through a range of motion”, whereas mobility is the “ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion”.

I first started with some research and seeing if there were some good ‘paid’ options. There were quite some ’21-days’ options but i don’t believe that much in the ’21-days’ concept as it implies that you’re done after 21-days. More over, they started posting mobility WOD’s video’s at my crossfit box which were really good, inspiring and definitly frustrating when you can perform certain exercises.

Youtube is of course also good place to start but there is so much. After watching man videos i ended up using the following channels mostly:

There are some other sources i use to get some inspiration but after a while you get an idea of which exercises are important (the ones that everyone uses).

So i set out to spend 15-20 minutes at least 6 times a week on mobility mostly with ‘2-minute’ holds and some dynamic exercises. The 2 minutes is something that i kept hearing and after a bit of digging to find some scientific backing i found this quote:

Studies done at the cellular level, particularly on tensegrity and mechanotransduction, suggests that if we want to make actual physiological changes to tissue we need to be applying forces to our tissues for around two minutes or more.  

This two minute mark is determined as the average time cells begin to recognize the stresses being placed on a tissue.  So spending longer duration time in a particular position can help teach tissues to reorganize themselves, making long lasting changes over time.  As Dr. Andreo Spina frequently states, “Force is the language of cells.”

This also means that you have to put in the work and not expect magic to happen overnight. I worked on a deeper squat for while and only after a few weeks you could see a bit improvement.

But how do you measure your progress? Unfortunatly, i forgot to make a video of day 1 so that i could compare it to day 30/60. However i did a workout 2 days ago with the (Crossfit) benchmark ‘Helen’, 5 rounds of 400m running and 15 overhead squats with 43 Kg (rx), and that went very well. I could keep upright way more with the rx weight, and also keep balance and speed. So that felt like progress.

I’ll see if i feel like making a video or something but for me the test is to be able to sit in a deep squat very easily with a straight back and being able to push the knees out with my elbows. The goal after that is to be able to point your arms and fingers straight up in the deep squat but that’s a long way from happening. You got to start somewhere.

So i will keep doing my 6 days a week stretching routines with various stretches and see what works best. In 2 months i will post an update on my progress and, if succesful, the routines i used. But i can tell you now that it’s not about the exercises, but about the consistent work you put into it. Stay tuned.

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