by Michael Plank
The cheapest thing you can do to improve your performance is sleep more. But there’s a very close second… There’s another thing you can do to be able to lift more, run faster, jump higher, fix restrictions, improve pain, and decrease risk of injury. And that’s to mobilize.
“Mobility” has become a more common word in athletics than “Flexibility,” because it’s a little more comprehensive. Flexibility is about a muscle’s ability to lengthen through a range of motion. Mobility is about a joint’s ability to move actively through a range of motion. They’re related, but not exactly the same. Being able to do a front split is flexiblity (hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings). Being able to do an overhead squat is mobility (shoulders, thoracic spine, hips, ankles). In the functional fitness world, where we’re trying to do a lot of stuff, mobility is what we talk more about because mobility is what we care more about.
There are all kinds of ways to tackle that. You can do yoga or pilates. You can use websites and books. You can look at adjusting movement patterns (for example, pushing your knees out in a squat will often let you go deeper). You can look at doing soft-tissue work (like using a foam roller or a lacrosse ball to loosen up stiff tissues). You can work on joint capsules (using stretches, often with bands, to work on the functionality of the actual shoulder joint, for example). And you can do classic stretching (end range, static holds). All of them are important, and all of them are worth doing.
But today, we’ll talk about the three most popular mobility apps in the CrossFit world.
GOWOD has a great mobility assessment tool. You walk yourself through multiple tests to determine the mobility of your shoulders, overhead position, hips, posterior chain, and ankles. One of the options then is a customized daily routine that will be built to address your tightest areas. The app will give you silent, short (~10 seconds) video demonstrations, points of performance, and a timer so that you can work through the stretches while you read or watch Netflix. You can also do mobility routines for pre or post-workout and build them around what your workout will be. All routines can be built to be between 8 and 22 minutes long. This is a great app if you want your mobilizing to be something you do passively while you do something else.
RomWod has great credentials. It’s used by some of the top athletes in CrossFit since its release. Unlike GOWOD, RomWod walks you through your routines with full videos. They have great “paths” depending on your particular mobility goals. Whether you want to improve your sleep, work on something like building a standing straddle, or just generally improve for a specific activity like running or Olympic lifting, they’ve got great routines for you. RomWod does an especially excellent job with recovery. This app is fantastic if you like restorative yoga and guided routines.
The Ready State (formerly mobilitywod) is pioneered by Kelly Starrett. The app is not as user-friendly as either GOWOD or RomWod, but it is by far the most comprehensive. Where GOWOD and RomWod focus almost exclusively on stretching, The Ready State addresses movement patterns, soft tissue work, joint capsule work, and stretching. As such, it requires some minimal equipment (a few lacrosse balls and a band). Most of the work is guided, but once you’re familiar with the protocols, you can skip or abbreviate the video content. This app also has a mobility assessment, but it will not customize a routine for you. However, if you’re serious about managing pain, reducing injury risk, or improving performance, and you really like diving into the nitty gritty about why things are the way they are, this is the app for you.
All three apps have trial periods, and all three are comparable in price ($10-$15 per month). All three have worked wonders for people and all three are worth trying. It’s not as cheap as sleeping, but spending a few bucks a month on keeping your body running smoothly can be an investment with a huge payoff.
Did we miss one? Is there one of these that you really like? Let us know!