Recently I wrote a blog post explaining the 10 general physical skills but there was one skill that gave me pause while writing: flexibility. My hesitation stems from my concern that we are confusing flexibility with mobility. While they are often used interchangeably and certainly are connected, they are not the same thing.
Flexibility is a measure of your muscles’ ability to stretch and is generally tested by static or even passive stretching. Mobility on the other hand, is your ability to function through a particular range of motion.
Tissue flexibility is one criteria for mobility but it is not the only component. Our Olympic Lifting coach for example predicted, based on my inability to touch my toes (tight hamstrings), that I would lack the mobility required to execute an effective squat snatch. I promptly proved him wrong. HeeHee on the other hand, who is much more flexible than me and has a better ass-to-grass static squat hold than me, often struggles to get below parallel in her squat snatch. If tissue flexibility was the only determinant of mobility, this could not be the case.
But stability is another key component to mobility. Your neurological system in its wisdom will not allow you into a position if you do not possess the ability to safely stabilize in that position under load. This is one reason I love to practice paused squats in warm ups so that my body gets used to being loaded in a deep squat.
And this is why hours spent with foam rollers and lacrosse balls occur to me as wasted efforts that yield at best, temporary improvements in mobility. In fact, I’ve rarely seen athletes make significant permanent mobility gains using passive stretching methods like these.
The Original Strength methodology is far more appealing because the program incorporates movements that simultaneously stretch and strengthen the tissues you’re seeking to mobilize creating very real, functional and lasting change as you learn to mobilize AND stabilize through a range of motion.
Original Strength also works on breathing, bracing and core strength which are all important components of developing the stability required to achieve true functional mobility as discussed in the video above.
But mobility is still more complex than that as we learned when my coach Andy visited last year. With a simple eye exercise he was able to improve a person’s squat depth because the vestibular system helps us navigate the world and helps us develop the sense of stability, in this case balance, required to move through it. Lacking this, our neurological system will again not permit us access to our full range of motion. That’s why a few simple eye and head Original Strength exercises allows me to suddenly touch my toes despite my tight hamstrings.
I don’t think the CrossFit use of the word flexibility fully encompasses the intent of our fitness practice. To my mind, mobility is where it’s at and Original Strength offers some excellent tools for developing the complex components that together contribute to mobility. Without bands or balls or rollers my body is becoming more supple and more integrated thanks to a few minutes of daily practice.
The great news is we’ve got another Original Strength reset option on the menu for Wednesday’s make up day so you can get some mobility development too!
Wednesday Make Up Day
1) 10 min AMRAP
5 Box Jumps
2) 10 min AMRAP
5 Strict MU
15 GHD Sit Ups
3) Zercher Squats
4) 40 min SLIPS
5) OS Reset #8
1 min Belly Breathing Any Position
30 sec Head Nods On Hands And Knees
30 sec Head Rotations On Hands And Knees
3 mins Frog Rolls
30 Gait Bugs
10 Egg Rolls
5/5 1-Arm Rocks R/L
30 Speed Skaters
1 min Forward/Backward Hands And Knees Crawling
30 sec Forward/Backward Leopard Crawls