Mobility: The Secret to Functional Training – Part 1: Stretching
by Reko Rivera
Say it with me! Mobility! Mobility! Mobility!
When it comes to functional fitness, mobility is crucial. It can unlock the true potential of your strength and performance, especially when attempting Ninja Warrior obstacles.
However, for most people, their mobility is very weak. Try this: Touch your fingers together behind your back. If you can’t, chances are your mobility is slim to none. Or if you’re unable to touch your toes with your fingers, then you definitely have room to grow.
Mobility is not to be confused with flexibility or the ability to move your joints through their complete range of motion. Mobility is when you have muscle strength and control through your joints’ complete range of motion. For contrast, think about being able to lift your leg up very high by using your arms to do it (flexibility) versus lifting your leg very high using only your leg muscles (mobility). Thus improving mobility requires both stretching and strength conditioning.
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through a stretch routine for achieving great flexibility. Then, in the next part of this blog, I’ll dive into full-range functional strength training for building power and control throughout these ranges of motion.
Remember back in the day when your high school gym teacher made you hold each stretch for 30 seconds at a time? Turns out that wasn’t only the wrong kind of stretching, but also very dangerous!
Dynamic stretching is definitely the way to go. What’s dynamic stretching you ask? Dynamic stretching uses active movements involving your muscles’ full range of motion to bring forth a stretch without holding it at the end position of a movement. Before every training session or competition, I always use dynamic stretching to make sure I’m properly warmed up.
For example, to loosen up my shoulders and arms, I use arm circles. Arm circles are probably some of the most well-known movements of dynamic stretching. For Ninja Warrior training, arm circles are your best friend!
There’s nothing worse than a debilitating shoulder injury. One of the best ways to avoid this is arm circles. Just as it sounds, simply stand with your arms completely stretched out to your sides and then swing them in a (you guessed it) circular motion. Repeat this movement forward and backward twice.
Another popular stretch similar to this is one a lot of rock climbers do. Holding your hands out in front of you with your palms facing forward (think Iron Man’s hand cannon pose), move your hands in a circular motion – first clockwise; then counterclockwise. This really helps to loosen up all the tendons, muscles, and small connective tissue in your forearms and hands.
Now let’s get your wrists loosened up. Hold your hands together out in front of you, like you just clapped them together. Then, rotate them in unison in a circular motion (first clockwise and then counterclockwise). Next, switch from the circular motion to an S-shaped motion, where your kind of draw an S with both your hands held together.
One of the most overlooked areas of the body to stretch, but also one of the most important, especially for Ninja Warrior workouts, is the fingers. Hanging from your fingertips can be extremely strenuous on the tendons in your hands. Rock climbers have a tendency to damage their pulley tendons in their fingers all the time – mostly from slipping out of pocket holds. It takes months for this injury to heal and worst of all, you can’t train during that time! Injure your fingers and you’re pretty restricted.
To prevent this from happening to you, try this stretch. Put the back of your hands on the ground with your palms facing towards you and your biceps facing forward. Then very gently lean forward to get a nice stretch of your fingers and as a bonus, your forearms.
Last but not least, yoga! Yoga is very popular these days, but not just because of it’s the thing to do. It’s actually very beneficial to your body if properly instructed by a qualified yoga teacher. Here a few reasons as to why Yoga can help you with your functional fitness ninja goals.
- Flexibility: When reaching for certain obstacles sometimes we need just an extra inch or two to make it.
- Muscle Endurance: The longer you can hang, hold, or swing. The better you will do on obstacles.
- Posture: Back issues? Yoga is one of the top recommendations to help realign your spine and make you feel good.
- Circulation: Yoga can increase blood flow or circulation. Increased circulation provides more oxygen to your muscles, which enhances muscle endurance.
So it turns out all those fancy yoga moves aren’t just for show. They’re extremely important to improve your range of motion or mobility. And better mobility will make you a functional fitness machine!
Incorporate dynamic stretching and yoga into your functional fitness routine to maximize your mobility. In addition, it’ll help you avoid injury; keeping your training on-point without avoidable downtime.