The missing link in your fitness: mobility

We all want to be strong and fast, and to achieve those goals we’ll spend countless hours working on our strength and conditioning. We’ll skip and run and lift and kettle-bell until we’re gasping for breath and our palms are rough with callouses.

The one thing we won’t do—the one thing we don’t think we have “time” to do—is work on mobility. Time to find it because mobility is a significant factor in the pursuit of functional fitness, and by extension, life. Without it, you’re actually impairing your ability to get stronger and faster and you’re making yourself vulnerable to injury.

Mobility is more than just achieving a proper range of motion; it’s also the ability to control your body through that range of motion. Working out at high intensity without working on the necessary mobility to perform properly is akin to driving a car with flat tires. In short, you will never get the performance you want and eventually you will break down.

So, how do we repair our figurative “tires”?  We start by diagnosing our current limitations and chipping away at them daily with stretching, soft tissue work, activation and strengthening exercises.

I am a big fan of banded distractions. Using a band to pull on a limb while stretching creates more space within the joint, which may alleviate tightness and pain and increase range of motion.

One general rule of thumb with all of these stretches, though, is to RELAX!  Do not pull and fight with the band—relax into the poses and let the band do its work.  Here are four banded stretches that are part of my everyday routine and which should become part of yours, too.

Banded Pigeon

Attach a band to a pole about knee height.  Set up with your right leg next to the pole and put your right leg through the band.  Bring the band up into your hip and step laterally away from the pole to create tension.  Come down into a pigeon pose (right leg bent at 90 degrees in front of your body with your left leg straight out behind you.  Slide further away from the pole to create as much tension as possible and rest your head and chest down to the floor.  Stay here for one minute and switch sides.

Banded pigeon

Banded Thread the Needle

Attach a band to a pole at shin height.  Come onto your hands and knees and loop your left hand through the band.  Walk yourself away from the pole to create tension on the band.  Rotate your shoulders, putting your left shoulder onto the floor with your left arm extended flat.  Use your right hand to push into the floor or your arm to create more of a stretch through the left side of your back.  Stay here for one minute and switch sides.

Banded thread the needle

Banded Ankle Distraction

Attach a band to a pole at shin height.  Grab a low box.  Loop your right foot through the band and bring your foot onto the box.  Make sure the band is pulling below the ankle bone. Push your knee as far forward as possible easing yourself into your end-range flexion of your ankle.  Gently push with your hands to encourage a deeper range of motion.  Stay here for one minute and switch sides.

Banded ankle distraction

Banded Shoulder Distraction

Attach a band to a pole above your head.  Loop your right hand through the band.  Step back to create tension on the band.  Turn your right palm up towards the ceiling.  Reach your right leg back and towards the left side of your body to create more tension through your lats and the right side of your body.  Relax your head and chest down. Stay here for one minute and switch sides.

Banded shoulder distraction

Want to know more about mobility exercises and how they improve your fitness? Ask a coach, or try the mobility class Mondays at 7:15 p.m.


Duncan McNeill is a coach and co-owner of Alchemy CrossFit. 

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