Mobility Matters in CrossFit!

Why is mobility important for CrossFit?

  • Injury prevention
  • Performance enhancement

Injuries can happen for many reasons, but some common causes that relate to mobility is limited mobility in one joint causing another joint to compensate (for example lack of thoracic spine extension causing increased strain on the shoulders), or body limitations causing improper technique (for example increased forward lean of the torso in a squat due to tight ankles).

Poor mobility can also cause performance plateaus - and NO CrossFit athletes wants that! The body has a limited capacity to compensate for limitations, and these compensations/poor movement patterns are less efficient, causing your body to work harder than it should to create the same results. For example in a front squat, if your ankles are too tight you either won’t be able to get to full depth (and therefore not meet the movement standard) or you will compensate by leaning forwards with your trunk which will make the lift much more difficult and limit your ability to hit PR’s.

Whether you are brand new to the box or you are a vet mobility is something that cannot be ignored! 
From my personal experience as well as working with my CrossFit athlete clients, my number one suggestion to increase performance and achieve more PR's is to focus on pre-work out mobility with the 5 stretches below:

  1. Soleus stretch - Improve ankle mobility to help with movements such as squats, Olympic lifts and pistols 

How to:

  • Place one foot behind the other, hands on the wall.
  • Make sure back foot is pointing straight forwards.
  • Bend the back knee as far as you can, keeping the heel on the ground
  • When you feel a stretch in the calf, hold that position for 30-60 seconds.

 
   2. Wall shoulder & thoracic spine opener - Improve overhead mobility for movements such as overhead pressing, overhead squats, jerks, snatches and kipping pull-ups/muscle ups.

How to:

  • Stand with feet 1-2 feet from the wall
  • Place hands on the wall shoulder-width apart
  • Tighten your core
  • Slowly sink your chest downwards towards the ground without letting your low back arch (this is why your core should be tight). This ensures you get the stretch in the correct areas.
  • You should feel the stretch in either your shoulders, your thoracic spine (mid-back) or both
  • Move slowly in and out of the position 10 times, then hold the stretch for 30 seconds 

  1. Foam rolling quads - Self-massage quad muscles, which can get tight from squatting, rowing and Olympic lifting.

How to:

  • Place foam roller on the ground and lay on top of it so that the roller is perpendicular to your quads
  • Use your arms to pull your body back and forth across the roller to massage the quads
  • You can rotate your body to target the inner and outer quads
  • It is normal for there to be some discomfort when you are foam rolling, but this should be mild
  • Roll 1-2 minutes as tolerated (stop if it becomes too painful)



  1. Lunge stretch - Stretch the hip flexors to help achieve full hip extension, which is important for movements such as Olympic lifting and lunges. If you spend most of your day sitting, your hip flexors will likely become tight.

How to:

  • Kneel on the ground with one foot forwards and hips square (pointing directly forwards
  • You can place something soft under the back knee for comfort
  • Activate core and make sure your spine is straight (no arching the low back) as you try to push the front of the hip of the kneeling leg forwards
  • Hold 30-60 seconds per side



  1. Forearm/wrist stretches - Stretch out the forearms to recover from all the gripping from barbell and gymnastics movements.

How to:

  • Wrist extensor stretch: with a straight elbow, bend wrist and hand downwards towards the ground. Use the other hand to gentle give pressure on the knuckles to increase the stretch.
  • Wrist flexor stretch: with a straight elbow, extend wrist and hand upwards towards the ceiling. Use the other hand to give gentle pressure on the palm of the hand and fingers to increase the stretch.


At the end of the day, each and everyone of us wants to Perform Better, understanding your body's limitations is the first step to optimal performance and injury prevention. The same amount of time, if not more, should be spent on mobilizing or else the time you put in the box is simply not going to yeild the results you are looking for. Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy and yoga are great additions to doing your own mobility work.

Interested in learning more? Come visit Jessica - she was competitive gymnast for 12 years and competed provincially, as well as taught younger athletes for a few years.  She is also a competitive CrossFitter. Learn more about Jess here.

JESSICA METCALF, MSCPT, Registered Physiotherapist

Building A Better You

Orthopedic Rehabilitation
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