The fitness industry is flooded with promises of fast results. The gimmicks, the shakeweights, the instachicks, the slendertones and kale dupe us into thinking that we’re going to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club after doing a few sit-ups. We want the least determining factor of fitness, the six-pack, without getting the foundations, namely our basic body mechanics or mobility right, first. Unfortunately, these foundations for many of us take years to achieve rather than days.
After working in the City for almost 8 years, I have been in a constant battle with the ills of sitting in an office for 10 hours a day. High stress, kyphosis, vending machines, hip stiffness, poor sleep, and holiday chocolates are a few of the words that come to mind when I think about my time at the bank. Add a sporting life that hardly ever included stretching and a horrible list of injuries and surgeries, you get the immovable block that is my body.
So why is mobility important? Everything we do in the gym is driven by the definition of fitness: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. The foundation of increasing our work capacity starts with the efficiency of our movement. Better movement mechanics equals less energy expended per repetition, which in turn translates to our capacity to complete more reps. The three benefits of efficient movement or mobility are better performance, injury prevention and virtuosity (also known as looking like a badass). As CrossFitters, these are all things we should be striving for.
Many of us become mesmerized with metabolic conditioning when we first start CrossFit, usually to the detriment of our mobility and movement efficiency. Instead of working on the air squat, we kill ourselves doing burpees. Instead of hanging from a bar and trying to reverse our kyphosis, we spend our time doing double unders. Not that these aren’t important, but if we spend our time working on our muscle-up when our squat does not break below parallel and our chest is parallel to the floor, I’m sorry to say that our priorities are all wrong. Fast forward several years, and our inefficiency in the air squat has translated to an inefficient snatch, clean, wall-ball, front squat, back squat, thruster, and pistol. That’s a lot of movements to do poorly.
The beauty of the air squat lies equally in its simplicity and complexity. The humble squat is one of the human race’s basic movements, and it’s how we both sat and pooped before chairs and toilets. Nevertheless, the triple flexion of the hips, knees and ankles proves exceptionally hard for the modern homo sapien. It’s also the foundational movement in CrossFit. So put down the barbell and drop that skipping rope and get into your air squat. If you can’t sit comfortably in your paleo chair for more than a short period, find yourself a wall to lean up against until it feels natural. Whatever movement deficiencies you have, spend time rectifying them. Remember, fitness is a journey that you will be on for your whole life and mobility is your passport. Don’t sabotage your journey before it even begins by forgetting your passport at home.