Mobility – Moving Beyond The Buzzword

It is always important for you the reader to understand an author’s personal motive in writing an article. To that end let me first acknowledge two facts that reflect my motivation.

The first fact is that I love CrossFit and what it represents. Secondly, I am a specialty-trained physical therapist, which created a unique lens on how I view and understand the world of functional movement. So now that these facts are out on the table, let us begin.

Common Buzzwords At The Gym

Webster’s dictionary defines buzzword as “a word or phrase usually from jargon that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context.” We are consistently bombarded by a slew of buzzwords when we walk into the gym, from smashing and pukie to janky and gymnasty. They are catchy, cool and different making you pause and think for just a second and then, boom! You’re hooked and using them.

Pukie The Clown - CrossFit
Pukie the Clown: An unofficial mascot, Pukie symbolizes what happens when athletes push a bit too hard for their own good (and digestive systems).

Unfortunately, mobility is among these buzzwords and I feel it is critical to move our community beyond the perceived simplicity of this powerful word to understanding its broader meaning, complexity and also possibilities that exist with how it applies to each of us as unique movers.

What is Mobility?

Mobility is defined by Webster’s dictionary as simply “the ability to move quickly and easily” and nothing fits better that this with CrossFit’s definition of “constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains.”

The trouble with this definition begins when we experience an ache, pain or injury.

CrossFit Injury

Unless you are that perfect athlete, injury will happen to nearly all of us at some point.

We are all training hard to achieve our fitness goals and will sadly almost never have a simplistic or basic fix to our injuries.

Just ask any athlete that has worked personally with me and they will tell you that I almost never give a simple answer to their injury. I ask numerous clarification questions and insist on watching one move before I try and formulate a definitive answer to what the true source is for a particular complaint.

This is because “the ability to move quickly and easily” has several moving parts. These parts include tissue extensibility, muscle flexibility, joint mobility, stability of the said parts, and motor control of the entire system to mention just a few. It is when these moving parts are in balance with each other that we can move safely and effectively, preventing most injuries and attain our fitness goals.

Mobility Buzz word

One glance at the above graphic can be enough to make one’s head spin. However, take some time and let it digest…this is an accurate depiction of what variables exists in all of us that must be accounted for when considering balanced and safe functional movement.

As you can see, mobility is a critical component, but is not the only thing one should consider.

This graphic should also give a visual depiction that even despite an athlete’s best efforts to perform basic and routine maintenance to stay in balance, sometimes the said injury reoccurs because the true source of the problem may be something else they are not addressing. This is the point when the athlete should approach a qualified coach or movement expert for help.

The Answer To Injuries

The answer to an injury can be simple, but typically the journey arriving at the answer can take many twist, turns, dead ends and weeks of frustrating delays. It is my firm belief that knowledge and understanding with a helping hand are critical to an athlete’s ability to move well and avoid dead ends and frustrating delays.

Remember that mobility is more than just stretching and smashing. It is an integral part of a more complex system that involves stability and motor control working together equally to achieve balance. Once balance is attained an athlete can move safely, efficiently and effectively. This will in turn keeping functional movement a viable methodology for the lifetime journey we all call fitness.

Keeping moving well athletes!

Jim Shepherd








By: Jim Shepherd, CFA Mobility Coach

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