T Nation

Mobility Work


I've got an interest in olympic lifting in the future, but seeing as I can't even high bar back squat with perfect form, I'm not going to try without a lot more mobility. I've been watching kstar's mobility wod for a starting point. Doing this has led me to assume every part of me is tight. I've only been active for the past few years, and even then, I've never done mobility work really. I know I've set up trigger points in my hams before. I've also got flat feet, and I walk like a duck (out toeing). I weigh 165, at 5'9", 20 yrs.

For the past month, I've started foam rolling and stretching regularly with some results, and front squatting instead of back squatting. My racking position is still lacking a bit, but I can actually get atg on the front squat, with pretty good form. I stopped back squatting because I began to push with my toes rather than the heels, and began to feel discomfort in the back of the knees. It took about 2-3 weeks for that discomfort to go away once I stopped back squatting, so I think that was a good move. A competitive powerlifter helped me on form, and told me I've got very long femurs, just as long as my torso. When I did a good back squat, I noticed an amazing amount of tightness in the front of my calves (peroneals I think they're called). I could just barely do it with nothing on the bar.

So as you can see my body is just all screwed up. Lol.

You've got my base info, so my main questions are
-what are the best mobility exercises? I just need somewhere to start from, and I'm good at sticking with routines. Remember assume everything is tight. And keep in mind my special issues.
-how often to do these exercises? I'm willing to go at it everyday, but I don't know if that's a good idea or not.

Thanks to anyone who helps out!


I suppose I should note my various idiosyncrasies don't affect me beyond perhaps changing my range of motion a bit. I can do any motion, but the range of motion is altered by these abnormalities in subtle ways. I don't expect physical therapist quality advice, but if anyone else has run into these problems, perhaps they could be of extra help. If not, just give me your general advice.




I have mobility troubles, too. I also thought that I'd work through the mobilityWOD series... Only... I've just recently come to the conclusion that it is harming me more than helping my Olympic Lifting. I thought that the mobilityWOD series was a set of stuff that was used for postural / movement assessment and one should expect to do them all comfortably... But now I'm not so sure.

What matters is the positions. The set up, the second pull, the extension, the catch. Then the smooth transition between these positions. Someone or other said the best exercise for improving your squat mobility was to squat and I think there is a lot of sense in that. Try a position. Does something feel tight? Then work on that and see whether you worked on it usefully by testing the position again.

I have an EVA foam roller and a hard plastic softball (a lacrosse ball would do). It actually takes me about an hour of rolling tensions and pressure point releasing tight muscles before I can even approximate the Oly positions. Every day I do this I think I'm far to old and decrepit for Oly Lifting really... But it really is so much fun.

I think the muscles need to be able to relax in order for you to move fast... But you also need to activate things in order for you to hit the positions tightly / transmit force to the bar. Activation drills can be useful too...


Everything that Alexus said is right.

Basically Mobility in your ankles and hip. Flexibility in your calf, Hip flexor, glutes and adductor magnus.

Try assess yourself.

Add a 5kg plate under your heels. Then squat down. How much better do you feel? Is it more comfortable? If so then Ankle mobility definitely needs to be increased.

Remember Flexibility refers to Muscles. Mobility is more Joint range of motion.

Also MobilityWOD "calf Game" very good stretch for the calves

This next one helped me the most


with your squat...

get oly shoes. seriously. the additional heel height is a wonderful wonderful thing.

when i first started learning to squat for oly lifting i learned this drill:

holding the 5kg plate out front really helps balance. the aim is to drop your torso straight down towards your ankles. you might find restriction in your ankles (that is where oly shoes / standing on plates will help). you might find a massive stretch for your adductors / hamstrings / hip flexors. doing the movement slowly... is the best thing i found to improve my squat mobility. you can of course pause at the bottom if you want. aim to push that bottom position a little lower over time. eventually you will get to the proper end of your range of motion. i used to do 5x5 of these. until things felt comfortable. maybe spend some time stretching out your wrists so you can hold the bar comfortably in the rack position, too. once these are comfortable you can try and front squat with the bar. it is a very very similar movement. plate squats prepared me well.



In what way have you found mobilityWOD to be harmful to your olympic lifts? I don't ask suspiciously, but out of interest. One thing to remember when trying to work through the exercises on mobilityWOD is that Kelly Starrett has excellent mobility, so he can get into the positions easily. The point is that we SHOULD be able to get into these positions, but we're so tight we can't. More mobility means more weight on the bar when it comes to the Oly lifts. Technique means nothing if you can't get into the proper positions. The problem is most of us have well-crappy mobility. NORMAL mobility is having full-ROM in the joints and then being able to push slightly beyond. Most of us, however, consider that to be amazing mobility... NORMAL mobility is being as flexible as a baby.

There are always ways to adjust if you can't get into a position. Take his "couch stretch" for example (2nd video - much easier to just watch than try and describe it - and repeated through many others). It is amazing for the anterior-chain/working on extension. However, the basic position is probably next to impossible to get into for someone who's really tight in the hip-flexors/quads, etc. A simple fix - move your knee away from the wall so the angle is not as acute. As you start to gain mobility, you should be able to move your knee closer and closer to the wall until eventually you can get into the position he is in.

I'm ranting, but my point is, take the positions in the mobilityWOD videos as goals to work towards. If you can get into the positions he does without problems then you don't have mobility issues. Simple.



Read this article. It should outline pretty much everything



Thanks for the responses all. I've pretty much already been doing what you've all recommended, and I had already read that squat article as well. I guess it just takes more time to work its magic. After about just a week of mobility work in addition to a month of stretching, I feel much better in the legs generally. It seems like mobility is much more important than stretching though.
I'll come back with more specific questions later perhaps.


mobilityWOD, yeah, no way that it should hurt your olympic lifting, alexus. you are doing it wrong (or doing too much!)


Thanks for taking the time to write that Guillefras. I've been thinking about it...

My concern is that some of the movements are overkill or something. Like doing the splits (as an example - not saying he thinks everyone should develop this mobility). I mean one could work on being able to do the splits... But is it worth investing the time in doing that? Depends on your goals. I'm not sure how much some of his mobility drills are a bit like that.

My initial plan was to start from the beginning and do one episode per day. But then that seemed silly. It seemed like a better idea to stop at a point where I had trouble and keep working on that until I didn't have trouble. I got to episode 2 with the hip flexor stretch. Where you plantarflex your foot against a wall and jam your knee into where the wall meets the floor. He was doing it with his other leg raised up in front with the foot on the ground. It feels... Wrong. Even doing it gently... Feels wrenching in a way that I'm not sure is good...

Technique means nothing if you can't get into the proper positions.

What is technique if it is not maintaining proper positions and transitions between them with a variety of loadings?

NORMAL mobility is being as flexible as a baby.

I'm not sure about that. Infants (and toddlers) bones are still setting... It might be that there is some kind of trade-off between flexibility / mobility and strength / stability... To support the adult body... I've read some stuff on this re: gymnasts. But I do grant that what we should have is much much greater than most people have - and certainly myself.

A simple fix - move your knee away from the wall so the angle is not as acute. As you start to gain mobility, you should be able to move your knee closer and closer to the wall until eventually you can get into the position he is in.

I see...


There was some discussion over here if you feel like weighing in...

Got pretty lengthy, though.


15th post down.

Actually, I see that you guys aren't necessarily disagreeing. I need to think more on this. And probably be a bit gentler.


No problems Alexus, and you definitely raise some points that I've thought about from time to time. In response to some of the things you wrote...

I agree to a certain extent. I don't think it's necessarily worth investing the time to do the splits, and most definitely what your goals are should dictate the kind of plan you have for your mobility. But I really do think that some of the movements are overkill only in the sense that you (meaning, anyone trying to get into his positions) simply may not have the requisite mobility to do it yet.

Funny, you and I both used the same video as an example to illustrate our point! I absolutely know what you mean about the wrenching feeling. Pretty yuck. But, that position should be viewed as the goal, not necessarily the start point. As I said, try moving your knee out from the wall initially. Alternatively, by doing a stretch prior to that one that biases the hip-flexor and hip-internal rotation you can give that area slack, so by the time you move to that particular stretch you've already "warmed up" as such.

As to the technique, that was poor wording on my part. What I was meaning is, it's all very well talking about technique, but if you don't have the requisite mobility to maintain those proper positions under load then it means nothing.

There is only a trade off between flexibility/mobility and strength/stability when you're talking about hyper-mobility. I think a lot of people who do weightlifting truly do underestimate how mobile you should be to do this sport well. To me, it's about readjusting the goalposts, so to speak. Take any Weightlifter at the olympics. Get them to do the stretches and mobility work on the MWod and I guarantee they'd crush it.


Also, I'm pretty sure that on one of Kelly Starett's videos he says you don't need to be able to do the splits (although I'm sure he can) as its not necessary. All the stuff on the mwod videos is usually geared towards what ever crossfit workout is going on that day and as crossfit includes the olympic lifts there is a lot of work on those positions.