I have been involved in CrossFit over the last five years as a competitor, coach, and a chiropractor treating CrossFit athletes. It seems every couple of years a new mobility program comes along that captures the functional fitness community’s attention. First, it was Kelly Starrett and Mobility WOD that introduced everyone to the concept of mobility. Most recently, everyone has been performing their daily 20 min ROMWOD session. Whilst, the above mobility programs have merit and have introduced the CF athlete to the concept of “body maintenance” my clinical brain always thought something was missing. Last year, I stumbled upon a new product and system called “Stick Mobility”. I visited their website and watched a few YouTube videos of the founders performing what appeared to be stretches and isometric holds utilising an orange bendy stick. I was intrigued. I became even more intrigued when I found out the team behind RockTape UK was bringing the product to the UK. Fast forward to last November and I had the honour of spending four days with two of the American founders of Stick Mobility learning the ins and outs of using the sticks.
The term “mobility” in CrossFit is overused and misunderstood. To many, mobility is confused with flexibility, which is the ability to move a joint passively without pain. In fact, mobility is the ability to move a joint with flexibility, stability, and motor control whilst being strong in those positions. Many people may be able to squat “ass to grass”, but are they stable and strong, in that position? Additionally, can they maintain the mobility whilst under fatigue? Do they own that new found range?
The founders define Stick Mobility as system that helps increase range of motion and improves neuromuscular awareness. The stick is used as a tool to increase functional range of motion, improve strength, posture, stability, and motor control. The system utilises leverage against the stick in order to achieve positions your athletes are unable to achieve in a passive stretch. Isometric contraction against the stick in different vectors and planes can further enhance the positions, turning a passive activity into an active one.
CrossFit athletes spend a lot of of time performing sagittal plane (flexion and extension) activities. Much dysfunction occurs due to lack of time in the transverse and frontal plane (rotation and abduction/adduction). Whilst, performing flexion and extension the body stabilises itself in the transverse and frontal plane. Stick Mobility utilises rotation along with ab/adduction with a sagittal plane activity such as a couch stretch. This allows the body to utilise fascial trains or slings in order to stabilise the body in these notoriously weak positions. This in turn creates a more stable, functional, and powerful athlete.
Stick Mobility truly is “Mobility Made Better” as it teaches the body to generate force from core to extremity. It is not uncommon to hear functional fitness athletes make comments about grip or tearing their hands. Hand tears and grip weakness is directly related to core strength. Try to hold your grip tight and feels your abs. You will notice its difficult too grip tight unless your core engages. If you are struggling through a set of toes to bar because of poor stability, you will grip tighter to produce more force. Many Stick Mobility movements are performed whist squeezing the rubber textured end of the stick or pushing down into the stick. This handle was designed to stimulate the grip in order to switch on the core.
Many people, especially newer members struggle with many functional fitness movements due to poor ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility. Stick Mobility was designed with this in mind. Protocols include foot, ankle, pelvic, and thoracic mobilisations. Movements also include hip hinge, bird dog, planks, and other movements coupled with isometric contraction in order to optimise these positions. The Stick Mobility system can help the beginner all the way to the elite athlete. Stick Mobility is being used by many professional sport teams in the United States and was recently picked up by the England Rugby strength and conditioning coaches and physio team.
Stick Mobility can either be used in a class setting or by the individual athlete. The Sticks can be used as part of a CrossFit class warm-up, cool down, or as a stand alone mobility class. Stick Mobility UK offers one day courses or weekend certifications. Get booked on today!
By Rob Crowley http://www.crossfitgain.co.uk/team/rob-crowley