Range of Motion. Heretofore, ROM.
It’s a somewhat tricky topic. Because of the variance in human bodies, human movement through a full range of motion looks different for each person. The concept of a full ROM in itself is generally understandable; for instance, taking a squat below parallel so that the hip crease sits below the knee joint, bringing the femur past 90 degrees. In simpler terms, ass to ankles.
It’s the issue of broadening and strengthening the ROM of an athlete that deserves a closer look. Not broadening in the sense of going beyond ROM, but fully executing it. Strengthening ROM in relation to the development and fitness benefits that are fully realized if performed correctly. Flexibility can be a limiting factor, but that’s correctable.
Imagine, if you will, a stereotypical old man or woman-- walking along at the grocery store, let’s say. Let’s put this elderly person at age 80. No, 90. How do they walk, in your mind? Hunched over, head down, short-stepping their way to the shredded wheat. (It has fiber, you know.)
What happened along those years that caused the posture deficiencies? Well, many things-- but the deterioration of ROM occurred in some shape or fashion. Decades of atrophy and joint issues limit ROM because our elderly population tends to stop being active. Or at the very least, mobile.
But this is about you, not Grandma or Grandpa. It’s about becoming the best athlete you can be. It’s about maintaining a quality of life that will always allow you to see... well, to see the stars. So, if you were to do some basic ROM tests on yourself, and you pay attention to moving your body through the intended ROM during specific exercises and throughout your workouts, you can remain the spry youngster that you are. Head up, shoulders back, striding your way to the almond butter. (It has good fats, you know.)
This brings us to the two glaring issues we see with ROM at the gym: 1.) People don’t have the ability to move a joint/joints through a full ROM. 2.) People don’t try to move through a full ROM.
Issue #1: Ability
CrossFit Mobility guru, Kelly Starrett, has done a year’s worth of videos for his website MobilityWOD.com and has also released a text on “becoming a supple leopard.” While he is most certainly not the only resource out there, he is definitely one to pay attention to, and has a great presence on the web.
Here's a taste of Starrett's style and message:
Overhead Squat/Snatch Prep
Better Pull-up Mechanics
Issue #2: Integrity
It’s about not taking shortcuts. It’s about refusing to get caught up in the clock, no matter how much emphasis we place on timed workouts in the CrossFit world.
Do you want to stay safe, remain uninjured, and better your fitness? Take yourself through the full movement.
That means press overhead and complete the extension at the arms, head through, ribcage down, midline safe. That means complete your kettlebell swing in a similar way. That means squat below parallel to recruit all targeted leg muscles, striving to activate glutes, hamstrings, and quads. That means get your chin over the bar without breaking or over-extending your spine on your pull-ups. That means touch the ground with your sternum on your burpees or push-ups, hit your thighs on sit-ups, open your hips to stand up on your box jumps, lock out your dips or handstand push-ups, and, and, and...
If you are moving forward, bettering yourself in this endeavor of strength and conditioning, then you’ll make ROM a priority. All the time. You’ll have the integrity to reel yourself back in during a fatigued state once a WOD gets going and the clock starts ticking. You’ll listen to your trainers, who prompt you to do so. And you’ll see critique for what it is—a chance to get better.
So, get to work on your ROM limitations. Ask, if you need some more help.
Cutting your ROM in a workout? You may beat someone else’s time, even your own, but you’re otherwise cheating yourself in both the short and the long run. Longevity, not the virtual whiteboard, should prevail. Remain self-aware, and check your ego if you have to.