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The missing link in your training

To take their fitness to the next level, athletes are increasingly seeking out trainers who specialize in a practice called Functional Range Conditioning (FRC). Developed by Andreo Spina, DC, it’s designed to improve tissue resiliency and joint function, mitigate injury, and increase flexibility and mobility.

FRC is getting more attention now in part because it has found its way into the MLB, NBA, and NFL, says Tony Ponte, a Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox Flatiron in New York City. Because of the uptick in interest, there are even group classes in the works around the world. When taught in a group setting, FRC is called Kinstretch.

Many people think mobility is synonymous with flexibility. “Flexibility is your range of motion at the joint while mobility is your ability to control that range,” says Comeau, who is certified in both FRC and Kinstretch. You likely have the flexibility to rest your foot or leg on a table. But if you were to pivot and try to hold your leg at the same height without the table’s support, it would probably cramp or drop. “This is where mobility comes into play,” she says.

Without it, flexibility doesn’t make you any more resilient when it comes to sustaining strength or avoiding injury, she says. It’s the combination that gives your ankle the support it needs to avoid a sprain when your foot lands on a tree root on a trail run, or allows you to snatch a barbell over your head without risking a shoulder tear.

In addition to keeping you healthy, enhancing your mobility can help you take exercises to the next level. The deep squat, for example, requires ankle dorsiflexion, hip flexion, thoracic spine extension, and shoulder flexion. Handstands call for wrist extension, shoulder flexion, thoracic spine extension, and scapular stability. All of these things can be enhanced through FRC exercises.

“Mobility can be the missing link in people’s training, so the more you practice, the better,” says Connor Gorny, an FRC specialist and Tier 3 trainer at Equinox Flatiron. (He has clients who see him twice weekly specifically for mobility work.) “With any type of exercise, you have to teach the brain. The more times the brain receives the stimulus, the quicker it can adapt to and own the new ranges of motion.”

In the video above, Comeau demonstrates an assortment of FRC movements. (She would normally perform four reps of each move rather than flow from one to the next.) Below, she breaks it down into a beginner's version she'd use in a Kinstretch class. This series addresses all the major points of attack, including the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders, so it’s a great place to start. Do this routine two to three times per week on active recovery days or before or after a workout. Complete four reps of each movement (on both sides where indicated). Book session with an FRC mobility specialist for a more individualized approach.

Swimmer hover in combat

Find combat base position by sitting with one leg bent and foot under glute, and the other leg bent with knee toward the ceiling, foot flat on the ground. Begin to build tension in your body. Place your hands behind your head, press your shoulder blades together, and reach your elbows as far behind you as possible. Hover hands behind head, then reach up, straightening your arms into a V. Rotate arms so thumbs face the ground, then move arms into a low V, with elbows bent and hands touching behind your lower back. Continue to press your arms as far behind you as possible. Take a deep breath, then reverse the movement for one rep.

Axial rotation in bear sit

Find bear sit position by driving knees as far apart as possible, legs bent at 90-degree angles, and outsides of feet resting on the floor. Straighten arms in front of you and press hands together to create tension through the upper body. Bring one knee toward the space between your feet, pressing it as close to the floor as possible. Hold at your deepest range of motion for three counts, then slowly return to start. Repeat on the other side for one rep.

Internal and external rotation hinge in 90/90

Find the 90/90 position by sitting with legs resting on the floor, one in front of you, one behind you, and legs bent at 90-degree angles. Straighten arms in front of you and press hands together to create tension through the upper body. Driving both legs into the floor, lift your back knee toward the ceiling. Hold for four counts, then push knee back into the floor as you lift your ankle and hold for four counts. That's one rep. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.

Butterfly in 90/90

Find the 90/90 position by sitting with legs resting on the floor, one in front of you, one behind you, and legs bent at 90-degree angles. Straighten arms in front of you and press hands together to create tension through the upper body. Lift your back leg and rotate it, driving knee toward ceiling, bringing foot forward. Rest foot on floor for butterfly position. Take a deep breath, then reverse to start. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.

Kinetic stretch in side split

Sit in a split, or as close to a split as possible, keeping spine tall. Begin to build tension through the body by engaging your core and legs. Lean forward, lowering your upper body as close to the floor as you can, then reverse the energy, driving legs into the floor, bringing upper body back to a seated position. That's one rep. Repeat.

Infinity hover in side split

Sit in a split, or as close to a split as possible, keeping spine tall. With core engaged, bend elbows and place one hand behind your upper back and the other behind your lower back, bringing them as close together as possible. Lift hands off your back and slowly switch sides, bringing the opposite hand behind your upper back, aiming to get hands closer together. That's one rep.

Pigeon to shoulder CARs with tennis ball

Find pigeon pose with one arm extended straight out in front of your body. Begin to squeeze the tennis ball to create maximum tension through the arm. Drive the arm overhead, maintaining a straight elbow and keeping the shoulders aligned with each other. When you can’t go any further, start to rotate the palm outward as you slowly reach the arm behind your back with elbow bent. Continue pressing as far behind you as possible as you bring the pinky finger to the floor behind you. Reverse and drive the thumb toward the ceiling, continuing to the front of the body and each side.

Modified hover in half split

Sit in a split, or as close to a split as possible, keeping spine tall. Begin to build tension through the body by engaging your core and legs. Bends arms and press hands together in front of chest. Slowly bend your left leg, bringing foot toward the space between your feet in front of your body, and rest foot on floor. Return to start. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.