The Missing Link in Your Training
Mobility gives you the strength and control to bulletproof your body.
People have gotten pretty bad at performing basic human movements. "We've evolved from a society that moved to survive to one that hardly moves,” says Ariel Comeau, a Tier X coach at Equinox Tribeca in New York. "Your body adapts to whatever stimulus you give it. Since we sit all day and move mostly in the sagittal plane, we're severely lacking in range of motion and joint health." These habits inevitably leads to a decrease in mobility.
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 a session with an FRC mobility specialist for a more individualized approach.