Category Archives: Mobility

CrossFit News for Health: Yoga stretching and mobility training protect against infection.

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Stiff, Inflexible, Invincible WODMasters shirt for the Masters CrossFit Athlete. And for other people who may also be stiff and inflexible.

CrossFit News.  CrossFit  and Yoga seem like polar opposites. CrossFit is hard driving. Speed and raw strength matter. Yoga can also be very challenging, but yoga evokes control, grace and peace. While not ideal, CrossFit participants can often be seen sacrificing grace for reps. What can yoga teach us as CrossFit athletes? Control, grace and inner peace may also be important for CrossFit performance and practice.

CrossFit News: CrossFit Masters Athlete works on mobility and maybe protects himself from colds, fungi and bacteria.
CrossFit News: CrossFit Masters Athlete works on mobility and maybe protects himself from colds, fungi and bacteria.

Why research on Yoga and the immune system is CrossFit News

First a little background:  Humans produce their own anti-bacterial coatings.  A peptide called Beta-Defensin-2 was first discovered in infected skin.  Since then it has been found to be produced in other cell types too.  Examples include cells lining the nose, mouth and airways.  Beta Defensin 2 protects against infection by certain types of germs.  The germ types are called “gram negative.”  Beta Defensin doesn’t seem to protect against Staph infections though.  Fortunately there are other forms Defensins that protect against a range of viruses, fungi and bacteria.  You should still wash your hands after working out at your CrossFit box or anywhere else where you are sharing workout equipment.  Be a friend and wash your hands before you workout too.

Crossfit Shirt Yoga Shirt for Strong women
Yoga and Crossfit Build Strong Women. Visit the WODMASTERS shop for all your strong woman needs

Researchers wanted to know if Yoga would increase Beta-Defensin in people who were not physically active.  The hope was that gentle stretching and movement would boost immune function in people who could not do vigorous exercise.    The study participants were all older adults (ages ~60 to 80).   The research team is also hoping to find out if stretching and mobility training (as Yoga) would reduce lung infections.

What was done?

Researchers had participants do yoga for 90 minutes.  Subjects didn’t do any of the yoga breathing stuff.  Spit samples were collected before and after.  The samples were tested for Beta Defensin-2.  Results: a single 90 minute yoga session resulted in increased saliva levels of Beta Defensin 2.

CrossFit News take away.

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Our Lady of the Kettlebells Strong Woman shirt. Available only at WODMASTERS

Yoga might be a good thing to add to your fitness life.  While the study didn’t look at CrossFit Mobility training its reasonable to expect similar benefits.  Some have a hard time doing stretching and mobility.  Maybe its time to give stretching, mobility and yoga its due.

ResearchBlogging.org

Eda N, Shimizu K, Suzuki S, Tanabe Y, Lee E, & Akama T (2013). Effects of yoga exercise on salivary beta-defensin 2. European journal of applied physiology, 113 (10), 2621-7 PMID: 23925803

CrossFit Weightlifting Flexibility and the Masters CrossFit Athlete

CrossFit trainers and Masters CrossFit: weightlifting flexibility strength

You’ve probably heard it. “pull yourself under the bar”, “you’re not going down enough” “full range of motion”.  Sometimes CrossFit trainers seem to get aggravated and may end up ignoring masters athletes who don’t “listen” to their advice. For many the situation is more complex than choosing not to respond.

Bob Takano coaches weightlifting
Coach Bob Takano and Masters Weightlifter Scott Miller work together in an attentive and thoughtful manner. Both would look better in WODMasters shirts
Coach Bob Takano (l) and Masters Athlete Scott Miller (r) at the 2011 SPLWC Championships

The two most important factors limiting weightlifting ability (here we mean simply ability to pull, push, and lift) are balance and joint strength (Fischer et al. 2012). There may be some truth to the “believe in yourself model”, but there are also psycho-neurological factors. If you feel off-balance you will be less comfortable taking risks that may put you further off balance and increase your odds of getting hurt. Your brain is looking out of you. For a lot of people, especially older guys, balancing in a squat is tough. They may not be able to balance steadily in squat position. Increasing flexibility in the hips, legs and back will help them improve form and increase weight loads. Some WODMasters swear that Active Release Technique, a form of Chiropractic, has helped them enormously. Only one paper, a pilot study, was found on this technique, but the authors felt it was promising.

The second point is that of joint strength. Your lifts will be limited by the weakest link. Improving strength in your weak spots will help you achieve greater loads on major lifts like squats, deadlifts, cleans etc. For some, especially for women, the weak link may be hand strength. Those annoying farmer carries may be a good bet.

Crossfit weightlifting and flexibility: getting one on one coaching

Lastly, and most importantly for injury prevention as well as just plain getting better at CrossFit, is get some specialized Olympic Lifting coaching. Someone with a Level 1 CrossFit Certification may know little about proper lifting technique, and even less about teaching. If you are in Southern California, look up Bob Takano. He is an excellent teacher.

Scott Miller has been lifting and working with Bob Takano for about two years.  Great form.

Fischer SL, Brenneman EC, Wells RP, & Dickerson CR (2012). Relationships between psychophysically acceptable and maximum voluntary hand force capacity in the context of underlying biomechanical limitations. Applied ergonomics, 43 (5), 813-20 PMID: 22245635

Robb A, & Pajaczkowski J (2011). Immediate effect on pain thresholds using active release technique on adductor strains: Pilot study. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 15 (1), 57-62 PMID: 21147419

Training for balance, strength and agility.

Spending a little effort on balance and sensori-motor training will improve your performance in WODs as well as in Olympic lifting.  The most effective balance training programs are exercises that are done at least three times a week and should be done long term.  This is something a lot of CrossFit-ters and Boxes seems to overlook.  (Boxes, for the uninitiated are essentially CrossFit gyms or clubs.)  Balance training will make you better able to respond to sudden physical demands (as you would experience transitioning from one WOD element to another, or simply slipping on something).  Sensorimotor training can improve force output and protect against injuries (Gruber & Gollhofer 2004).  This is likely because it can increase your rate of response and, let’s assume, the quality of your response.

There are a number of simple things you can do to improve your balance and responsiveness.  You can do standard balance exercises such as standing on one foot or standing on a wobble board.  You can increase the challenge by doing these things on unstable surfaces.  For example, balancing on one foot on a pillow.  This will be easier for some than for others.  If its easy try adding a little more challenge by attempting the following:

  •  Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. 
  •  Stand on one foot while extending the other foot behind you at a right angle.  Keep your hips parallel to the ground.  Try this while walking the dog.  Try to hold your balance each time your animal stops to relieve itself (try not to look as though you are joining it in this activity)
  • Try the same pose each time your dog tries to attack a passing car.   
  • And there’s yoga.

DiStefano LJ, Clark MA, & Padua DA (2009). Evidence supporting balance training in healthy individuals: a systemic review. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 23 (9), 2718-31 PMID: 19910803  

Gruber M, & Gollhofer A (2004). Impact of sensorimotor training on the rate of force development and neural activation. European journal of applied physiology, 92 (1-2), 98-105 PMID: 15024669.