Just How Effective Are Templated Stretching Routines?
ROMWOD (Range of Motion Workout of the Day) has been and continues to be a craze within the CrossFit® Community. Almost every major CrossFit® Games athlete endorses ROMWOD in their social media posts. ROMWOD is even a major sponsor of the CrossFit® Competition series now. But does ROMWOD actually work as it is advertised and sold?
Perhaps the reason for its popularity among fitness enthusiasts is that it’s one of the few platforms to offer easily accessible, video based stretching routines to complement one’s current CrossFit® training regimen. Generally speaking, warm-up and cool-down activities tend to be the lowest of priorities among athletes. The creators of ROMWOD saw a prolific lack of stretching among CrossFit® enthusiasts and smartly capitalized on it.
Many are drawn to doing ROMWOD because they believe it’s “optimizing” their range of motion. This usage of the word ‘optimize’ plays somewhat on the athletes desire to seek physical perfection and is a bit vague in its application. What is ‘optimal’ for you depends on whatever your athletic pursuit is and as such is highly individualized. Still, if you are seeking improved mobility, ROMWOD or any templated stretching service may not be the solution.
ROMWOD is a subscription based online service that provides daily stretching videos featuring a variety of random athletes. According to their website, their videos and exercises are meant to increase range of motion, optimize athletic performance, and promote recovery, healing, and longevity.
Overall, ROMWOD believes the most important thing holding athletes back is their limited range of motion. Their solution involves unique static stretches held out for extremely long periods of time. Their audience generally comprises of CrossFit® enthusiasts.
Contrary to ROMWOD’s claims, increased range of motion alone won’t necessarily increase your athletic performance. In some cases, an increase in range of motion can actually hinder it. New ranges of motion (ROM) need to be trained properly, so motor control, stability, and strength can be gained. What it likely will do is get you into more of a parasympathetic state which comes from deep breathing and relaxing music. A parasympathetic state is critical to allowing for soft tissue change.
In addition, the prolonged stretching required of every ROMWOD session can limit the ability of your muscles to do several things: produce contractile force for voluntary muscular contractions, provide adaptation to training stimuli and provide stability at the end of your range of motion. Moreover, static stretching has been shown to limit the ability for powerful muscle contractions if done over long periods of time. This is a part of the reason why static stretching is no longer the method choice for warm-ups or even cool-downs within the strength and conditioning field.
Many individuals who feel ‘tight’ might feel that stretching is the answer to increasing their range of motion, when it can often be a stability issue causing those restrictions in movement. For people who are already highly mobile, they typically should create optimal strength throughout their full range of motion.
There’s also the matter of the different types of stretches one engages in in their daily video programming. Some of them, depending on the individual’s mobility, are actually quite difficult. Someone with severe lack of range of motion won’t get the same response ROMWOD or other templated mobility routines that generally is assumed to occur.We do understand there are a few people who enjoy ROMWOD as an activity rather than a tool of training. If this is the case, you should keep doing it. We don’t want to deprive people of activities they enjoy.
Instead of doing ROMWOD to improve your mobility, you should get assessed by a coach or a movement practitioner who understands the demands of your sport. Such experts will be able to systematically address your specific weaknesses and work with you to improve them over time with repeated assessments to chart progression. They will take into account your past movement history, sports you’ve played, injuries you’ve had, your day-to-day, and other factors all of which influence the way that you move today. Without this, you’re essentially leaving improvements in movement quality to guesswork.
However, we do recognize that the majority of those that participate in ROMWOD do so because they have mobility and range of motion issues they want to improve.
If you are someone who is “tight” ROMWOD might not be a great choice for you due to the tension in your tissues. More active based ROM drills might suit you better.
If you are someone who is mobile but has areas that are “tight” ROMWOD might not be a great choice for you as you probably lack strength, motor control, and stability at those joints. More static holds. Strength progressions, and tension based pieces would be more prudent for your areas.
What are your thoughts on ROMWOD? Let us know in the comments below.