One of the biggest mistakes men and women make in the gym is getting too caught up with the entire aesthetic focus of fitness. We know that you want to look good but at what cost? You may be giving away the most important attribute of mobility and health while you’re at it.
In the MMA gym I go to, we always say “I don’t want to be good at exercising, I want to be good at fighting.” In other words, even though it is rigorous physical exercise, the physical training we serves a purpose. And the aesthetic benefits we get from it is secondary. In this manner functional and mobility training is the same, the first goal is to train your body to develop functional strength and mobility. The aesthetic aspect of the training is just a bonus (albeit a big one).
Mobility training is known to benefit all types of workouts out there but is often neglected by most. Even in the martial arts world, mobility training is lacking. With the help of more mobility, martial artists, fitness enthusiasts, and athletes alike will be less likely to hit plateaus or develop chronic injuries.
Mobility is also known to remedy many existing injuries, along with benefiting your performance and overall form. That said, we are going to be introducing you to some of the very best mobility training programs out there. Let’s first delve into what these exercises mean?
What Is Functional Mobility Training?
We already know what flexibility signified but a lot of people out there confuse this with mobility. There is actually quite a lot of difference between the two. Flexibility signifies an athlete’s ability to move their joints around without stiffness and pain through a wide range of motions.
An example of flexibility can be where you can lift your leg by pulling them with the assistance of your hands and arms. With mobility, however, you will be allowed to control whole ranges of motion only using your muscles.
When we speak about mobility, we are referring to the range of motion that can be done by our muscles alone. Mobility, in simple words, refers to the strength of our muscles in all their wide ranges of motion. Simply put, mobility is the ability to make your body the way it wants to.
An example of mobility can be the ability to control the entire ranges of your leg movement simply with the help of your leg muscles. Unlike flexibility, mobility doesn’t require assistance from other muscles to move.
Now that we know the difference, let’s look at the importance of mobility training.
The Importance of Mobility Training Over Resistance Training (Weights)
Usually, we would just walk into our gyms and begin resistance training right away by lifting weights. At best, we would see people sticking to a 5-minute warm-up such as the elliptical trainer or the exercise bike.
While these warm exercises shouldn’t be neglected, it is the point between doing a warm-up and hitting all the weights that is important.
We previously wrote an article about whether or not to work resistance training into your workouts if you are a martial artist, so if you want to read that,go to the link provided.
Keep in mind that we are not saying to neglect resistance training at all. In fact, resistance training should be built into your workout repitoire as it has been shown to be very advantageous to the body and mind. But we are saying is that there is more to fitness than resistance training---and other training modalities (such as mobility/functional training) has benefits over resistance training that should not be ignored.
A More Effective Warm-Up
Mobility training is known to benefit your entire workout in a way that a regular warm-up can never fulfill. Due to mobility training, our blood is moved to all our surrounding tissues. The fluid in our joints called synovial fluid helps them glide freely. It is carried effectively around the working joints like lubrication in preparation for the workout.
Reduced Risks of Injury
Among the biggest benefits of mobility training is that there is a reduced risk of getting injured. If there are any restrictions to moving joints, then there will be higher risks of getting injured, especially if you usually lift heavy weights. While you are lifting weights, you are confined to the range of motion that supports the weight you are using. However, when you are training with your body weight, your range of motion is only constricted to your mobility.
Improved Techniques and Ranges of Movement
Mobility training is also known to benefit your form. When your joints and muscles are much more flexibility, you will automatically get increased ranges of motion. This means you will have better technique while performing exercises. You also won’t struggle while performing the correct postures.
Now that you have some idea of what mobility training is, let’s introduce you to some online programs that offer gymnastics strength training (GST) and compound exercises. They have all been reviewed in terms of features, pricing, and other offerings. So, let’s get right to it:
Functional/Mobility Training Comparison Chart
Difficulty Level (1-5)
GymFit TV by Gymnastics Bodies
Yes - One Week
$29.99/mo or $239.88/year
Yes - One Week
$295 onceor three payments of $99
Yes - One Week
$19.99/mo or $199.99/year
The Ready State (Mobility WOD)
Yes - 14 days
$14.99/mo or $155.88/year
Yes - 7 days
$13.95/mo or $150/year
GymnasticBodies.com is a program that was kickstarted by Coach Christopher Sommer – who is a world-renowned coach for gymnastics. He has been able to develop athletes for Olympics caliber – some of which were part of the US National Gymnastics team. Another astonishing fact is that Coach Christopher Sommer has over 40 years of experience!
They have recently done a rebrand that included changing the name of their program to GymFit TV by Gymnastic Bodies and also revamping their pricing structure. They now offer 4 integrated plans at $225 each. They also have 4 shorter series (fundamental, restore, stretch, and handstand) that are available for $99 each. However, if you want the whole 9 yards (4 integrated plans and 4 series), you can now get it all for $29.99/mo (billed monthly) or $19.99/mo (but billed yearly). They also offer a 7-day free trial on both the payment options.
As you can see, the dashboard is super clean and intuitive. Because Gymnastics Bodies has four different programs, it may be confusing to know which one to start with. So they did something pretty neat and have a short quiz of several questions to see where you current fitness level is, and then recommend you the program to start with. Here is the video of the short quiz below:
I think the new pricing structure will definitely take Gymnastic Bodies to a whole new audience as their old pricing structure priced a lot of people out who did not want to spend $100 (or much more) at a single time.
If you are doing this program, you will need some extra equipment, but not as much as you think. At most, you will need a dumbbell and gymnastics rings (or TRX bands) in the intro workouts. But at the more advanced levels, some of the stretches and exercises do use stall bars and other gymnastics-related equipment. But any equipment that is needed can be easily procured online or can be substituted with traditional gym equipment that you can find at any gym.
- A very well-laid-out plan that is generated according to your current fitness level
- Lead by world-renowned gymnastics Christopher Sommer, with over 40 years of experienced
- Tons of tutorials along with option to upload your own videos to website to be critiqued
- One week trial offered
- Four different levels with pre-populated (but modular) programming for different levels of fitness
- Extremely linear approach with structured sets that are progressions prior to moving on
- Very challenging program, even for those that are fit
- Video quality on some of the videos is less impressive than other programs. Some look amateur-ish, like they were filmed quite a bit ago on a non-HD camera.
GymFit TV by Gymnastics Bodies is made for those who want to go above and beyond everyday bodyweight exercises. This is one of the toughest programs on the list and is designed to challenge even really fit people. This program is mobility training on steroids. If you work through the whole program, you will not only be a lot stronger and more mobile, but your body will definitely be more defined also.
Best program for those already fit and want to work on next-level gymnastic movements
2. GMB Fitness
GMB stands for Gold Medal Bodies and we found them to be fairly nice people who have quite a lot of talent. All of this can be deduced from their free tutorials. Their pricing structure is quite transparently available on their site as well. GMB Fitness was one of the first big body weight functional fitness programs online, along with Gymnastics Bodies.
And like Gymnastics Bodies, GMB Fitness offers a la carte programs that are broken up into four (Elements, Integral Strength, Vitamin, and Focused Flexibility). You can buy all four in a bundle or buy each program separately. Each of the four program focuses on specific elements of functional fitness. Each program is $95 each as the publishing of this article. However, you can bundle all four programs together and get all four programs of $295.
- You can select a la carte program for $95 each, or the full bundle for $295.
- Catered to all fitness levels
- Comes with one week free trial
- No monthly payment option
- No dedicated strengthening program
GMB Fitness is a program made for those that want to improve their mobility without the need for extra equipment or needing to be extremely fit. Unlike GymFit TV by Gymnastics Bodies, GMB is not a linear progression program. If can jump around the program and work on what you like. Like Gym Fit TV, there is an assessment you can take to see what the ideal starting program for you is.
Ideal program for those who want to be able to become more agile and mobile, without a rigid training program or extra equipment.
3. Animal Flow
When you hear GMB Fitness, you will often hear Animal Flow being associated with it. That is because the two programs are extremely similar in form and foundation. If you have tried GMB Fitness Elements and are wondering what the differences between the two are, watch this video below:
Animal Flow is created to be a free-flowing program with less structure than many of the other programs listed in this article. Like the name infers, Animal Flow's program is modeled after natural movements of animals. They call it the ABCs of animal travel: Ape, Beast, and Crab. In other words, most of the movements will start with all four limbs on the floor.
The online "on demand" program is $19.99 a month after a 7-day free trial. They have made the program truly on demand as you can watch it on your Roku, Firestick, Android TV, or Apple TV, in addition to streaming it on your phone via mobile app or laptop via website.
When you first log into the program , you are presented with 5 options as seen above.
Tutorials feature short 3 to 8 minute tutorials that teach you how to do specific movements of your flows. As these movements are not common movements seen in the gym or fitness regimens, it is good to browse through this section first to get familiar with the movements. If you are familiar with breakdancing, you will find that many of these movements are similar. These are separated into sections according to difficulty. There are 38 videos in the Tutorials section as of the publishing of this article.
Flows feature short 2 to 5 minute progressions of the movements you learn in the Tutorials section. These flows are also separated into sections according to difficulty. Many of these are very rapid progressions, much faster than yoga. Here is a short snippet of a sample a beginner's flow.
Classes feature 10 to 30 minute recorded workouts that are organized according to fitness goals and fitness level. There are even HIIT workouts to bring up your heart rate to improve cardiovascular fitness.
Getting Started just features an introduction into the Animal Flow program and a 14-minute wrist mobility exercise video.
Flow of The Week is just a one video per week featuring a specific flow.
If you are not interested in the $19.99/mo online "on demand" program, they have some other options for you to learn Animal Flow. They have videos available from $49.95 to $99.95. They also have an e-book tailored towards fighters called Animal Flow for Fighters.
- $19.99 a month is one of the more expensive options on this list
Animal Flow is a terrific movement program for those who want to strictly work on mobility and flexibility. A lot of these movements are taken from yoga, breakdancing, gymnastics, and mimic animal movement. If you are looking to get buff, this program may not be for you; however you will get stronger, especially if you are not used to moving this way.
Animal Flow exercises are animal locomotion based, so you will be using your hands a lot to post against the floor. So wrist flexibility and mobility is essential . If you have weak wrists, you may want to dedicate sometime to their wrist mobility workouts. If you have medical contraindications that prevents you from overusing your wrists or hands, this program may not be for you.
Best for those who want to improve agility and gain the ability to do some cool movements.
The system of MovNat follows a formula which is X= T+ E+ P+ M+ L.
In this equation, X stands for MovNat’s curriculum, T represents the pool of movements with desirable outcomes, E is the effect on everyone’s body and improved health, P is the applicability to everyone’s body, M is the exercise’s connection to the body and mind, and L is the transferability of all these into our everyday lives. The philosophy behind MovNat is to truly get good at natural movement.
The program works to teach customers about the fundamental technique behind simple exercises. These will then slowly increase in volume, intensity, complexity, and another variable. In simple terms, you will slowly be made physically ready to take on harder exercises. Other than simple mobility training, MovNat also offers training with unconventional methods, such as running barefoot on rocks, climbing trees, and lifting oddly-shaped logs. The guiding principle of MovNat is to blend nature with movement, thereby staying true to the definition of natural movement.
They have three intro programs that are completely free with videos and an e-book. Here is a glimpse of the material they have for free:
They also have longer videos available for free too, such as this 23 minute restoration series:
However, if you are ready to immerse yourself fully into their program that has 7 full lessons that covers all of natural movement (ground movement, crawling, gait, lifting and carrying, throwing and catching, jumping, and climbing), then you can get their full online e-course for $399. The course is called Natural Movement Fundamentals and total 6 hours and 14 minutes of exercises and instruction. If you are not ready to shell out $399 for their course, you can get a quick gander of their philosophy by taking a look at the The Practice of Natural Movement book, which you can get online at Amazon.
If you are interested in attending one of their live workshops after going through their online program, you can go to this page and look at their schedule. For you martial artists reading, they also have a combatives workshop. They actually have legit fighters teaching the workshops, such as Carlos Condit. However, it seems as though the workshop is extremely limited in scope. This is actually a testimonial from an experienced martial artist who took the combatives course:
Vic didn’t make any promises about turning anyone into a world-class fighter, but he delivers a curriculum on the fundamentals of human combat that every capable human should know. This course isn’t to craft UFC champions, it’s to make capable human beings, and from my years of martial arts experience and knowledge of biomechanics and physiology I can tell you MovNat chose the right bits to include.
- The have a lot of free material you can use
- The program aims to teach customers about the fundamental technique behind simple exercises.
- These will then slowly increase in volume, intensity, complexity, and other variables
- The program blends nature with movement, truly offering training on natural movement
- There is no option for monthly payments for their online course
- The online course is expensive, coming in at $399
MovNat is a free program that aims to bring back natural movement through easy-to-do exercises. They have built quite a big community through the years
Best program for those already fit and want to work on next-level gymnastic movements
5. The Ready State (Mobility WOD)
The creator of this mobility and movement program is Dr. Kelly Starrett and he is well-known in the world of sports and functional fitness. His Wikipedia profile says he is a Crossfit trainer but no worries, The Ready State is not a Crossfit course. Rather, it is a course to prevent injury and increase mobility/flexiblity in those that participate in sports (such as Crossfit).
This program has specifically designed areas that intersect with scientific disciplines such as exercise, ergonomics, metabolism, nutrition, and behavior analysis. All of these combine to form the Movement and Mobility 101 course.
The program focuses your efforts on mastering posture and then accumulating the exercise to maximum reps. The program has a 14-day free trial and it consists of 4 modules and about 77 videos – which means over 10 hours of instructions. The course is broken into three sections, Workout, Pain, and Daily Maintenance.
The Ready State doesn't seem to have any linear progression to the course. It is really pick-you-own-adventure with The Ready State. In the Workout section, you pick the workouts or sports you are going to do, and then it will direct you towards exercises you can do before and after the workout/sport for you to do to get ready. In the Pain section, you pick the specific part of the body you are feeling the pain and it will direct you towards exercises you can do. In the Daily Maintenance section, it has a lot of videos ranging from 10-30 minutes of stretches and exercises you can do to maintenance your daily flexibility and mobility. There is definitely no shortage of content in The Ready State course.
Overall, The Ready State aims to be a course that attempts to teach athletes and fitness enthusiasts low impact exercises to increase mobility and flexibility while working to prevent injury.
After the free trial, you have the option of paying $12.99/mo (billed annually) or $14.99/mo billed monthly. Which makes it out to $155.88 or $179.88 per year, depending on how you want to be billed.
This program is great for those who want a low impact program, and don't want to necessarily improve agility and don't care about wanting to do acrobatic movements.
Best program for those who want a low-impact program that lets you go at your own pace.
This streaming video-based product has been aimed at the audiences to teach them about flexibility, breathing, mobility, and increasing performance. This audience comprises of Olympic athletes, CrossFit athletes, and people who are generally looking to improve their ranges of motion for muscles.
The workout videos are very effective and casual users will find that the videos have been beautifully filmed, well-thought-out, and well-narrated. Access to this program will cost users $13.95 every month (or $150 a year) for personal use after a 7-day free trial.
In this course, you are presented with a workout-of-the-day (WOD) everyday. These workouts consists of videos anywhere from 15 minutes to almost an hour. Aside from the WOD videos, there are also short videos (less than 1 minute) showing you specific exercises and movements. Each routine will also feature a long version and a short version so if you crunched for time, you can still complete a truncated version.
After going through the program, I have to say a lot of these exercises and routines are yoga-inspired. But that's not to say it is easy. Some of the workouts are actually pretty challenging from a flexibility standpoint. Many of these WOD videos involve 4-7 static stretches and do not include much plyometrics.
Overall, ROMWOD is a yoga-inspired flexibility program. But instead of a full hour yoga class where you go through many progressions, you get a shorter program which focuses on 4-6 main static stretches that really increases mobility and flexibility. However, I would say this product is extremely useful for anyone who participates in athletic endeavors that is hard on the body, such as martial arts, weight training, or Crossfit. It will bring a nice balance to the beating your body takes.
- A lot of static stretching, not enough movement training
ROMWOD is a program consisting mostly of static stretches. Each WOD will be sure to loosen many of your tight muscles up. Not a good program for those looking for increasing agility and proprioception through movement exercises.
Best program for who want to improve flexibility through static stretching
So there you have it, some of the more popular mobility and functional fitness programs on the internet. Mobility training and functional fitness is a very large umbrella that encompasses a lot of training modalities. On one extreme, you have programs that use hardcore bootcamp-style workouts and on the other extreme you have programs that focus on long static stretches. And then you have everything else in between. So what we are trying to say is that the program you choose should depend on what your fitness goals are.