This recent craze of doing prolonged stretches with the intent of increasing your mobility is nonsense. It is no doubt one of the better marketing ideas and manipulation of the scientific information available in recent memory. That is besides tummy wraps which help the fat “melt off”.
I have sort of held back on writing this because if people enjoy doing ROMWOD then that's excellent, have fun. I love shooting my bow and I don't want anyone to ever try to tell me to do otherwise. But the reason that I have finally decided to throw my two cents in (I certainly don’t carry a lot of clout around with my name) is because I have been watching a few of my lifters do this, and have seen no benefit. In two cases I have actually seen people regress in their stability and strength.
There is a recent notion that the the greater the ROM and more mobility, the better. However, that’s not 100% true. Every activity and sport requires a certain amount of ROM or mobility from each joint in order to perform the tasks safely. Just like having too little, too great a ROM can lead to injury. If it does not that’s great. However all of the time spent reaching the unnecessary ROM could be spent doing more productive things for your performance. I have been able to do a split for years, but I have never had to do a split to catch a snatch, or dodge a missed clean. It's just unnecessary.
Much smart people than myself have proven that prolonged stretching (which ROMWOD is) limits the ability of the muscles to do several things. These include the contractile force production for voluntary muscular contractions, adaptation to training stimuli, and stability at the end ROM.
Wait, what? That doesn't make sense you say? I will go a little further. Dozens, if not hundreds, of studies have shown that static stretching actually increases your risk for injury when exercising, decreases blood flow to muscles, and as mentioned before limits the ability for powerful muscular contractions for up to 48 hours. There is a reason that static stretching is no longer the method of choice for warm ups or even cool downs within the strength and conditioning field.
Doing a ROMWOD prior to training leaves you at best with limited force production ability (which means light weights feel heavy, heavy weights feel impossible). At worst you're leaving yourself vulnerable to pulled muscles because they are too cold, or pulled tendons because of a lack of stability due to the decreased contractile ability.
The idea of ROMWOD prior to training has another issue. The website claims that “ROMWOD’s focus on breathing techniques prepares your mind for battle. Your body is capable of doing anything your mind allows it to do, so training your mind to focus through any challenge can help your performance at the gym, on the field, and in life.” Unfortunately this is just not true. Slowing and controlling your breathing is an incredibly important skill and it does need to be developed. However, if you do this before you train or compete you will be activating the wrong side of your nervous system. When you train or compete you need to be firing on all cylinders Slow and controlled diaphragmatic breathing causes the parasympathetic nervous system to start up. This means your body is ready to rest not move. Your vagus nerves relax and your veins dilate, limiting the amount of blood flow to your heart so your have to pump harder and more rapidly to get the blood you need. Your ractive capabilities and decision making skills are also slowed. All of this happens on top of the muscular and tendon issues mentioned before.
The website says it can be done 5 minutes prior to training, but contradicts itself later on “ROMWOD is NOT a warm up! It is a system used by Kung Fu Warriors for centuries designed to open the body up without warming the body up. If your body warms up, then it is going to cool down, and when it cools down you are going to tighten up again. Performing the poses while cool allows the body to stay open and the athlete, like the Kung Fu Warrior, to be ready at a moment’s notice to battle whatever he faces at any time.” I have incredible respect for those who practice and perfect the art of kung fu, but we cannot base our training programs and systems off of philosophies that were made when people still thought the earth was the center of the universe. It is just nonsense.
Meditation has an incredible ergogenic effect on the body, but ROMWOD does not. ROMWOD can be fun, can be relaxing, and can even be informative, but it does not help performance! Sorry everyone posting their ROMWOD's on instagram, but your not getting anything out of it other than more followers.
If you need increased ROM because your sport or activity dictates you need it, there are much smarter and much more helpful methods. Myofascial release, strength training, awareness, and stability all have to be in place to achieve new ROM. Mixing them up in a “wod” means you will get none of the benefit for all of the work. If you are curious as to what these are, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com I would be more than happy to help with some of the things we do, or at least point you in the right direction.
Increasing your stability in current positions, and introducing new ROM is a smarter way to go about improving positions and mobility. If you continue to do ROMWOD as a strength or power athlete, you are hindering your progress and will eventually increase your risk of injury.
So stop following ROMWOD before you actually hurt yourself!