Mobility is an aspect of fitness that’s often overlooked in our training regimes. But this week we found out just how important it is from a world Taekwondo champion. This guy really knows what he’s talking about…
I can smell the ambition in the air as I enter #weMove, a functional fitness gym in the east of Nuremberg. The walls are painted lime green and the floor is covered in thick black matting. Ropes dangle from the ceiling and a man lifts his entire body weight effortlessly using calisthenic hoops and pure strength. A giant #weMove logo is spray-painted on one of the walls and the atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back. It’s clear that this is a place to train hard, work hard and enjoy the experience.
I’m greeted by Robert Hofmann, founder and creator of the #weMove concept. He’s 6”4, dark hair, friendly blue eyes and he has the build of a professional athlete. He grins and shakes my hand as he says “Willkommen to Nuremberg! You found us!”
This warm reception is symptomatic of the business Robert built from the ground-up. “I prefer to call it a school because we bring people knowledge about the body and its structure and how to move it correctly.” Robert explains that we’re likely to live to 90 or 100, so it’s important that we learn how to move properly throughout our training regime. “We think that to make progress we need to train hard and fast,” Robert explains. “But after years of hardcore training people realise their backs are damaged, their knees – and they can’t move anymore. Our training is not just about looking good now, but how to be healthy and pain-free in future.”
Robert knows what he’s talking about. He took up Taekwondo when he was six years old and since then moved through the German rankings to become part of the Olympic national team. “In 2004 I was a German National winner and 2005 was my first world championships. I came in 5th place. And then in 2016 I was Vice World Taekwondo Champion and European Champion.” Robert is modest about his professional background, only mentioning in passing that he won several global Opens, including the Dutch, the German, Austrian and US tournaments. “I was in the Olympic Taekwondo team but I didn’t participate in the Olympic games,” he adds.
Robert stopped working as a professional athlete shortly after his 2016 victory – he says he loved what he did but hated the politics of it. He decided to take everything he’d learnt from his life as a professional athlete and apply it to his own business. “I wanted to start my own thing, to share my knowledge, and create something that no one can get in the way of.”
As a result #weMove provides a unique and highly effective training system. “CrossFit is part of our system,” Robert says, “but when you first join you’ll start with structure and mobility. We train people to be good movers and a good mover is mobile, strong, coordinated – it’s a holistic thing.”
Robert believes that flexibility, strength and mobility are at the core of a healthy and well-rounded athlete – but many people are unaware of this. “People think they’ll get the body of Rich Froning (professional CrossFit athlete) by doing CrossFit. But that’s not how it works. They see him posting this crazy stuff on social media – but he doesn’t post the mobility and stretching that he does 80% of the time. I want to tell people the truth about a good, healthy athlete body. I hate those 12 week transformation programmes because I know how it works and to get a body like that is not that easy.”
Robert explains how, as a professional, he used to train from 6 – 8 hours a day. “Just one hour per day I did crazy training and 5 – 6 hours per day I went running for regeneration, stretching, mobility, stability – small movements with a huge effect.”
And the importance of mobility is at the core of the #weMove concept. “Mobility is the first thing an athlete should learn. It’s a mix between strength and flexibility.” Robert asks me to stand up and lift my leg. He pushes it as high as it will go. “Now I’ll let it go – try and lift it just as high with your own strength.” I lift it about half the height. “The higher you can get your leg by yourself, the better your mobility – and that is why it’s a combination of strength and flexibility.”
Today Thorsten, who Robert explains is “the CrossFit guy,” is leading our mobility class. I’m surprised to see that the class is at capacity – the members of this gym clearly take mobility seriously. Robert has taught them well.
We all sit in a circle and Thorsten begins the class with leg and hip mobility, standing and swinging each leg as high as it will go. I’ll be honest, I’m expecting this class to be pretty relaxed. How much work can a good stretch be? Famous last words.
We sit on our butts and push our knees out to the side. “Now twist left to right,” Thorsten instructs us. This exercise is designed to open your hips and was shockingly painful. Each person in the room yelps as Thorsten walks around correcting and helping each individual.
Next we go on all fours and spread our knees out to the side in a twisted variation of the hip-opener, which is even more uncomfortable than the previous exercise. The amazing thing about mobility classes is that these movements are simple but they hurt a lot. This is a sign that your body needs these kinds of exercises.
After a few more hip-opening exercises we move over to a metal structure to work on our shoulders and triceps. We hold an arm against the structure and push forward, opening our shoulders for a painstaking minute each. We then lift our elbow above our head and push against our triceps to mobilise the muscles.
Next Thorsten hands out some wooden poles and we enter the most challenging part of the session. First up: shoulder dislocates. We hold the pole above our heads, arms stretched and hands spread wide and then circle it over our heads. It’s wildly uncomfortable, but the worst is yet to come. We sit in a half-lotus position on the floor and creep our arms in front of us. “Do you drive regularly?” Thorsten asks me as I struggle to move my arms past my ankles. I realise he’s asking because I’m so inflexible. “I’m from London,” I responded. “I’ve never driven a car in my life.”
If you’d like to try mobility we have tons of partners across Germany, Italy, France and Spain. Take a look at our site to see what’s on in your area.
And check out weMove’s website to find out more about their unique training concept.