CaliMove Mobility Program Review

Several months ago, I posted a review of the Athlean-X programs I've done so far.  Since then, I decided to branch out a little and try some of the programs from Calisthenic Movement.  I'm a fan of their YouTube channel, which includes some extremely good exercise demos and other high-quality content, so I was confident I could trust their programs to be at least decent.  I decided to start with their Mobility program.

What is mobility and why would I train it?

Mobility training is quite different from the other programs I've done so far, which are focused on strength and athleticism.  Mobility is a completely different thing - it's about how much you can move your joints.  This is somewhat different from flexibility in that flexibility is about how far a joint can move in absolute terms, whereas mobility is about how far it can move under its own power, so to speak.  So, for example, if you bend your wrist backwards as far as you can using just  the muscles of that arm, that's mobility.  If you move it even farther back by pressing your hand against the wall, that's flexibility.

So why do a mobility program?  Well, I noticed my mobility was lacking.  The big sign for me was my shoulders.  I'd noticed that while my shoulder strength was definitely increasing (as measured by how much weight I could lift), I wasn't able to move them as far as I should.  For example, if I laid in bed with my arm above my head, it wouldn't lay flat.  It would just sort of hover because my shoulder wouldn't go that far without some additional pressure - it was just too tight.

I also had issues with squatting.  It was hard for me to get to a 90 degree knee bend, much less past that.  This is something I'd noticed with dumbbell squats and deadlifts, but it was also very apparent when attempting to do a plain, bodyweight deep squat.  I think that part of it might be an anatomical limitation in my left hip in particular (that one plays way out to the side when I flex it), but still - my range of motion was pretty miserable.  So I figured some mobility training would be helpful.

And you know what?  I was right - the CaliMove program really did help my mobility. But more on that later.

Program structure

As the webpage tells you, this is a six-month program, broken into three two-month phases, as well as a "prep week" to get you started.  The phases are progressive, so both the exercise volume and the difficulty of the exercises increases with each phase.

In addition, there's progression within each phase.  In the first two weeks, you get used to the phase.  In the second two, you increase the number of reps for each exercise.  Then in weeks 5 and 6, you keep the reps the same but add another day of training.  And then in the last two weeks you bump up the reps again.

After the main six-month training period, there are four additional workouts.  One is an advanced warmup/maintenance workout that aims to help you keep your mobility improvements.  There are also three specialized workouts targeted and making you mobile enough to do specific calisthenics techniques.  These are just stand-alone workouts that are structured in the same way as the rest of the program.  You can use them or not as you see fit.

In terms of the presentation, each phase starts with a presentation of the schedule and a summary of the routine for each week.  You get individual demonstration videos for each exercise which are very much in the style of their YouTube demo videos (so generally very good and helpful).  There is also a video demonstrating the routine, but it's abbreviated and sped up, so it's not something you can follow along with.

The primary tool you use to navigate is a graphic that illustrates the flow between exercises, each annotated with the number of reps and sets.  The graphic also includes a back/front/center symbol indicating your relative orientation for the exercise, which is cute but not especially helpful.  If you know how to do the exercise - which you should - this information is redundant.  But still, it's a nice summary and it looks good.

I only have two complaints about the presentation.  The first is that the mobile webpage isn't zoomable.  This isn't an issue if you're using a laptop or tablet, or if you're young and have good vision, but if you have bad eyesight like me, and you're trying to do this on a phone, then it can be hard to read the sets and reps.  The second is that while the workouts are clear about the sets and reps, the demo videos don't always make it 100% clear what constitutes a "set" or a "rep".  It's not enough to stop you from doing a productive workout (the actual technique is clear), but for some exercises it's a little ambiguous whether some movement sequence is a set, or a rep, or multiple reps.  You can easily end up doing too little or more than you need to depending on your interpretation.

My assessment

Overall, I found this to be a very good program.  I chose to do the mobility program at the same time as a strength training program.  This is advertised as being a totally reasonable thing to do with this program.  The first three months I did alongside a second round of Athlean-X AX-2, while for the second three months I started the CaliMove at-home workout program (which will be another review).

In terms of results, measuring mobility gains can be difficult.  However, I definitely saw good results.  I fixed my shoulder mobility issues and saw noticeable improvements in my squat depth.  I also noticed increased strength and mobility in other joints.  I feel like my joints are generally stronger, more stable, and less prone to collapsing into dangerous positions.

One thing to note with the way I did the program is the time commitment.  The program starts off slow, with relatively short workouts done three times a week.  However, by the time you get to the end, you're doing the mobility program six times a week and the time has increased significantly.  And while the webpage says the workouts take between 15 and 40 minutes, by the later level 3 workouts were taking me a little over an hour.  I generally tried to schedule things so that I wasn't doing strength and mobility workouts on the same day, but by phase three this was unavoidable.  So on those days I would generally end up doing the mobility program first, as a very extended warm-up, followed immediately by my strength program.  This generally took me at least an hour and a half and left me feeling pretty wiped out.  So if you're planning to do this in conjunction with another program, you might want to be mindful of that.

In general, I was actually surprised by how physically taxing the mobility program was.  I sometimes felt more sore and fatigued on mobility days than on strength days.  I chalk this up to the fact that I wasn't used to working those particular muscles.  The recovery wasn't as long as a really hard strength workout, but it was still noteworthy.  I guess I almost expected it to be like a nice, relaxing yoga session, but it's actually much more demanding than that.

Another important thing to realize with this program is that there's a good chance you won't be able to do all of the exercises properly.  I know I couldn't.  Even after finishing the program, there are still several that I can't even get close on, like the back bridge.  However, simply going as far with them as you can still seems to work pretty well.  It can be a bit frustrating, but it's a long program and there's plenty of opportunity to improve.

Currently, even though I've finished the main six-month program, I'm still doing mobility training several days a week.  I sometimes use the advanced routine as a warm-up to my main workout if I have some extra time (the advanced routine takes me about 20 minutes).  I also do the advanced routine and possibly one of the technique-specific routines on my "rest" days.  The technique routines are good, but I find them a bit less interesting, as they tend to involve fewer exercises, but at higher rep ranges.  A lot of the exercises are also quite difficult for me (especially the split training), so while they're beneficial, they're not the most fun workouts.

At any rate, I would definitely recommend this program.  Mobility training is a beneficial and easily overlooked area and I think I'm definitely better off for getting some experience with it.  This is definitely a type of training that I'm going to continue to do while working towards other goals.  Perhaps I'll branch out and try some other mobility programs.  But even if I don't, the CaliMove program has given me some great tools to maintain and enhance the mobility gains I've already made.

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