Mobility isn’t considered “cool” by exercise standards. In fact, it’s often considered rather dull, repetitive and boring. Some would even say it’s a complete waste of time distracting you from the key business of lifting heavier weights. However, this attitude is short sighted, better mobility in key areas can allow you to achieve better anatomical positions during the squat, bench and deadlift. Better body position gives greater mechanical advantage, meaning more weight on the bar. And strong is most definitely cool, and gains are serious business.
The squat involves almost every single muscle in the body, and movement over a substantial range of motion too. That’s why it’s such an excellent muscle and strength builder. However, in order to execute a sound squat you need good mobility in numerous joints that are often lacking such mobility; most notably the ankles, hips, t-spine, and shoulders.
Wall ankle mobs are a great way to increase ankle mobility.
Foam rolling the quads and IT band: Lie face down on the ground with the foam roller positioned under one of your quads. Complete 5 to 6 passes along the quad, from the very top of the thigh to just above the kneecap, before switching legs. Now turn so the side of your quad is on the foam roller and do 5 to 6 from just above the kneecap to just below the pelvis to hit the IT band.
T-spine extension on a foam roller: Begin at just above the belly button, with the foam roller in position do five crunch movements. You should feel the balls pushing the vertebrae slightly forward, in effect creating range of motion at that segment. A series of these crunches can be done all the way up to the shoulder blades.
Band shoulder dislocates target both t-spine mobility and shoulder flexibility required for the rack position. I prefer the band for this as the band can slacken in areas you are more mobile and stretch at points where you need a little extra help.
Band pull-aparts and scapular push-ups teach you proper scapular activation and positioning for pressing motions.
Static hip flexor stretches and hip adductor mobs (shown below) will help develop hip mobility. Why on earth is hip mobility needed for bench press? Hip mobility allows you to get a better arch when in set-up position on the bench and improve leg drive.
T-spine mobility, and specifically extension will allow you to create a greater arch, thus reducing range of motion required and allowing you to bench more weight. T-spine extension on a foam roller (as above) or wall slides are great ways to get this done.
Stand about a foot to a foot and a half away from wall. Make sure there is no space between the back and the wall, and the pelvis is neutral. Push arms into the wall with elbows bent below shoulders. Slowly slide hands up above head. Keep shoulders against the wall, abs engaged, and ribs pressed in towards the belly button. Try to reach hands all the way above head without allowing your back or any part of your arms to lift from the wall.
The Deadlift is all about the hips and the hip musculature. As such, your going to want to improve your hip flexibility. Good hip mobility will allow you to maintain a neutral spine, this is vital for anyone wishing to deadlift heavy weight or stay injury free. Given the way most of us spend our days (sitting hunched over in front of a desk, driving, sitting down watching television), our hips are constantly in flexion. This isn’t any good for anyone, and should be put straight in order to perform heavy deadlifts (or squats) safely.
Fire hydrants (popularized by Joe DeFranco) and 3-way hamstring mobilization are probably my favorite ways to open up the hips and mobilize the hamstrings and hip adductors
Note: If you still can’t maintain neutral spine during your deadlift t-spine mobility may also be a limiting factor.
The glutes obviously play a huge role in the deadlift. However, this musculature is often glossed over during soft tissue and mobility work, as such the glutes can often exhibit poor muscle fascia quality. Rolling a lacrosse ball across the glutes will significantly improve tissue quality in this vital area.
For best results integrate these movements into a well designed warm-up prior to strength training.
About the Author:
Nick Buchan is an AGMS Graduate, PGA level 2 golf coach and UKSCA associate member.
He is also the Owner of Stronger Golf, a company dedicated to strength, conditioning and mobility for golfers.
So you’ve been cutting work and bailing on your responsibilities to hit the gym three times a day for the last handful of months. You’re training partner knows more about you than your own family. You’ve even shaved your chest and fake tanned, but the problem is you’re still benching 135 and can’t dead lift your body weight. What’s the deal? Your girl is gonna be pissed when she finds out you’ve been ditching her every night to lift, and you still can’t squat 225.
Below are 7 points to consider on your way to deltoid domination.
1) GOALS – Oh…So you want to be the next Rich Froning or Kendrick Ferris ? Good for you. So do I. But let’s be realistic. What do you want to clean & jerk in three, six, even twelve months? WRITE IT DOWN! What’s the saying? You’re 110% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down or something like that? I don’t know but it WORKS. Give yourself something to focus on. Look at it every day. Think about it when you walk into the gym. Make the goals tough yet achievable. Don’t sell yourself short. I often find that people are much stronger than they believe they are. Own the mental game, or it will own you. Goals…It does a body good.
2) PROGRAMMING – You’re not a planner are you? I saw you at the gym looking like the new kid at school. Do you know what you’re doing today? More importantly, what are you doing the rest of the week, next week, next month? See where I’m going with this? If you don’t have a plan, how do expect to hit your goal of a 225 bench? If you don’t know how to program or what to do to reach your swoll goal, find someone that knows what they’re doing to program for you. Look up Wendler, Smolov, or Hatch and follow those programs. They are well-known and proven strength programs you can use to get stronger, and they are readily available on the internet for free. Guess what? Your four sets of 8-12 reps ain’t gonna get you a 225 bench press.
3) WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN – Did I shoulder press 175 or 185 last week? Hmmm…Well I forgot my pre-workout so I’ll just do 175. SOFT. HTFU and start writing EVERYTHING down. It’s called accountability. Write down your weights, reps, how they felt, if they were good or shitty reps, if the moon was waxing or waning…I don’t give a shit. Write down the color hair of the girl you were creepily staring at if that helps. For example, you might lift the same weight this week as you did last week, but this week your reps and form we’re solid. That’s a gain. Be happy about it. I bet you wouldn’t have recognized that before your started writing everything down. This also gives you a point of reference – If you did a max set of 15 pullups this week, no doubt you can do that many again next week. And when you try again, you have a benchmark to shoot for…16 reps. What’s that? You did 17? Check you out.
4) YOUR FORM IS AWFUL – Holy shit, put that bar down before you permanently change the genetics in your back so your future children aren’t affected. You sure as hell aren’t going to deadlift twice your body weight with that noodle spine. Check your ego at the door and lift within your means. Lift with the best form possible, and watch your numbers increase. Don’t know how to perform a specific movement or lift? Find someone that does. Shit, pay a qualified trainer $25 to take you through the movements and show you proper technique. $25 is a lot less than the cost of a knee replacement. How about this – Put yourself through an On-Ramp program at your local CrossFit gym. In two weeks you’ll learn well enough how to back squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, press, push press, push jerk, split jerk, clean and snatch. You don’t know what half that is? That’s because you’ve been spending too much time on the Smith machine. And remember – you have to constantly refine your form just as much as you do your golf swing. FOUR!
5) REST– Bro, take it easy. That’s right; a rest day might actually HELP you. After all, your muscles have been working overtime every day for the past few weeks. Listen to your body. Are you tired? Are you stupid sore? I have a solution for you – Take the day off. Two days off? Sure, if you’ve been hitting it hard. Don’t stress about it. A couple days is not going to derail your training. Some of my best PR’s have come after traveling for a week or two and not lifting a finger the entire time. Intensity gets results…Crazy right?
6) YOUR DIET SUCKS – Look, I’m not a dietician, so I’m not going to beat the proverbial diet horse. It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to tell you to put down the pizza, ditch the donuts, and skip the soda . Or maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum – Eat something…ANYTHING. Your car will run like shit with bad gas, and won’t run at all if the tank is empty. Eat a lot, and eat WELL. There are a million different beliefs on diet, what’s healthy and why, when to eat, where to get carbs, etc. Find something that works for you and use it as a framework. It’s going to take some time, trial and error, and adjusting to really dial in your diet. But do me a favor…Try to pick ingredients with some redeeming value, please?
7) PUT OUT THE VIBE – This has nothing to do with directly getting strong, but I think it’s just as important. You gotta find that headspace where you believe you can rip Hulk Hogan’s bandana off before he crushes you like a soda can. Figure out what gets you pumped. Sitting in the gym listening to Adele feeling sorry for yourself ain’t gonna get your adrenaline racing. Grab some buddies, turn on some Pantera, and get to work. Yell at each other, high five, scream, chest bump…I don’t care what you do, just build some momentum, have fun, and get strong. BRO SESH!