Written by Dr. Quinn Henoch
Hard training often requires some type of movement preparation or body maintenance. Few people can go in the gym and crush weights day in and day out without those things at some point in a training cycle. There is a spectrum obviously. Some need to devote little time to this type of work, and some need much more. Wherever you happen to fall on the spectrum, there are universal truths that hold weight no matter how tender or limber (or insert adjective here) you want to be.
1. Be Efficient With Your Time
Typically, the people who complain about how long warming up takes are the people who spend twenty minutes rolling around on a foam log, and another 20 minutes hooking a band to every major joint in his or her body in order to mobilize “tight” tissues. I touched on this in Mobility Gone Wrong, so I’ll refrain from ranting further. I’m all for that stuff, just not as a stand alone, and not when it’s eating up the clock. If you have a specific amount of time allotted to training, 5 minutes on the roller, 5 minutes with your favorite band mobilization, and move on to better things (see below). Make love to the roller on rest days, or at home when you’re watching TV.
2. Always Remember The Basics
Remember your breathing drills (see my YouTube page, the Darkside YouTube or basically any article Ryan Brown and I have ever done). It will seriously enhance any of the mobility or stability work you are doing, as well as your well being as a human.
Remember the developmental positions. Supine, sidelying, quadruped, half kneeling, tall kneeling – there is benefit to all of them. Babies don’t need squat coaches because they build themselves from the ground up in stages. Neglecting these positions as adults is a mistake. Creating efficient motor patterns is the name of the game, and it doesn’t get much better than the ground up approach.
3. Prep For The Movement Of The Day
Your warmup should vary slightly depending on what you will be doing in the gym that day, while still integrating the entire body. For example, a ground-up approach (see habit #2) for an upper body intensive day may look something like this:
- Rockback breathing with elbow reach or arms outstretched
- Sidelying shoulder rotations
- Quadruped lat pulls
- Half kneeling press with a light dumbbell or kettlebell
- Wall slides
- Your favorite lat /pec stretch, tspine drill, or foam roller sprinkled in wherever.
An example of a ground up approach for a squat could be as follows:
- Supine glute bridge
- Supine psoas march
- Sidelying clam shell
- Quadruped crawling
- Split squat variation (normal, front foot elevated, rear foot elevated, etc)
- Goblet squat
- You favorite hip, ankle, or “mashing” technique sprinkled in wherever.
These progressions shouldn’t take much more than 15 minutes (see habit #1).
4. Think In Patterns, Not Individual Muscles
It’s great to know what muscles control what action; but our muscles are rarely used in isolation of other muscles or movement systems. Stretching a pec or hip flexor with no regard for what position your shoulder or pelvis is in may lengthen the tissue, but will not prep you for efficient movement. You aren’t just stretching your lat; you are increasing the capacity of your lateral chest wall to expand when you take a breath in, so that you can support that weight over your head without arching your low back. You aren’t just stretching your hamstrings, you are gaining the ability to perform a proper hip hinge while deadlifting or have adequate stride length while sprinting. By the way, stop stretching your hamstrings and do this drill instead.
5. Use Mobility Work To Enhance, Not Hinder
This one seems like a no brainer. Unfortunately, I see people in the clinic who are hindering or even injuring themselves with the mobilization work they are doing. If what you are doing is causing legitimate pain, it’s probably not helping. If you have been doing the same drills for weeks and weeks, and your movement is not any better, it’s time to switch gears. You should feel better after you do your stuff – not the same, and certainly not worse.
6. Focus On 1-2 Problem Areas at a Time
It is very difficult to fix everything all the time everyday. Don’t try. Pick a couple problem areas that you have, and focus on those for a long enough period of time to make a real change (days to a few weeks suffices to make SOME sort of change in most cases). If you are scatter brained about your mobility, chances are you won’t be spending enough time on one area to make a real difference, and you won’t have a true idea of what works and what doesn’t. This can be a tough one, because we all have several things we’d like to fix at once. The great thing about it is that fixing one problem can clean up other problems without extra work (example – gaining tspine mobility may alleviate nagging shoulder issues).
7. Be Consistent
This is the key. Chances are you are attempting to undo years of bad habits or past injuries. This takes a little time. Be patient. Be consistent. Try not to jump ship if you haven’t developed the mobility of an Olympic gymnast with the stability of a two by four within a week. Make these things habit, and your movement game will be tight – which translates to more time training hard – which translates to your new Juggernaut tank top fitting nice and snug. That’s what it’s all about.
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