Much of what we can achieve in training is limited by how our mobility. If we have immobile hips it is going to be tough to fully maximize exercises like the squat and deadlift. Painful and internally rotated shoulders will limit progress on all upper body movements, especially pressing. Tight hamstrings may make holding a neutral spine difficult with exercises like Romanian deadlift and good mornings. Our busy lives lead us to focus on immediate gains, we prioritise aesthetics over function or lifting personal bests to boost our ego. We often get in and out of the gym and as fast as possible, with little time set aside for a warm up or a stretching session of any useful length.
So if you can’t do the ground work that allows your body to hit better mechanical positions, you must be doomed to never improving how you lift that weight, right?
…Wrong! Whilst I would always recommend integrating some stretching/mobility work into your weekly routine or perhaps attending one or two yoga classes a week, there are a few things you can do that will give you immediate results when it comes to having more range and functionality, reducing your risk of injury and ultimately improving your health and fitness gains.
1. Roll-out your plantar fascia
Using a hockey ball or spikey self myofascial release ball, roll the bottom of your feet or what is known as the plantar fascia. The fascia here is linked to the entire fascial sling that runs the entire length of the back of the body. So releasing tension in the feet will leave you more flexible in the calves, hamstrings and back. This can be especially useful in increasing hip mobility especially in extension movements like RDL’s and good mornings and should help with back squats and deadlifts too.
2. Shoulder mobility – distraction
Place a heavy duty training band around a squat rack, then loop the other end around your wrist. Walk backwards away from the fixed point and with a straight arm allow the recoil of the band to gently pull your shoulder out of the joint. It shouldn’t be painful and be careful if you have a history of dislocations. Holding at different angles for 30 to 60 seconds is suggested. This will increase mobility in the shoulder joint that should give you better range on chin ups and overhead work. It is especially useful in easing the symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome.
3. Incorporate some length awareness
It’s easy to get into the gym (especially early in the morning) and feel tight and restricted. More than likely you’ve been sleeping in a tucked up little ball, and maybe you’ve been sitting at a desk hunched over, or been looking down at a phone. All these things tighten the anterior chain and weaken the posterior chain. This limited range is not good for compound lifts, which you’ll likely be starting with. What you can do is stand on one leg, and using the hand on the same side, reach down and touch the floor, then gradually reach that hand up to the sky until you couldn’t be any taller. At this point spend 3 to 5 seconds really squeezing that hand away from the foot that is on the floor. Repeat this 5 to 10 times and you’ll remind your body what it is to be tall and open. Much better for that compound lifting.