From Tony Gentilcore
Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Dean Somerset, who’s excellent new resource, High Tensile Strength, is set to be unleashed today to the masses. It’s a 6-month, semi-custom based training program based on how you move, where you need to work the most, and what your specific goals may be.
Even if you’re trying to be Jason Bourne. It’s that good.
Mobility is a simple word with big implications.
In many circles, it determines whether you can progress from a basic exercise to a more advanced exercise. For instance, if you don’t have the ability to actively bring your arms over your head, the chances of doing a solid overhead squat or even overhead press without having some negative compensation through the spine become limited.
There’s also those who say mobility to a specific benchmark is needed to maintain health.
Things like squatting to the floor sound awesome and are a great way to show off for those who have the innate ability to do it, whereas those who might not have the anatomy to get there will be frustrated with their lot in life.
I’ve always viewed mobility a little differently and with a much less extreme “yes/no” kind of ideal:
“How much do you have versus how much do you use?”
Let’s say you can grab your knee and hug it to your chest, but when you have to do a squat you wind up looking like you’re more of a marionette puppet whose strings aren’t quite long enough.
Note From TG: or you can perform and nail this simple “deep squat” assessment from the floor (seen below). But, like Dean said, when you stand up and try to squat without assistance from the floor, you resemble a baby giraffe learning to walk.
This disconnect between where you could get to by hugging your knee to your chest and where you managed to get to when asked to squat means you may have to get some more control over your motion, and maybe not as much time spent doing static stretch or “muscle lengthening” exercises.
This doesn’t mean there’s no use for them, but that the use is not as well spent as others.
So in this vein, I wanted to showcase a few mobility drills that teach how to use a range of motion effectively, while also trying to use as much of it as possible. Some people will have anatomical structures that will allow massive excursions during these movements and some won’t. There isn’t a standard I would want anyone to work to in order to say they’re a sufficient exerciser or good person, but just use as much as you have, and work hard at using it.
Here’s a simple hint to make each of these exercises even more diabolically intense:
Whenever you get to the end of the range of motion, try to contract the muscles pulling it in that direction as hard as possible to try to coax a little more room out of each position. If you find a sticking point in the range, this would be a good point to try those max isometric tension developments.
#1: Rolling Cossacks
This movement works on getting some adductor stretch while also imparting some controlled rotation through internal and external rotation. Considering how overlooked adductors are to general health and function of the hips and knees, they can definitely stand having some direct work once in a while.
#2: Half Kneeling Elastic Thoracic Rotations
This is an active and vertical movement similar to the side lying thoracic rotation.
With most mobility drills, there should be a progression to coming off the floor into a more vertical position so that the usability of that mobility can be more applicable. This movement relies on core control to develop hip and thoracic spine rotation, plus some extension of the spine to accommodate the arm movement.
Try to reach the arm as high as possible and get the biceps as close to the ear as possible.
#3: Standing Hip Circles
These look deceptively simple, but can be massively challenging.
The key here is to make the movement come entirely from the hip socket doing the work. This means keeping the knees locked out and trying to not have any twisting from the hips, side leaning, or any deviation from neutral at all.
#4: 2-Step Kneeling Hip Stretch
This stretch focuses on developing tension into the hip flexors and glutes in reciprocal manner.
When in the half kneeling position, try to get the glute of the down leg to flex hard and drive into the hip flexor without letting the low back extend. When in the pigeon pose on top of the knee, try to drive the knee into the floor to get the glutes to respond to the stretch reflex more effectively. Don’t forget to breathe either.
#5: Shin Box
This is a solid way to start up a workout and work on improving hip internal and external rotation simultaneously.
It’s a simple movement with some excellent carry over into many of the activities you would want to include in your workout, and can be scaled down by simply putting your hands on the ground behind you, and scaled up by doing something like this:
You could even work into something like this if you’re feeling up for it: