By Mike Simone Men’s Fitness
For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Twitter and Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, Dan Trink, C.S.C.S, Director of Personal Training Operations at Peak Performance NYC and founder of TrinkFitness, answers your questions about becoming a better athlete by improving your overall flexibility and mobility.
1) Front Squat Issues— asked by Ryan Walter:
What are the best exercises for improving my wrist flexibility to do front squats?
“If it truly is a wrist flexibility issue, try placing your hands on a table with your wrist bent at 90-degrees and your fingers facing you. Apply light downward pressure to begin increasing range of motion. This will take some time and repeated effort to develop so don’t crush your wrists on day one.
With that being said, the problem is not always wrist flexibility. Often tight lats will inhibit your arm from rotating forward and getting in the proper position. Try foam rolling your lats for 5 minutes prior to attempting to front squat and see if your mobility improves.”
2) Toe Touches— asked by Chris Palto:
I can’t quite touch my toes when I stand up and bend over. What can I do to improve this?
“First off, this is not as big a problem as people make it out to be. Having excessive flexibility in any muscle group often comes at the risk of decreased stability and that can place you at a higher risk for injury. However if your hamstring flexibility is extraordinarily bad, try PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching.
A PNF stretch involves a shortening contraction of the opposing muscle (in your case, the quadriceps) to place the target muscle on stretch, this is followed by an isometric contraction of the target muscle. Your best bet is to find a partner or trainer who is familiar with PNF and have them help you. By using PNF Stretching you can see a pretty dramatic change in range of motion in a fairly short amount of time.”
3) Warm Ups— asked by Leslie Saertz:
Why is it important to warm up? And what kind of things should I be doing and for how long?
“Warming up increases your core temperature, activates the targeted muscle groups you’ll be training in the workout and prepares them to express strength, improves elasticity of connective tissue in order to help prevent injury and mentally prepares you for the training session ahead. Needless to say, it’s important. I’m a big proponent of dynamic warm-up sequences in which you are actively warming up muscle groups through a series of movements as opposed to simply static stretching.
Dynamic warm-ups usually take up 5 to 10 minutes of your workout time. I further recommend you do specific warm-ups of your main exercises at sub-maximal weights (think 30-60% of the weight you will be using for your work sets) in order to further prepare your body and insure proper movement mechanics. The number of warm-up sets really depends on what strength quality you will be training that day. But the closer to your 1RM you’ll be approaching, the more warm-up sets you should do.”
4) Low Back Pain— asked by Michael Maden:
My lower back is always extremely sore after deadlift, squats and even overhead presses. What could be going on? Are there exercises I can do to help strengthen the area?
“Without actually seeing what is going on, it’s hard to pinpoint the issue. It could be your technique in the lifts, limited mobility or lack of stability. Your best bet is to hire a qualified trainer who can assess your movement and make recommendations based on what he sees. Barring that, I would perform a series of dynamic warm-up exercises that focus on ankle and hip mobility and core and shoulder stability. I would also take some time off of the squats and deads and work on Farmer’s Walks, Pallof Presses, Cable Chops and other more regressive movement patterns that will allow you to work on core stability without aggravating your back.
The fact that the presses are making you sore is a telltale sign that you are lacking in core stability. Fix that up, gain some more mobility and watch a lot of your back problems disappear.”
5) Bulky Muscles— asked by Travis Mayer:
Some people say weight training makes you bulking and tight, others say it makes you more flexible. What’s the deal?
“Weight training can make you tighter if you perform movements incorrectly or overload them in a way that inhibits range of motion. However if you use loads that allow you to complete and get stronger through the entire range of the lift you will gain dynamic flexibility. And while this may not get you significantly better at touching your toes (I’m still struggling to see why this is so important to people) it will allow you to improve your mobility and performance in the gym and on the court, track and field.”