Taking your training to the next level is awesome, but like all awesome things, too much of it will break you. I spend my time these days working with athletes that have trained for 10+ years and the single most common trait with them all is: they are all broken.
I want people to be able to deadlift their faces off, squat till the very thought of sitting on the toilet instills fear into their hearts. Training hard is therapy, but without balance, it will be your undoing. No matter how strong you think you are you are weak somewhere. You can’t do everything no matter how much you want to, there simply is not enough time in the week.
So, how do you avoid slowing down your gains because something is sore and you have to ‘rest’.
First things first, get off the damned foam roller. Period. If you want to inflict pain on yourself pay someone else to do that:
- You don’t know what you’re doing
- Someone else doing it has a better effect anyway
- That is 10 minutes of training time you have just wasted
Stop thinking about “activating” and “mobilising”. You aren’t activating anything, things work when they want to work. Do exercises that challenge your mobility and pick movements that increase your capacity to move. Pick bodyweight gymnastic exercises that require full range of motion with your joints. Can’t do pistol squats? Pick a progression that you can comfortably do for three sets of ten reps, your legs will be well warmed up. If you use that as your warm up twice a week for a year, you’ll keep having to pick harder progressions until pistol squats are for fun – without ever having to focus on them directly.
When I ask for an athlete’s training history with knee pain it is almost guaranteed they aren’t doing any lunge or lower body movements other than forwards and backwards, up and down. This is murder for your hips. I LOVE deadlifts and squats but they should be like a reward that you get IF you have good hip function! Guess what, if you feed your hips with good variety they will be happier, and THEN you can overuse certain patterns and you won’t end up with imbalances and “unexplained tightness”.
This is a great example of an effective warm up taking your hips through a massive range of angles while at the same time challenging your strength, co-ordination and balance. If you want to be good on the playing field or even in combat, you HAVE to prepare for different angles. Before you can start working with rapid changes of direction, it is of utmost importance that you strengthen your knees and proprioceptive awareness so that your body can cope reflexively. Don’t leave anything to chance!
A knee injury is time off that could have been avoided if you had prepared better. Pay close attention to the front foot angle, feel what is stable and what is not. If you elevate the standing leg you can add a nicer element of hip flexion, and if you take smaller steps you challenge your dorsi flexion: there is no right or wrong with it, if you mess it up, react and keep going.
Your 10-15 minute warm up can be different every day, there is NO perfect warm up, always keep in mind how your joints work and challenge your end ranges. Can’t do a bridge? Work on a thoracic bridge, a wall rotation or elevated bridge, your shoulders will thank you for it later.
Your warm up should reflect future goals that you have, especially when it comes to something as complex as increasing your range of motion.
Your body needs constant attention and small nudges in the right direction, you cannot rush that, imagine what would happen if you increased your squat depth by several inches then attempted a one rep max back squat… you would implode! I never understand people’s rush to do things. If you have a starting point and progressively work towards it you will arrive there safely with a lot more competence.
Personally for me, I think bodyweight dominance is a great goal, if you can master your own body then external loads will be a lot easier to shift. A pistol squat, freestanding handstand and back bridge will equip you with the necessary mobility for squatting, overhead pressing and overhead squatting.
To access your true strength your joints need to be centered and working well. After all, if your body does not feel safe your central nervous system will shut you off, and good luck with that.
SO HOW IS WARMING UP IN THIS WAY GOING TO HELP YOU SMASH THROUGH TRAINING ROADBLOCKS?
I have found with myself and my athletes, obtaining as many skills to your list as possible will ultimately make you stronger and keep your bits happy. You don’t need to snatch every day to get better at snatching. If you can increase your ability to move your shoulders through as many planes of motion as possible, your shoulder stability will increase, therefore better snatch.
If you work on front lever progressions, your lats are going to dramatically increase in strength, hello bigger deadlift!! Longevity is key in strength training, don’t be another athlete that wishes they had worked on mobility when they were younger, start now! You don’t have to roll around the floor and be a movement guru, just try different things and study other methods. You’re going to warm up anyway, why not accidentally be more productive? Then bench.
Oh, and if you insist on stretching do it right, think about what a stretch is trying to achieve NOT just because you’ve been told you have to do.
Take the couch stretch for example, everyone has read that they have tight hip flexors so they set up and do this stretch and wince in pain further enhancing their self diagnosis. The amount of athletes I see doing this stretch on a DAILY basis is ridiculous and they are all doing it with their hip closed. Don’t become so fixated about getting your knee to the wall that you compensate. The couch stretch is for more range of motion at the front of the hip to get more out of your glutes and posterior chain! Focus more on engagement and position rather that “it feels sore so it must be right”.
THE COUCH STRETCH
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