Why Strength Programs are Useless Without Mobility

Strength programs are the best way to get stronger right? Not always. There are many things that need to be in place before you even think about loading up that barbell.

With the popularity of the average joe training like the professional athlete, more and more people are turning to strength programs to get the gains and hit their PR’s for that special gratification that only Instagram can give. I write programs all the time, I’ve done my fair share of hard programs, easy programs and the ones that were just right too, but what if I’m not a professional athlete?

Crossfit Front Squat PR programs
Move well first then load up that barbell!

What if my only experience is a few years of CrossFit classes? Or a few nights at a weightlifting or powerlifting club? Am I really going to be moving well enough to do a strength program and actually get the desired results or am I progressively loading bad habits?

DON’T LOAD IT UP IF YOU’RE NOT MOVING RIGHT

Programs are “things to do” your overall strength development at the end of the day comes down to how well you move, and how well you know your body, how hard to push it and know when to back off. Strength programs don’t take your dog dying and you getting sacked from your job into account, they don’t care when you’ve got a stomach ache or if you’re not sleeping… They are numbers and that’s it. “Advanced” athletes are some of the worst ones to work with, they’re hitting good numbers, and the ego has kicked in, they’ve done lots of programs and always gotten stronger from it so OBVIOUSLY they work right! Right?

sara sigmundsdottir pistol squat strong crossfit mentality
Good mobility is essential for becoming a great athlete

VISUALISING SUCCESS

Everyone always freaks out when I ask them “what do you feel when you’re doing that?” And I’m usually met with a depressing bemused “I dunno” or even worse, being told the external cues that they have been taught “keep back straight, knees over toes, arms locked out, look forward, belly tight” …….. Really? You can think all that at the same time?? I can’t…

Want to know what I think when I’m snatching? I put my hands on the gates of hell and rip them off, the flames explode up around me and I stand up, paint a picture that gives you confidence!

So why can I think something as “silly” as that? Because the other training that I do is working towards FEELING the movement intrinsically, so when I do go through a full movement I don’t have to think, I know my body knows what to do. When was the last time you double checked something like how to do a push up, a pull up? Or how to brace?

People seem to assume that when they’ve done something once they’ve mastered it, I’ve had so many people that could squat a hell of a lot of weight and they’re taking the bar out of the rack incorrectly, they are three years away from getting an “inexplicable” back injury, when I show them the difference after a few sessions they’ll generally hit a PR. Not only are they in a better position to squat but the weight doesn’t feel as heavy due to being stacked in the right way, there is more to bracing than just keeping your back straight.

STRENGTH PROGRAMS: IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS WITHIN MOVEMENT PATTERNS

I recently had a difference of opinion with someone over a lifter, his clean was limited and he wasn’t able to stand up out of the hole, he had a belt on and the first things I noticed was that he was being pulled out of position in the pull and also coming back up from the squat his back rounded. This was put down to a leg strength issue. He was given a squat program and later PR’d. My point of view was that if your spine doesn’t feel safe┬áthen you will not be able to access the potential strength that you have. Therefore a program is just fueling the problem. And yes, now he is able to lift more… But it’s still not as good as it could be. If he was given a deeper understanding of bracing would he have needed the squat program or did he already have the strength?

female crossfit athlete overhead press
move well and get strong!

Make a movement as close to perfect as you can THEN by all means LOAD IT UP!

I’ve actually nothing against strength programs, they are great for giving an athlete focus and logical progression. But with modern day training and time commitments, people aren’t able to get the benefits. Many people don’t seem to realise the work that goes in to being able to cope with a program starts years before doing programs. You can’t skip that part!

It used to really bug me when I was younger and playing guitar, I would see people trying to play these stupidly fast licks and their pinky finger was sticking out when not being used… How the F**K can you play something fast when your god dammed finger is half way across the room! Sort that out first then learn how to play fast! As a personal favour to me if you ever see a guitarists pinky sticking out, break it.

In short, we’re human, we miss things, make sure you are always learning and most importantly keep going over the things you do know to give yourself a solid foundation, when you truly move like a badass THEN it’s time for programs.


Crossfit Front Squat PR programs © Crossfit 204

sara sigmundsdottir pistol squat strong crossfit mentality © RX'd Photography

female crossfit athlete overhead press © Orestis Papapetrou

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About The Author

Tom Morrison is a British Weightlifting coach, martial artist and CrossFit trainer & competitor. He is known for his simplistic approach to teaching and has worked with all kinds of bodies including professional MMA fighters, football and rugby players, experienced CrossFit athletes and weightlifters, people with no mobility, people with hypermobility, people with chronic back, knee and shoulder injuries and most commonly, people with general ...

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