Train Smarter With Weighted Mobility
Many people who are very flexible may oftentimes be very weak, just the same as many people who are very strong are also very stiff. By adding load (weight or leverage), to your stretches in the proper manner, you will be able to build strength into your flexibility. Because what is the point of being able to contort your body into an extreme position if you are unable to actively use that range of motion elsewhere? Instead, progressively add weight to challenge your body to adapt by strengthening and lengthening your muscles at the same time, to move into, and move out of – challenging positions.
Move it or lose it
For many adults, it has taken years of improper sedentary living and weight training to cause their body to dysfunctionally stiffen up. When we work desk patrol for 40 hours each week, and our only training is bench press, bicep curls, and lat pulldowns, our shoulders will kyphotically slump forward, our hip flexors will chronically flex (shorten), and our hamstrings will become as tight as piano wires. Our bodies are designed to adapt to the most efficient (most used), good or bad pattern.
The harsh reality is that when you have unwittingly turned your body into a piano-wired T-REX, it will take more than just static body weight stretch sesh to fix it. The solution is weighted mobility.
Not your Average Stretching
The typical outdated recommendations for increasing flexibility go something like this:
“Increase your range of motion using only your bodyweight, by statically holding a stretch for extended periods of time.”
The Gymnastic Strength Training approach takes the same theory and adds load into the equation via weighted mobility work, thereby changing the entire scenario.
This is not your chakra-aligning, candle-burning, mood-relaxing kind of stretching. Rather, weighted mobility challenges your body to build both flexibility and strength in the positions you need it most through helping your fascia adapt.
Fascia, the sheet of connective tissue between your muscles and your skin, can become rigid, stiff, and “glued” into place if you do not regularly move your body through full ranges of motion. Fortunately, weighted mobility work can help undo this damage by forcing the glued fascia to adapt in a positive manner.
Try these two following exercises below for an introduction to this type of forward thinking stretching.
Use this drill to give your posterior chain a fantastic weighted stretch. For more, check out our Online Training Options.
Jefferson curls, demonstrated here by a GB Athlete are a fantastic example of weighted mobility to increase your hamstring flexibility and hip compression.
Here’s How You Do It:
Begin by using a light weight such as an empty practice barbell, PVC pipe with a light plate weight or even no weight at all, and stand on a box (or a stack of weight plates), so that your feet are above the floor. This movement might be new for you, so we encourage you to start light: weighted mobility training should NEVER be trained with the same intensity as weight training. (This is NOT a maximal strength endeavor (it is not meant to be done at heavy weight). Now, tuck your chin, lock your knees, and round your back one vertebrae at a time, letting the weight of the bar or arms gently pull you into compression.
Continue flexing your spine until you are as low as you can possibly go to the ground. In the bottom position, your chin should be tucked, your legs should be straight, and the weight should be hanging from your arms. Make sure you keep tension in your lower abs the whole time (don’t be surprised if they cramp). Slowly reverse these steps to stand up tall, focusing on extending your spine one vertebrae at a time. Start light (5-10 lbs might be enough for some people), and add weight only very gradually over time. Like other weighted mobility exercises, do not push through pain or discomfort here. Eventually, you’ll see how your hands lower further and further, eventually with enough mobility to extend past, or below your feet.
The goal with the Jefferson Curl is to increase pain-free, active range of motion.
If you were to only perform one weighted mobility drill for the upper body, shoulder dislocates would be the exercise to pick.
Use a PVC pipe alone or loaded with a 2.5- or 5-lb weight plate to start. Even if you think you’re strong, you’ll be surprised at how working this full range of motion will be difficult – so prepare to begin with no weight. Holding the PVC in front of your body, with a super wide grip, stand up tall. Keep your elbows locked and your ribs in, tilt your hips forwards into PPT (posterior Pelvic Tilt), lift the PVC up overhead, shrug to the ceiling as you reach the highest point of the dislocate, continuing all the way behind you until the PVC touches the small of your back in one smooth motion. Move slowly and with control, and reverse this movement by lifting the weight (keep your elbows locked), back up overhead until you reach your starting position.
Take your time and do these properly to yield the best results. As you train these and as they get easier, try adding a bit more weight, and/or move your grip closer together. Don’t forget these cues:
No bent elbows
No jerking transitions
No pain only mild discomfort
The key to weighted mobility is that it not only differs drastically from your typical stretching routine, but it also repairs the damage most adults have unwittingly done to their bodies over time through their daily grinds. Find out about these and other uniquely created weighted mobility drills by GymnasticBodies in our Online Courses.