Tightness and Mobility Issues
For anyone that’s followed any of my posts, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to really work on mobility and flexibility with my trainer, Sam. Over the last month or so, we weren’t really noticing improvements in my lifts although I was still hitting right around the same mark pretty consistently. The past few sessions we’ve been dialing back a bit and making some pretty cool discoveries about where I’m lacking flexibility or where I’m too tight in various parts of my movements.
If you kept the same mindset as I had for the majority of my lifting career, stretching and mobility work is for pansies. You’re big and strong (or you want to be) and the only people that stretch are girls doing Yoga or guys that are wimps. Right? That was the school of thought I followed for way too long until I realized I wasn’t progressing simply because I was lacking mobility and flexibility.
Even training with Sam I’ve managed to get my hips and hamstrings more limber, but there’s way more too it. I’ll discuss some of the things we’ve noticed in my various main lifts and our plan for trying to correct them.
A few sessions ago, I was squatting with Sam and felt pretty good. I was hitting solid depth and everything felt great. It was going to be one of those awesome squatting sessions where I hit some high numbers. I worked up to right around 295 for singles, but that’s where my form started to break down pretty badly. If you imagine looking at my body from the front/back, my ankles were rolling inward towards each other and I was losing all of my structure as a result of it. We decided to can the squatting at that point and try some mobility things out.
Sam set me up on one of those step-up boxes that’s a couple of inches off the ground. With one foot on the box and the other foot beside it (but floating about two inches off the ground), Sam wanted me to lower my foot until it was flat on the ground. It’s kind of like 1/10th of a body weight squat on one leg, so… Pretty easy, right? I did about three to four reps of that and my entire body was pouring sweat. Looks like we found an interesting problem. We played around more trying out different ankle mobility drills, but it really came down to the fact that my ankles aren’t flexible enough. They only move a few degrees and in order to hit my depth, my feet end up rolling in and being stupid.
I’m now set up to do a ton of ankle mobility stuff on my own time so that I can try to repair this. Things as simple as rocking back and forth on one leg or using a lacrosse ball to massage the ankle go a long way. I’ve also found that wrapping a band on my ankle and doing the same rocking motions can hit some pretty cool angles and really loosen things up.
Another interesting one is my pressing lockout. We’ve been struggling to figure our why my bench is pretty hurting lately, but it took a session of overhead pressing to figure it out. Sam had me do some military pressing, and as soon as I get tired, my lockout position doesn’t really involve my triceps being locked out. Instead, I’m pulling my head so far forward and rotating my shoulders that I have everything braced above my head with my traps holding it all together.
Since today was the second session of investigating this, we tweaked my overhead pressing to really emphasize my shoulder, elbow, and wrist placement in the bottom position. From there, I knew to focus on pressing straight up without leaning my entire body into the lift. My triceps were definitely taking a beating, but even the bottom position made the lift so much more sturdy.
Right after we ended up benching but didn’t go to heavy. Using some cues from Brandon Lilly YouTube videos and some mental notes form Sam’s military pressing positioning, I was able to get my bench setup properly so that when the bar came down I was actually loading up my lats and pressing up with my triceps until lockout. Now I just need to practice the cues.
Other Misc Notes
The day Sam and I were working on my ankle mobility, he basically taught me how to walk again. I’m 25, so it felt a bit ridiculous to be going through it. For anyone who has seen me walk in person, they say I waddle like a penguin. I don’t deny it either. My feet are pretty turned out, my legs don’t go straight forward every step, and I constantly have comments like “oh, bad leg day?” or “you hurt your leg?” even if I haven’t trained my legs. Focusing on my step pattern and improving my ankle mobility are a couple things to make me walk like a human again. Looking forward to that.
And finally, I just wanted to touch on my deadlift. Based on my proportions, I should be able to have a stupidly big deadlift. My arms are long, and I’m not all that tall. However, every time I go to pull with Sam it ends up seeming kind of embarrassing. Based on our last session, I think the big thing we learned is that any time I felt tension on my back, I thought my back was rounding. Thus, when deadlifting alone, I’d make minor tweaks to ensure I was avoiding that feeling (i.e. arching too far). After Sam called me out on it, we basically discovered that my lower back is incredibly weak because I’ve been avoiding targeting it. So there’s something else for me to work on to try and get my pulling numbers up.