Mobility for Weightlifting

Disclaimer: This may not be for the novice reader/exerciser. However if you are truly looking to invest the time to learn your body, this will help you. Brace yourself for a deep dive as what follows is sure to lead you down the proverbial rabbit-hole toward better mobility and improved body mechanics both in and outside of the gym
“Imagine having a punch that could knock out a rhino in front of you…but you have a piece of thread between your knuckles.  Now imagine there is an eye of a needle in front of that beast’s face.  You not only have to have the power to put him down…but you have to thread the needle at the same time.” – Donny Shankle USA National Champion (YouTube him)
Above sums up weightlifting perfectly explaining the needs of becoming efficient weightlifter. Galen, Steve and I, along with the early Motown folks, had a giant-sized man-crush on Donny and the Cal Strength team. They are probably the main reason we dug deep into weightlifting as a sport. To date, we’ve qualified over 15 people to national level competitions and have gathered many medals locally and nationally (Shana and Trevor) plus having gain full rides to ETSU for weightlifting. Amazing how a YouTube video can change the course of your life so much, but back to the article..
Having the “power to knockout the rhino”, can be found in  strength training.  Having the skill to “thread the needle”, you get from practicing the skill of weightlifting. Simple right? But what if you can’t get in the positions needed to maximize your lifting? You suffer. Either from the kilos/pounds not reaching potential OR from the discomfort of not being able to get in the positions and feeling like you back, shoulder, elbow, knee, and/or ankle is hot hot hot from stress.
We recently had a weightlifting workshop and said I would send mobility for everyone to do if they would write their names down. Simple words turned into a ton more work than I had anticipated due to the complex nature of the human body and the rhino punching. 🤦‍♂️  This is my attempt to break it down and educate you on how to find the best way to do so.
Kelly Starrett said, “All human beings should be able and willing to perform basic maintenance on themselves.” at 10EX, we agree. It sounds like a lot, but it’s true. It can be as simple as PVC rolling, stretching, smashing or seeing a PT. Below we will go over 3 things. Positions which you have problems with, what the problems may look like to give you an idea and some possible fixes for the problems. Regarding the fixes and the person, just like optimal health, it all depends on the individual’s body and needs. There is NO one size fits all to this. There may be a one size fits most, but not all.
Before we dig in, quiz time: What should be the minimum time spent in a mobilizing position to induce change? Also, what should you do if you go numb? Think about it and the answers will be at the end.
  • Overhead Position – We will define this as having the bar over in anyway. Overhead squat, jerk, press, push press, or anything else with a load overhead.
    • Common Problems: may look like, but not limited too: Not being able to lock the arms with the bar overhead, the bar drifting forward when the descent happens in the OHS, not being able to get the bar locked out with the head through aka catching or pressing in front, the limbo affect with a bar overhead, and many others but these are the basics.
    • Fixes: Here is the tricky part and why it took me so long to put this together. If you can’t do one of the things above, you may think “well my shoulders are tight and I need to fix that” and you could be right! Could be wrong as well. Damnnit. It could be your lats, shoulder, pecs (which pull your shoulders forward into a bad position), muscle weakness, spine, scapula and/or could be anything that attaches to the to the upper body could be causing the problems. What should you do? Find the spots. Work upstream and downstream from the joint or sport you’re having trouble with. Find the tender spots, the non-tender ones and everything in between. Smash, stretch, work static holds (squat therapy) and check for improvement in that position. This applies to everything in the future too. One to get you started: Simple trap smash with a plate. You will need a lacrosse ball and a 25-45lb plate. Lay on the ground, place the lacrosse ball on your trap. Next, set the 45lb plate edge on your sternum like a tire rolling over you. Hug the plate and rock side to side with the lacrosse ball under you. Do 2min per side. This is the Rx version. Scaled: hug yourself without the plate and rock side to side on the ball.
    • Resources – Absolute Tx (Zac and Maria), Kelly Starrett from Ready State, GoWOD, and ask a coach. How to search Youtube example: Overhead Squat Mobility Fixes, Overhead Shoulder Mobility, Scapula Mobility, Overhead Squat Kelly Starrett. Basically add Kelly Starrett to anything and you should have multiple videos on each thing you’re having a problem with.

  • Front Rack Position – Defined as a bar resting in the front rack position for receiving a clean, prepping for a press or front squat.
    • Common Problems: Low elbows, wrist pain, finger tips under the bar not allowing to grasp, bar hovering above the shoulders not resting at all, or anything that causes problems in that position. Ideal Position: Bar in the front rack with full grip and upper arm parallel to the ground.
    • Fixes: Could be anything from the wrist to arm to shoulder to back muscles. Sensing a pattern? Like a someone who never got over their previous relationship’s status, it’s complicated. Start with the shoulder and work your way out, upstream and downstream. Same as above, smash, stretch, static front rack hold, etc… One to get you started: banded front rack stretch. Youtube it. Easy and can be adjusted to make harder or easier by the band size. Spend 2min per side. DON’T GO NUMB.
    • Resources – Absolute Tx (Zac and Maria), Kelly Starrett from Ready State, GoWOD, and ask a coach. How to search Youtube example: Front rack mobility Kelly Starrett, Improve front rack mobility, how to front squat better, best stretches for front rack position. Ask a coach! Remember to always mobilize and then retest to check progress.

  • Squat Position – Defined as the bottom of the squat, whether front, back or overhead squat.
    • Common Problems: Not able to keep the heels down throughout the whole movement, knee pain, ankle pain, feels like you’re doing a good morning instead of a squat, caving of the knees, hear us saying LOWER LOWER LOWER LOWER LOWER LOWER and you reply with a  I AM! or dirty words, hip pain, takes you 30min to air squat below parallel, and others.
    • Fixes: Could be anything from the hips, hamstrings, ankles, quad, thoracic spine, achilles or many other things. I know, it sucks. We want you to explore and find what’s right for you. We can help along the way too. Ask us and we can give you some stuff to try. We will take a picture, mobilize you, take a picture and see if it improves. Simple. If it does, do it. If not, don’t and try the next thing. One to get you started: Banded 3-position Lunge. Similar to a 3-position lunge, but you use a band attached to an upright to help pull the front knee out more.
    • Resources: Same as above. Youtube: Kelly Starrett Squat Mobility (Maybe even try his 10min squat test and see what happens), Improve squat mobility, etc..
I know it’s taken a lot to get to this point and thank you for sticking around. To recap, do some digging and find what works best for you. We will guide you and you can work on it. Bring ideas to us and we will do the picture test to see if you improve.
Minimum effective time is 90sec to 2min.  If you go numb, you stop. That’s the nerves, leave those bad boys alone. Now go couch stretch.
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”, and it definitely goes along with fitness. Come in early do 30 jumping jacks then grab a roller, lacrosse ball, a band or hop on the wall for some squat therapy. You will feel and move better, I promise. Invest in yourself.
Take care and I hope this helps to guide you on a healthier path.

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