Strength Movements to Use for Mobility and Strength
When we are working with meathead athletes, we all learn and realize that a lot of meatheads don’t like to do mobility work. What ends up happening is they come into the gym, they train really hard, and afterward, they don’t do any recovery. They don’t stretch. They don’t do yoga. They don’t meditate. They don’t like to do anything extra to try and improve how limber they can be or improve their joint integrity.
Meatheads love to lift weights, get stronger, and just go in and grind. But when it comes down to actually improving mobility, they hate it. They struggle with it. One of the big factors here is picking and choosing, and as a coach recognizing it in specific athletes to try and force athletes to do mobility work right inside their strength regiment.
There are great exercises to help meatheads improve mobility and overall joint integrity when holding various positions. And where are the problem areas we will see? We will see it in the thoracic spine, lower back, and ankle joints to start. We need to try to trigger an improvement through these different joints and ranges through exercise selections.
Let’s look at our first big movement.
1. Close Grip Snatch
We like to put technical coordination movements right in the beginning. This is a technically difficult movement. A very difficult movement. Athletes have to be explosive, absorb force, and hold really tight positions.
To do this movement, we want to set it up with a clean grip, maybe slightly wider. Start with absolutely no load on the bar and perform two to three snatches. Add a little pause in the hole to really help get warmed up. As weight is added, the body will really wake up to be carried through the rest of the workout.
From no weight, depending on strength, 50 kilos is a good weight to go to after the empty bar. Again do two to three reps. With mobility and trying to improve overall strength, we want to get the rate of force production pretty high. On top of that, when stiff, it is nice to do isometric actions, like the pause in the hole, to contribute to waking up the back.
As we talk about close grip snatches, there is nothing wrong with doing a lot of reps with just the bar to feel out the positions, especially if we are tight in the upper back and pecs. Utilizing the close grip snatch requires a longer pull and forces the hips, knees, and ankles to get deeper into the hole.
Jump up the weight again, depending on strength, and take a stab at 70 kilos for two to three reps. The body will feel better and geared to head into the next movement to increase mobility and strength.
2. Double Bounce Front Squat
The technical coordination movement with the close grip snatch helps us be more mobile, wake up the nervous system, and start to heighten everything to feel more of a pop, feel more aggressive to take us into the next exercise that allows us to improve strength and mobility: the double bounce front squat.
Ideally, we want to grasp the bar with a clean rack. Now if we can’t get into a clean rack, we can do an old school bodybuilder rack, a zombie squat, or utilize wraps to help hold the bar in a front rack. The front squat is a great movement. Adding a double bounce lights up the entire body in the hole. To perform the double bounce front squat, we want to squat as deep as possible, perform a quarter squat, which is properly closer to an ⅛ squat of a bounce and then squat all the way up. The thing is, as the second bounce is performed the body starts to open up, hitting better positions, the torso is more upright, and the body is essentially being trained to be where it wants to be. It also makes us more mobile too.
We want to do three to four sets of two to three sets while building up in weight and intensity. It will help us to feel nice and strong, mobile, and limber while drastically improving trunk coordination. And of course, it goes without saying the movement will increase strength and mobility so the body can hold better positions while increasing overall performance.
3. Overhead Step Up
We have to start thinking about unilateral movement and dynamic trunk control. We want to be more stable overhead and able to coordinate while using our quads and glutes. Best of all, this exercise will improve overall stability.
We want a plate overhead. A 20-kilo plate is aplenty. A 20” box is plenty high. We want to put the foot on the box and drive all the way up. Then switch legs and go back up. We want to do seven to nine reps on each leg. Now if we don’t want to use a box and have access to steps, we can do the movement with steps taking big strides. Let’s call it overhead stair walks. Get to the top, walk back down, and work through the movement multiple times.
This movement will be felt in the mid-back, abs, quads, calves, and glutes. It can be done as a warm-up, to elevate the heart rate, and improve coordination, mobility, and strength.
Some coaches think that athletes shouldn’t squat beyond parallel. That being mobile somehow takes away from being strong. Well, Haley Reichert, who squats 150 kilos while weighing 50 kilos, snatching a ton, and clean and jerking 109 kilos off the floor offers a great, tangible argument against such nonsense.
4. Rotating Kettlebell Presses
With that being said, we can finish this workout with a little triplet. This triplet will be all upper bodywork. We want to start with rotating kettlebell presses for five to seven reps. Begin with the chest facing forward. From this juncture, rotate ninety degrees to the left or right, hold the trunk twisted position and press the kettlebell overhead and lower. Once the kettlebells are lowered to the shoulders, rotate one hundred eight degrees to the opposite side. Again, with the rotated trunk being held, press. Continue the sequence of twist, press, lower, repeat until hitting five to seven repetitions for three to four sets.
The beauty of this movement is that it demands thoracic rotation. For athletes that struggle with their upper back and holding good posture, this is a great movement to do as a warm-up two to three days a week. Remember when pressing to really fill up the belly. This movement will feel good in the abs as well. We love using this movement with our discus throwers and wrestlers.
Then right into the next movement.
5. Dead Hang Pull-Ups
We need to remember that lengthening is strengthening. We want to hang and actively pause in the hang. Give a solid three count before pulling the body up. Come down and repeat, hanging at the bottom again before pulling up. Try to execute five to seven reps in a set.
This movement will help to mobilize and lengthen the lats. This helps create a good stable position overhead as well as make athletes stronger.
That leaves one movement left to finish off the workout. Let’s hit up some bizes.
5. Simons Curls
With dumbbells in hand, we want to lay back on an elevated bench. A bench can easily be elevated by putting plates underneath. To do this movement, we let the dumbbells go towards the floor, thinking about lengthening the bicep tendon. This movement will stretch out the shoulders, pecs, and elbows. From there, curl the weight up with a solid squeeze at the top. Execute five to ten reps for each set.
A really big thing with the Simons curl is to work the supinated grip until close to failure. This will really lengthen the tendon; however, once the fatigue sets in with the supinated grip, go ahead and change to a neutral grip/hammer grip to get a really big pump.
Remember, training mobility is important to increasing overall strength. Don’t ever forget: LENGTHENING IS STRENGTHENING. Utilize all of these exercises to try and improve strength. Not only will the exercises make athletes stronger, but the exercises will also make athletes more stable in various positions and, in turn, a ton stronger.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.