Minimalist Stretching and Mobility

Frankly, I don’t always understand the fitness industry. We tend to sway back and forth with things:

You MUST stretch 24 hours a day.
Stretching destroys you…you will die.
Mobility and Stability are the only things…
Mobility and Stability are over rated.

Now, nutritionists make it worse with the wine is good/bad, coffee is good/bad and all the rest, but most of us know that obesity is not caused by too many vegetables, coffee and red wine. Ah…but what about white wine?

I love to incorporate simple basic stretches and mobility movements into my training. If you know my work or my hands on workshops, you know that we try to make stretching and mobility work “seamless” in a training program. Between sets of something like swings, I usually have people do a Goblet Squat or two and maybe an additional movement for global issues around the body. It’s a “rest” period without sitting down and texting. It also gives you a chance to get OUT of the gym which I actually see as a good thing. The best gym mantra is “Don’t waste my time” and that is probably true for most of life.

I drink deeply from the work of Tim Anderson when it comes to the warm up part of training. I use his rocking, crawling and marching as a base of training. I repeat a bit of it in my book, Intervention, but Tim’s work is worthy of exploration. It is inexpensive but will provide you with years of ideas. Here:

As much as I love “this and that and this,” I tend to like programs that have just a few things. I had a good conversation yesterday about a “perfect” training program for a particular goal and we came up with:
Day One:
Warm up with Turkish Get Up, Goblet Squat, and Swing
Bench Press
Day Two
Warm up with Turkish Get Up, Goblet Squat, and Swing
Bench Press

That’s it. A twice a week program for someone who has limited time in the weightroom and big goals outside of it. I also like what we did in the 10,000 Swing challenge where I would do:
Day One
500 swings
Goblet Squats
Day Two
500 swings
Day Three
500 swings
Pull Ups
Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, there should be no surprise that I also like a minimal approach to flexibility and stretching. I base the program on two issues:

First, as a Road Warrior traveling most weekends, I have discovered that I share the same stiffness and tightness that any one with broad shoulders discovers during flying. Oh, and it affects everyone else, too. Travel, overtraining, and stress seem to do a few things:

  • Tightens the hip flexors
    Puts the Rhomboids to sleep
    Takes T-spine mobility AND rotary stability (these are related somehow)
    Basically it simply ages you into an old man’s shuffling walk.
  • Janda warned us about this with his explanation of “tonic muscles.” As we age, these muscles tend to tighten:
    Hip Flexors
    Innie Muscles of the thighs

    Sadly, these are the muscles most people train, but they are literally aging you if you overdo them. These are great muscles for holding on to a tree as tight as you can, but they don’t necessarily help performance. So, I have come up with two simple stretches to take care of all of this. Certainly, we do more than this, for example, adding Bird Dogs each workout, but these two moves cover just about everything. They are: the Windmill Stick and the Stoney Stretch.

    Hold any stick or pole in the T Position…as seen here with our beautiful model:
    Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.11.01 AM
    From there, “Check your Hinge” and push your butt back until you feel your hamstrings stretch. Remember this feeling.
    Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.11.37 AM
    This is important and you might miss it: stand straight up again and slide one foot forward. If you were to step on your own foot that would be the relationship. In the pictures, we are right foot forward. NOW…reestablish the HINGE. With the feet staggered, feel the hinge again. Feel the hamstrings stretch, but don’t judge it…don’t worry about which one is tighter. We are all a lot different.

    Now, without losing the hinge, twist your right elbow into the inside of the right knee and lock it in there.
    Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.12.21 AM

    Keep pushing your butt back! Not down, not up, back. Wedge your body into that elbow/knee connection and twist away. The stick should be vertical. Now, for the “eye trick:” In this case, close your left eye and try to find the top of the stick with your right eye. In this pic, I am unwinding my whole spinal column and twisting me head around to see the stick. It is taken just before I found it.
    Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.16.05 AM

    Now, I like to hold this until I feel myself cheat forward and lose the hinge. Once that happens, I am losing that bow and arrow or tug-of-war feeling across my body. And interesting thing is this: where you feel it might indicate where you are having issues. Guys who bench and curl a lot tend to feel it in their pecs. Throwers feel it in the ribs and some people don’t feel anything…usually because they are cheating and not doing it right. Hold the hinge!

    Oh, and I get it ballerina/yoga girl…you don’t feel it. “I don’t get it.” Good for you, you have the ability to turn off your hamstrings. That is NOT an advantage in performance.

    The next is named after our famed superhero of training, Stoney Beckstead. Stoney recently had his fifth son and has missed some days, but he is the inspiration for this movement. In our gym language, “Stoney” is any movement in a lunge position where you pulse down (but NEVER touch the ground) with the whole down knee side of the body.

    You can do this in a door frame or with people, but the TRX works well for us at our gym. Step into the TRX and align your arms above your head with no slack.
    Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.17.21 AM
    Step forward first, then lunge back. If the straps loosen, wiggle yourself forward. Try to squeeze your knees together this whole drill.

    Now, here is the stretch: “Fly” down with gentle arm pumps which open your pecs and biceps. If you are squeezing your knees, these mini-lunges should be open your hip flexor. Now, none of the moves are direct hamstring stretches, but actually they are. You are stretching them in both moves in the systems they work in, not as one of the pieces of Frankenstein’s monster’s body.
    Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 11.19.30 AM

    I know when I am doing the Stoney Stretch right when my upper chest opens up. Remember, keep squeezing the knees in or together and continue to pump or pulse. Push the down knee hip forward as best you can during this drill.

    With a minimalist strength program, these two stretches are going to be an interesting addition. Listen, I KNOW you can do more…I know it! But, will it be better?

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