Movement & Mobility
t”Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact it is essential and something that every single athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience of dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time wise – resulting in unnecessary frustration due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is NOT a linear process. The secret is to show up, do the work, go home. A blue collar work ethic married to an indomitable will. It is that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge, refuse to compromise” – Christopher Sommer
“Extreme flexibility that is not supported by strength is actually dangerous. You can get your joint way out of normal range of motions under load without the requisite strength increases the potential for injury massively. But if there’s strength through that ROM then you’ve increased your athletic ability.” – Christopher Sommer
Connective tissue takes 200-210 days to remodel and see the first cycle of adaptations. That’s 6-7 months. Patience. You can’t force it.
“Some people beleveie that there’s a difference between pursuing health and performance, that they’re somehow diametrically opposed. In Christopher Sommer’s approach with all his athletes he disagrees without that vehemently because a health athlete is one that can perform better. The healthier and more pain free we can keep someone the better results we’re going to get.”
Soft Tissue Work
“If you can’t get in the right position how can you exercise in the right position” – Christopher Sommer
Tools like foam rollers and lacrosse balls are great for addressing the knots in the fascia of our muscle. Think of them as knots in one’s hair. If they’re not addressed these knots eventually get pulled tighter and turn into adhesion’s. Which in the worst cause begins replacing muscle tissue with collagen.
When you’re on the rings we need the grip turned out past parallel. We turn past parallel so the brachialis is activated which is what supports the elbow when its straight. Which is what you need to advance to movements like the iron cross. See the hands turned out.
Weighted mobility work is a central component of the GymnasticBodies curriculum, yet it is also one of the least commonly performed types of movements outside of Gymnastics Strength Training. When athletes attend their first GB Level 1 Seminar, they often remark not about their lack of strength or skill, but rather their need to practice the weighted mobility exercises more. For decades, if not longer, the traditional fitness advice has been to get stronger by lifting weights and get more flexible by static stretching without weight. Here we will discuss how weighted mobility is different and why it is needed.
Not your average stretching
The typical recommendations for increasing flexibility in the past have been to increase your range of motion in a static stretching position using only your bodyweight. When you add load into the equation via weighted mobility work, however, then the entire scenario changes. 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.
The problem is that many people who are very flexible are also very weak, just the same as many people who are very strong are also very stiff and tight. So the weight of their torso may not be enough to help them bend forward. So he can’t make much progress. But by adding load to your stretches in the proper manner, you will be able to build strength into your flexibility. 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 your muscles to move into and out of these positions.
Another key reason weighted mobility work is so necessary is because for many adults, it took years of improper weight training and sedentary living to cause their body to stiffen up. When you work desk patrol for 40 hours each week and your only training is bench press, bicep curls, and lat pulldowns, then your shoulders will slump forward, your hip flexors will chronically flex, and your hamstrings will be as tight as piano wires. The harsh reality is that when your body is broken as such, it will take more than just static bodyweight stretching to fix.
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 fascia to adapt in a positive manner. Try these two exercises below for an introduction to this type of stretching.
Begin by using a light weight such as an empty barbell, and stand on a box (or some weight plates) so that your feet are above the floor.
Tuck your chin, lock your knees, and round your back one vertebrae at a time, letting the weight of the bar pull you into compression.
Continue flexing your spine until you are as low as possible. You can also think about trying to lay your stomach on your thighs, or your nose onto your knees.
In the bottom position your chin should be tucked, your legs should be straight, and the weight should be hanging from your arms.
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 here.
Before you begin attempting Jefferson Curls, it is imperative to note that this exercise is to be done at light weights (or perhaps with no weight at all to start) and absolutely pain-free. When Coach Christopher Sommer first learned of this movement, it was being performed by weightlifters and powerlifters who used it to loosen up their backs after training. With their lower backs stuck in hyperextension from all the squatting and deadlifting, they used the Jefferson Curl at light weights in order to balance out their spines.
For the average adult coming to GST™ for the first time, however, we need to exercise caution first when training this movement. The weight used should be minimal to start, and often as light as 5 lbs is enough for adults to feel a stretch throughout their backs. There should be no pain whatsoever when performing Jefferson Curls, and if there is then you should back off and address the pain issue before training this movement.
The goal is to increase pain-free, active range of motion.
Keep in mind that you cannot train your mobility with the same intensity that you do your conditioning, as that is simply asking for an overuse injury due to the ranges of motion and rate of adaptations involved. Rather, exercise some patience with progressing your Jefferson Curls, and aim to add anywhere from 5-10 lbs every 2-3 months on this movement.
Allow your body to move through the stages of overload, load, and underload while you gain flexibility in your hamstrings, strength in your posterior chain, and more movement options in your spine. “Make haste slowly,” Coach Christopher Sommer would say, and you will reap the benefits of having a strong, supple, and mobile body.
If you were to only perform one weighted stretch for the upper body, shoulder dislocates should probably be it. Daniel Chan from GB Affiliate BodyTree GST in Singapore does an excellent job explaining the intricacies of this movement in the above video. Briefly, use a PVC pipe loaded with a 2.5- or 5-lb weight plate to start, and stand up tall with your hands holding the PVC in front of your body. Keeping your elbows locked and your ribs in, lift the PVC up overhead, continuing all the way behind you until the PVC touches the small of your back. Move slowly and with control, and reverse this movement by lifting the weight (keep your elbows locked!) back up overhead until you reach the start position.
Quality is paramount here, so take your time and do these properly to yield the best results.
Here are the key things to remember:
- Weighted mobility differs drastically from your typical stretching routine, but it is necessary given the damage most adults have done to their bodies over time.
- Jefferson curls will help build both strength and flexibility in your back, hamstrings, and entire posterior chain.
- Shoulder dislocates are one of the best upper-body weighted mobility exercises to bulletproof your thoracic spine.
10×10: Starting from a squat – straighten up – pause = 1 x10. On the 10th rep hold the pike for 10sec.
Hollow Body Position
Arch Body Position
“Many athletes progress to a stage in their athletic development where they can perform multiple repetitions of pull-ups and dips with ease, but when they try to do a muscle-up, nothing happens. They pull as hard as they can… and they are stuck below the rings or bar without any muscle-up to show for it. As we have mentioned before, muscle-ups involve more than just pull-ups and dips, and you specifically need to spend time developing strength in your false grip and rings support hold.”
The muscle-up has become a glorified movement in gyms and fitness studios all over the world recently. Many people, however, perform this movement with a slight-to-extensive kip so that momentum allows them to get above the rings. While this progression might be acceptable for the short-term, the long-term goal should always be a strict muscle-up so that the trainee develops the strength to control his or her body above the rings rather than relying on momentum.
In gymnastics the strict muscle-up is simply how male gymnasts get above the rings to start their routines. Whereas strict muscle-ups have become about as rare as unicorns in adult fitness gyms around the world, in most gymnastics circles they are simply akin to lacing up your shoes before starting your run.
The real meat and potatoes of beginner muscle-up progressions should be preparing your false grip. Simply put, if your forearms lack the muscular strength to hold your bodyweight on the rings, then your strict muscle-up will be nonexistent. Spend time hanging from the rings in a proper false grip, both with bent arms and straight arms. Also be sure to practice your rows and chin-ups with a false grip as well in order to strengthen the forearms through a dynamic range of motion.
A pullup component.
Transition: You need enough shoulder extension to let the elbows go back behind the torso.
A dip component.
“We are taught that these gymnastic elements like the muscle up are skilled training, that they’re technique training. That’s a load of shit. It’s not skill training, skill training is a triple back flip. This is a strength element. In order to do this stregnth element correctly the body has to be able to get into the correct positions.” – Christopher Sommers
A good indiactor test to know if you’re ready to try a muscleup:
Lower onto the inside of your upper biceps.
Can be done on parallel bars, elevated benches or plyo boxes.
Progression: lower down onto the edge of the box or bars where there is nothing to catch your biceps as you lower into free space.