Barbell training as mobility work?

guardian7

More than 500 posts
There is a school of thought that says that mobility stretching is not that effective and that the purpose of stretching is not to extend a normal range of motion in fact but improve the quality of movement within that ranges (CARS).

Could a case be made for doing low bar squats, overhead press, and overhead squat with an unloaded bar if your main goal is improved movement quality. The overhead squat in particular, butchered by too many crossfit people doing it without the requisite strength and mobility, has got a great reputation.

Even flexibility focused works like flexible steel include a good morning type KB exercise which is basically loaded stretching.
SF also recommends moves like the armbar, which is wonderful for my left shoulder even very lightly loaded. Slow light getups can be very therapeutic and I agree with Dan John that it doesn't make sense to push a 1rm with them.

What lightly loaded movements would you include to improve mobility that both strengthen and stretch effectively within a normal range of motion more effectively than unloaded stretching? This would not apply to advanced athletes so much of course.

I think:

1. Overhead press. I do this unloaded sometimes and it makes my shoulders feel good, pause at the bottom and top, and KB press loaded.
2. Low bar squat. I don't do it but think it would be good to practice. I was told I don't have the mobility for it loaded, and should only do high bar.
3. Overhead squat. I do this with a dowel. It can be embarrassing to see your mobility. It is probably the best move. I do it with a staff.
4. Barbell front squat for forearm/shoulder, double KB for loaded.
5. KB armbar
6. Windmill? Never done it but it might be one.

What exercises would you recommend to do lightly loaded or unloaded bar do you do even though you don't intent to focus on the fully loaded version?
 

Antti

> 4k Posts
I definitely think you're on the right track.

My three current favourites are:

-behind the neck press
-good morning, though stiff legs deadlifts work great as well
-back squat, for time, prying

I don't think the load has to necessarily be light for these to improve mobility. For example, I like weight around 50% 1RM for the squats and the behind the neck presses. I would also argue that often a lack of flexibility/mobility is a lack of strength in the right place.

The overhead squat is a special one, I agree.
 

Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
I agree on overhead squat. I would say with hands in snatch grip, though you didn't specify. This brings the bar farther back behind the shoulders at the bottom than a press or jerk grip.

Cossack squat is a great one, too, and can add the overhead squat component. I do it with a PVC pipe but might be able to move up to empty barbell. Opens the hips as well or better than goblet squats.

Shoulder dislocates (silly name) are also great, but I'd just use a PVC pipe, not a barbell. Another version here.
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
I definitely think you're on the right track.

My three current favourites are:

-behind the neck press
-good morning, though stiff legs deadlifts work great as well
-back squat, for time, prying

I don't think the load has to necessarily be light for these to improve mobility. For example, I like weight around 50% 1RM for the squats and the behind the neck presses. I would also argue that often a lack of flexibility/mobility is a lack of strength in the right place.

The overhead squat is a special one, I agree.
I can definitely see behind the neck press. to improve thoratic mobility and something that might not be a good idea to fully load.
I forgot the prying goblet squat.
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
I agree on overhead squat. I would say with hands in snatch grip, though you didn't specify. This brings the bar farther back behind the shoulders at the bottom than a press or jerk grip.

Cossack squat is a great one, too, and can add the overhead squat component. I do it with a PVC pipe but might be able to move up to empty barbell. Opens the hips as well or better than goblet squats.

Shoulder dislocates (silly name) are also great, but I'd just use a PVC pipe, not a barbell. Another version here.
Shoulder dislocates, yeah weird name, I do regularly with an old kung fu staff. But I was thinking more of moves that would normally be done with a fully loaded barbell but are also good unloaded or light for a mobility focus.

I can't picture an overhead cossack since a regular one challenges me. You would have to have phenomenal thoratic mobility to have a sufficiently upright posture in the cossack to put the bar in the overhead position no? Isn't that even harder than an overhead squat? Wow!
 

kennycro@@aol.com

> 1k Posts
Could a case be made for doing low bar squats, overhead press, and overhead squat...
Full Range Movement Increase Flexibility

The most flexible group of athletes are Gymnast, as most know.

Either the second or third, I forget which, most flexible group of athletes are Olympic Lifters.

That because they perform full range movements that stretch the muscle under a large load: Full Squats, Squat Clean, Squat Snatch.

The overhead Squat Snatch stretches your shoulders, as well.

Traditional Exercises

Other traditional exercise that stretch the muscles under a load are: Deficit Deadlift. Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Dumbbell Bench Press, Dips, Lat Pulldowns, Chins and Pullups, Seated Incline Curls, etc.
 
I used to do the barbell progression demo'd starting at 2:56 in video link. Is good for shoulder mobility, but ultimately anything you can do with a light bar you can do with just a pole - the magic is in the movement pattern, not the load. Once you start adding load it seems more to just help with whatever mobility you already have. Pushing ROM with a load into areas you aren't already flexible can trigger a pretty strong stretch reflex.

For myself I find I get the best powered mobility by doing a variety of metcon type exercises with a moderate load. I feel this is a more important response than the conditioning aspect. The bar imposes a level of symmetry that limits carry-over (in my opinion).

 

Anna C

> 6k Posts
Elite Certified Instructor
What lightly loaded movements would you include to improve mobility that both strengthen and stretch effectively within a normal range of motion more effectively than unloaded stretching?
I'll also add the bench press. It does me a world of good to get set up on a bench, find the tight arched position, and hold the empty barbell and then do a set of bench presses with that weight. Sometimes I do it for a sort of "reset" at home, now that I have a rack set up at home. It makes my upper back feel great and counteracts the desk/computer posture.
 

Antti

> 4k Posts
I can definitely see behind the neck press. to improve thoratic mobility and something that might not be a good idea to fully load.
I forgot the prying goblet squat.
The prying goblet squat is a fine exercise but I far prefer the prying barbell back squat, which I tried to write about in my previous post. Though a yoke bar is likely even better than the barbell for it.
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
Bent press is a good one.

I've been doing a lot of close squats lately (heels touching), hammering on my ankle mobility.
Unloaded that is a pistol progression I learned at the SF course. Slight load would be a good progression. Does the bar help balance or make it more difficult?
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
I'll also add the bench press. It does me a world of good to get set up on a bench, find the tight arched position, and hold the empty barbell and then do a set of bench presses with that weight. Sometimes I do it for a sort of "reset" at home, now that I have a rack set up at home. It makes my upper back feel great and counteracts the desk/computer posture.
I just remembered a Rhonda Rousey warmup where she does a cossack with an overhead stick and dislocate among other things. I guess the stick allows you to push within the ROM as suggested in flexible Steel.
 

WhatWouldHulkDo

> 1k Posts
Unloaded that is a pistol progression I learned at the SF course. Slight load would be a good progression. Does the bar help balance or make it more difficult?
Good question, I don't know about the bar.

I've only ever loaded them with a KB goblet style, which actually makes the mobility part easier. I could imagine that putting the bar on your back would probably force you to lean further forward, which would probably have the same effect.
 

william bad butt

More than 500 posts
2. Low bar squat. I don't do it but think it would be good to practice. I was told I don't have the mobility for it loaded, and should only do high bar.
3. Overhead squat. I do this with a dowel. It can be embarrassing to see your mobility. It is probably the best move. I do it with a staff.
I find it hard to believe that you have the mobility to do overhead squats but not low bar squats. The only thing I can imagine is that you are trying to go too deep.

I know that this will sound odd, especially with this community, but I am working to reduce my mobility in my hips. Let me explain. For forever, I've been doing my goblet squats a#@ to grass, narrow foot placement. Brian Carroll is always telling me my barbell squat depth is way too low, "if you want to squat heavier weights you need to tighten up your hips and only squat to parallel". I now do my goblet squats differently. I still only use a 24kg. I have a wider stance, and really focus on pushing my hips back (like a low bar barbell squat). I only go to parallel and then I explode upwards.

A lot of my mobility work comes from this:
Dr. Locke is awesome. Brian Carroll made me aware of him.
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
I find it hard to believe that you have the mobility to do overhead squats but not low bar squats. The only thing I can imagine is that you are trying to go too deep.

I know that this will sound odd, especially with this community, but I am working to reduce my mobility in my hips. Let me explain. For forever, I've been doing my goblet squats a#@ to grass, narrow foot placement. Brian Carroll is always telling me my barbell squat depth is way too low, "if you want to squat heavier weights you need to tighten up your hips and only squat to parallel". I now do my goblet squats differently. I still only use a 24kg. I have a wider stance, and really focus on pushing my hips back (like a low bar barbell squat). I only go to parallel and then I explode upwards.

A lot of my mobility work comes from this:
Dr. Locke is awesome. Brian Carroll made me aware of him.
I was refering to myself mostly with "It can be embarrassing to see your mobility." I can't do it with proper form at all. I can do ATG squats and even hang out in an Asian squat position as a 50 year old white guy, but my elbows are in front of my ears in my unloaded overhead squat, that is why I am practicing it. It is really poor. I hang out in the overhead squat position and lengthen my spine.

I 100 agree about squats. I do ATG goblet squats but if I could squat properly I would do just below parallel. As you go down well past parallel, you lose tension and you are more likely to have valgus collapse. I still cue myself to push the knees out when doing them. I also made a case for pushups along these lines on this board where you should not touch the ground because you release the tension at a certain point. Going down to about the size of a golf ball under your chest keeps you tight with a good ROM without leaking tension.

ATG are great to develop the mobility and good for goblet squats and it depends on the person but for most people I agree. I think there are genetic factors as well as training factors though. I wouldn't say there is only one answer.
 

WhatWouldHulkDo

> 1k Posts
I know that this will sound odd, especially with this community, but I am working to reduce my mobility in my hips. Let me explain. For forever, I've been doing my goblet squats a#@ to grass, narrow foot placement. Brian Carroll is always telling me my barbell squat depth is way too low, "if you want to squat heavier weights you need to tighten up your hips and only squat to parallel". I now do my goblet squats differently. I still only use a 24kg. I have a wider stance, and really focus on pushing my hips back (like a low bar barbell squat). I only go to parallel and then I explode upwards.
Reminds me of the "Superfoot" Wallace story from Relax Into Stretch, I believe - karate fighter, got so proficient at the splits that he started losing speed on his kicks, and had to dial the ROM back a little. Can definitely be too much of a good thing.
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
Reminds me of the "Superfoot" Wallace story from Relax Into Stretch, I believe - karate fighter, got so proficient at the splits that he started losing speed on his kicks, and had to dial the ROM back a little. Can definitely be too much of a good thing.
Based upon some labratory work done by Stuart McGill the back specialist and Georges St. Pierre and another MMA fighter I saw in a Youtube video, the secret of power generation is the transition from tension to relaxation to tension. Like skilled Karate practictioners, elite strikers have an initial contraction to initiate the strike, a relaxed arm or leg and then a final contraction before impact. This is not that different from a KB swing except maybe the degree of relaxation. You don't get a good float if you are all tensed up. Pavel mentions Karate more in his older books. Not as applicable to grinding, but the lose of tension in the deep squat was also mentioned here.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@guardian7, @Pavel Macek and Resilient sounds like exactly what you're looking for because among other things, I'm sure Pavel explains the differences between the kinds of stretching things you mention.

I would not recommend any movements generally because we're all different, there are a thousand different ways to do this, and you should choose what accomplishes what you need to accomplish.

E.g., Cossack squats are great, but I can now do them whenever I want and I therefore work on things where I feel I want to, and can, improve. For me, the two-kettlebell front squat, deep, paused, and sometimes exhaled is brilliant right now - my right shoulder is tight, and the proper rack position for the kb FSQ gives me a wonderful strength stretch. If I had to pick one movement to recommend, it would be the Goblet Squat as taught in S&S.

-S-
 

guardian7

More than 500 posts
@guardian7, @Pavel Macek and Resilient sounds like exactly what you're looking for because among other things, I'm sure Pavel explains the differences between the kinds of stretching things you mention.

I would not recommend any movements generally because we're all different, there are a thousand different ways to do this, and you should choose what accomplishes what you need to accomplish.

E.g., Cossack squats are great, but I can now do them whenever I want and I therefore work on things where I feel I want to, and can, improve. For me, the two-kettlebell front squat, deep, paused, and sometimes exhaled is brilliant right now - my right shoulder is tight, and the proper rack position for the kb FSQ gives me a wonderful strength stretch. If I had to pick one movement to recommend, it would be the Goblet Squat as taught in S&S.

-S-
I am looking forward to seeing that seminar or hopefully reading the book. There are a variety of hanging exercises are far as I know. The one that works for me is the unloaded overhead squat, shoulder dislocates, and the prying goblet squat. I do the S&S warmup regardless of my workout with a set of light swings. Hip bridge and light swings work well as a warmup and activator for deadlift days.
 
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