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The Importance Of Mobility Training

The bittersweet blessing bestowed upon every young man who, whether to increase the vitality of his immune system to ward off unwelcome disease, gain more than his fair share of feminine attention and affection, or simply to add some beef to kick a bully's ass, has sought greater muscular size is an incredible gain in strength and bulk, offset by a near complete loss in mobility.

Many a misguided neophyte bodybuilder, myself most definitely included, plugged away at the standard compound exercises studiously and assiduously, and, as compensation for their continued perseverance, were granted gorgeously capped deltoids, thighs with the girth of stumps, arms as massive as mountains, chests that would shame the cast of Baywatch, and lats so wide their backs could double as hang gliders. They preen and prance like prized stallions, enamored by the barbaric enormity of their physiques, as well as the apparent comic book quality of their strength. It is an intoxicating gift for sure, with the trade off that, for all that they've gained, they now possess all the flexibility of a cadaver drunk on formaldehyde.

There's no doubt that the average man you'll encounter on the street is frightened into a state of submissive unease when faced with a physically superior man, and falls back onto whispered barbs uttered to his equally unimpressive cohorts when one of us is safely out of earshot. Normally, we'd leave these fragile, worthless creatures to suffer and wane in their own impetuousness and ignominy. The difference is that in this case their pitiful attempts at wit carry a kernel of truth.














"Man, how does this freak wipe his ass, with a stick?", the gawking nerd says.

"I dont know man. Let's go back to our sparse, depressing lives devoid of women, real friendship and sex of any kind!", the frail geek responds.

"Hell yeah! Also, tonight it's my turn to get laid. Be sure to sit on your hand for at least 20 minutes before you start."

Im sure that's how the conversation goes anyway, but I can't be certain. I spend my time with winners and women, not soy infused inveterates forced to hold onto their virginity well into their 30's.











As stated previously, most musclemen at all stages of development are cursed with all the mobility of a broomstick. As the muscles grow in size, flexibility can often suffer. There are 2 primary ways this can happen.

 1.  The lifter neglects to use a full ROM on his exercises. A common example is, during the Bench Press, a guy lowering the bar a few inches above his chest, raising 4-5 inches higher, and then returning to that same limited starting point.

 Supporters of this technique assert that this style of lifting keeps full tension on the muscle being trained, and this is objectively true. What they unfortunately neglect to mention is that when training with a severely shortened ROM, the muscles will eventually grow tight and shorten, ultimately reducing strength. Also, the joints, tendons and ligaments, which normally gain a proportionate amount of strength and thickness related to the growth of the muscle they support, are completely ignored. This leads to a variety if problems, from nagging aches on the minor end of the spectrum all the way to the muscle being separated from the bone at the other extreme.

A FULL ROM IS ALWAYS BETTER, HEALTHIER AND MORE BENEFICIAL

Which cascades nicely into my second point.

 2. As the muscles sprout in size, the joints, tendons and ligaments can still grow stiff and rusted, even if a full ROM is used. This is because while muscles are provided with their mana, blood, through exercise, as it is circulated naturally during the exertions, joints, tendons and ligaments rely on something called Synovial Fluid.

To these parts of the body, Synovial Fluid is an elixir, similar to a continuously replenishing  supply of oil to a beaten, weathered car. Repeated servings of this restorative bath will keep the joints, tendons and ligaments strong, pliable and ready. Yet, due to a lack of knowledge, they are almost certainly dehydrated and parched.

Weightlifters, especially males, are notorious for performing a lack of mobility training. Stretching is effeminate and fruity, the province of hippies, yogis and Crossfitters.

First of all, if you're a guy and you refuse any opportunity to take a yoga class that will invariably be packed to the brim with fit, firm young women situated in all sorts of bending positions, clad in little more than a fashionable sports bra and those succulent little LuLuLemon booty shorts, go take a lead shower, because you are an embarrassment to our gender as a whole.

Second, stretching, whether active or passive, static or dynamic, self guided or partner assisted, will make you stronger by sole virtue of the scientifically proven fact that a stretched, elongated muscle that can comfortably be strained through its full ROM while in a loaded position is capable of contracting more intensely and engaging more muscle fibers.

In layman's terms, if you stretch, you can access more of your latent strength and power.






Remember guys, only fags train here.








The practice of stretching, when taken to its logical extreme, is obviously displayed by master Yogis and circus contortionists. To attain that level of flexibility, however, is actually pretty unhealthy and structurally dangerous. In the words of the great Paul "Coach" Wade, joints should be tough and springy like the metal coils of a vehicle, not stringy and loose like microwaved cheese. If you attain full ROM through a plane of movement while stretching relaxed, it means that, though momentum can move and carry you through it, it isn't under your full control like it is when you possess the same ROM when stretching under natural tension.

The perfect, most readily digestible example is to compare a soccer player and martial artist. A common warm up stretch for any soccer player is to kick their foot above their head, using momentum to launch their straight leg out and over like a lever. Sure, they can do it nice and smoothly, but ask them to do it slow and suddenly their expertise vanishes.

Contrast this with the martial artist capable of fully extending his leg through the hip and knee, then as slowly as he wishes, raising that leg skyward, controlled and with robotic precision, until his pointed foot has risen above his forehead. In the first case, the athlete was at the mercy of momentum, while in the latter, he was the absolute owner of his flexibility, from beginning to end. This is the key separating passive and active stretching.






       The Back Bridge, a classic yoga move, is all youll ever need to remain spry and secure.


           









The body has a built in reflex that prevents us from injuring ourselves through overreaching across a given ROM. It's called the Myotatic Reflex, and it's truly a Godsend. It acts as a self-regulating brake for the muscles, protecting the motards from literally stretching themselves too thin. Partner-assisted stretching, as well as being forced through a movement series by relaxing into the stretch, are both Passive, and, in a process similar to incremental, progressive resistance, gradually detrains the Myotatic Reflex, inhibiting it from firing. Active stretching, on the other hand, will engage the muscle while relaxing its antagonistic opposite only as far as a person’s strength will allow. The muscle is kept tense while it is elongated, leading to greater strength gains and joint stability.

Enough science. Here are the preliminary steps to achieving the full Back Bridge.


If you initially lack the strength or flexibility to press into the full position, there are numerous lead up techniques you can abuse until you achieve the coveted move.








SHORT BRIDGES

Lie flat on your back on a comfortable surface. Lay your arms vertically at your sides, loose and free. Bend your knees and pull your feet back about halfway towards your butt. From this position, flex your glute muscles and raise your hips as high as you are able. The purpose of the movement is to flex your lower back. This relatively easy exercise inoculates your body for the rigors of the full Back Bridge. Hold it for 30 seconds at full extension before moving on.













STRAIGHT BRIDGES


Sit on the ground with your legs locked and straight with your feet together. Place your palms on either side of your hips with a slight bend to the elbows. Slightly press, and as you do, raise your butt up off the ground, arch your back out, and lift your hips, levering out your body until it’s ramrod straight. Hold for 30 seconds.














HEAD BRIDGE

Lie flat on the ground. Lift your arms up and place your hands on either side of your head, so that your fingers are pointing towards your feet. The elbows will be bent. At this point, bend the knees slightly and prepare for takeoff. As with the Short Bridge, arch your hips and press through your knees, raising the lower half of the body, only this time, arch your upper body as well, ensuring that your head stays in contact with the ground at all times alongside your hands pressed firmly into the deck. Hold for 30 seconds.










BACK BRIDGE

Here we are, finally, after weeks to months of work, you’ve developed the requisite flexibility and power to fully own this position. Let’s get to it.

In theory, it’s facile. Simply follow the steps for the Head Bridge, only this time, push up and out with the elbows as well until you are in full spinal extension. The 30 second rule doesn’t apply here anymore either. It will more than suffice, but aim for holding this move for a full minute to witness the complete destruction of any back, hip or shoulder pain you may have.



The Back Bridge is the ultimate prehab/rehab tool. When Bruce Lee damaged his vertebrae doing heavy Good Mornings, he used this group of movements to train himself back to full, vibrant health and exuberance. Many lifters utilize the bridge as a warmup before heavy Deadlifting, as it supercharges the spinal column in preparation for strenuous effort, and soothes the soreness and wreckage inflicted on the body by unforgiving iron. Speaking from experience, I hadn’t Deadlifted in nearly a year, eschewing the barbell in favor of Bridging. As of last week, I can still pull a comfortable 365 easy. Hardly elite, but this is after a prolonged sabbatical from any serious Deadlifting for an extended period of time.

This move will, as Paul Wade decrees, bulletproof your spine. Practice it fervently.


*****As an aside, all black and grey photos displaying the exercise in a destructive manner were taken from the immortal book Convict Conditioning 2 by Paul "Coach" Wade, distributed by Dragon Door Publications. I get no residuals or affiliate marketing style kickbacks for any purchases made by those reading these words, so dont fear any dishonesty on my end. The manual is simply indispensable for everyone from casual trainees to budding calisthenics masters. Buy it.



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