Here's what you need to know...
- Stretching isn't enough. You need to be able to use strength in every position your body can get into.
- When you're able to passively get into a position but aren't able to express any strength in that position, you're more likely to get injured.
- Most lifters overuse their muscles in certain positions while completely neglecting them in others.
- To improve the strength-movement spectrum in the lower body, use simple furniture sliders to do multi-directional slider lunges.
- With your hips functioning optimally you'll be ready to smash the heavy weights like never before.
Does Your Training Leave a Gap?
Squat. Deadlift. Repeat until strong. This approach works, but it can leave a gap.
The problem? The main movements people do in the gym are all linear and symmetrical. There's no increase in the range or vector of the movements, just an increase in load using the same pattern. Improving your squat numbers is awesome, but it isn't developing all the physical qualities we all want and need.
By loading irregular patterns, we can improve overall strength, flexibility, and coordination, which will actually help improve your heavier lifting and prevent overuse injuries.
Stretching is helpful, but it's not enough. You need to be able to use strength in every position your body can get into. In fact, when you're able to passively get into a position, but aren't able to express any strength in that position, you're far more likely to get injured.
The difference between your active and passive flexibility is called a gap. The smaller the gap, the less likely you are to be injured.
How High Can You Go?
Here's an experiment for you to try. Lie down on your back and lift one leg off the floor as high as possible while keeping the other leg on the ground. Hopefully your leg goes to about 90 degrees or more. Repeat on other side.
Relax and repeat the drill, but this time use a belt or strap and pull your leg up as high and far back as your flexibility will allow.
Most people will notice that they can go significantly farther passively (with the belt) than they can actively (without), and that's indicative of a gap. If there's a significant difference, it just means you need to use your strength to start really owning your flexibility.
The body typically responds well to gaining range of motion (ROM) passively and then owning it through an active movement directly afterward. One example would be to perform a single-leg hamstring stretch followed by an unweighted single-leg Romanian deadlift.
The Solution: Slider Lunges
Of course the gap is only half the problem. The other part is that we have all these awesome muscles capable of cool stuff but we overuse them in some ways while completely neglecting them in others.
One simple way to start improving the strength-movement spectrum in the lower body involves using simple furniture sliders.
The multi-directional slider lunges are terrific for improving the strength and active ROM in hip adduction, abduction, hip flexion, and hip extension. All of the above movements can be done while holding onto a suspension trainer or gymnastics rings for assistance until you're comfortable doing them unassisted.
How to Put it Into Your Program
Don't do these at the beginning of a workout until they're easy for you to perform. There's going to be a significant amount of stress from these movements when you start out, so don't do these and jump straight into heavy squatting or deadlifting right after.
Related: More on owning your flexibility
Instead, do them after your deadlifts as accessory work for the lower body when you might be doing lunges anyway. A good power training session might look like this:
|E||Multi-Directional Slider Lunge||5||3 *|
* 3 cycles per side
The great part about slider lunges is that once you're more competent, you can use them as a mobility drill to help prepare you for heavy lifting, which is ultimately the goal. Here's an example of a great prep combo superset:
|A||Single-Leg Glute Bridge||3||8 *|
|B||Side Plank||3||3 *|
|C||Multi-Directional Slider Lunge||3||3 *|
* per side
You can bet that the hips are going to be functioning optimally and ready to smash some heavy weights after that.