Tightness = Weakness. So try fixing the problem with strengthening instead of stretching.
The old adage "no pain, no gain" has been around as long as fitness has. The idea being, if you're not getting the results you want from your fitness program, there can only be one reason: You're not training hard enough.
First of all, the notion that there's only one variable that affects physical adaptation is pure folly. The human body is complex. There are too many variables that contribute to fat loss, muscle growth and overall health and fitness to enumerate in a single blog post.
That would require a book.
Suffice it to say, this is where the vast majority of fitness enthusiasts and athletes go wrong. They fail to account for the dozens of factors that contribute to how their bodies adapt and respond to training. This thorough post from Joel Jamieson explores some of the more common obstacles: stress, overtraining and what is known as a "recovery debt."
In short: Your body's No. 1 priority is to keep you alive. It is not going to divert precious energy and resources away from vital functions like breathing and circulating blood in order to make your biceps bigger. Its No. 2 priority is to respond to stress. This is exactly where most fitness programs go off the rails.
Take a moment to think about your life. Job, career, kids, school, bills, sleep depravation and various emergencies that invoke a stress response and require substantial amounts of energy and nutrients to be mobilized. Now, how do you suppose your body will respond if you then trudge into the gym determined to kick your own ass and completely destroy yourself in the name of "stress relief?" If you're piling more stress upon all the stress you already have, and then wondering why you're not losing weight or building muscle, then you are probably stuck in the vicious cycle known as recovery debt.
Rather than forever seeking to max out your intensity and effort in your workouts, you would be better off learning and practicing some stress-management skills, moderating the intensity of your training sessions and incorporating some type of recovery activity into your fitness routine. If you need help with us, let us know in the comments or fill out one of the forms on our website and we'll be in touch right away.
And one more thing. Forget about the saying "no pain, no gain." Exercise and training should NEVER involve pain. Discomfort, yes. Muscle soreness, of course. But if your workout has you collapsing on the floor in a state of utter physical and mental destruction -- or worse, spending the rest of the day icing your joints -- you are most certainly doing more harm than good.
There is no more important aspect of performing a proper deadlift than creating tension. Tension through the core pillar ... and tension through the lats.
A weak core and inability to activate the lats through the full concentric and eccentric phases of a deadlift is the easiest way to sabotage your gains ... and worse, leave the door open to injury.
So, in addition to performing real core exercises that train the core pillar to brace and protect the spine, learning how to properly engage and activate the lats should be the top priority in your preparation for deadlifts and other foundational hip-hinge movements.
We often think of the lats as the muscles that span the side of your back from the armpit to the waist. Actually, their form and function are much broader. The lats connect the rear ribcage, upper arm, pelvis and hips. When properly engaged and activated, they blend these critical areas into a functioning unit.
It's a mistake to think that strong lats are going to improve your deadlift. In other words, that dude in the gym doing seated lat pulldowns with the whole stack isn't doing anything other than showing off. Latsturbating, if you will.
To learn and cue proper lat activation and tension that will transfer to heavy pulling, all you need is a resistance band and something around which to anchor it. It's example No. 7,876 of how people unnecessarily complicate their training when it really should be quite simple.
Check out this article from Dr. John Rusin to learn all about the straight-arm lat pulldown and all its variations. Then, incorporate these activation drills into your training -- especially before a heavy pulling session -- and let us know in the comments how it goes.
If you're serious about increasing your fitness and staying pain- and injury-free, you have a few options.
1) Watch all the mobility exercises flying across your Instagram feed, pick a few of them randomly, do them and hope they help. Not the best strategy, unless you enjoy wasting time doing exercises that may or may not be beneficial to you.
2) Make an appointment with a professional trainer who is qualified to assess movement. You would then undergo a movement assessment and receive a customized corrective exercise program. In most cases, such a qualified professional can narrow your prehab and mobility work down to 10-12 minutes of exercises that, if performed consistently and progressed properly, can improve your movement patterns and create a strong, stable based to support your fitness activities.
(Wait, what? Your gym/trainer doesn't perform any assessments when a person comes to train with them? Run, don't walk, out the door. Just be sure to perform some ankle mobility drills and calf activations first.)
3) If you're new to movement assessments and corrective exercise and don't really know where to begin, Dr. John Rusin has done all the work for you. He's combined some of the best ideas about human movement into three catch-all mobility drills that address the vast majority of problems we see in the fitness population: hip and adductor tightness, poor thoracic spine mobility and an inability to brace the core pillar and co-contract around the joints to create stability.
You can read all about and watch these go-to mobility drills ===> here.
The best part about these drills is that each one addresses multiple mobility restrictions and trouble spots by incorporating movement. Unlike your garden variety static stretches that you see the Guy With The Giant Biceps doing for hours at your local fitness chain, these drills combine mobility with core stiffness and movement -- which is exactly what your body needs when you lift weights, play sports or perform a conditioning workout.
Here's a great example, which combines a corrective exercise popularized by Functional Movement Systems (which we use to guide our programming at Max Velocity) and renowned baseball trainer Eric Cressey (whose methods we follow religiously in training our young baseball players).
Save yourself some time and try these simple, easy-to-perform mobility drills and let us know in the comments what differences you see in your training. And if you need help, or would like to receive a complimentary movement screen by a certified FMS professional, make an appointment here.
One of the most common setbacks for lifters and fitness enthusiasts is shoulder pain. Sadly, most trainers and gyms do not utilize a sensible, well-designed shoulder-care program. That's problem No. 1.
Problem No. 2 is that most people don't know what exercises to do (and which ones to avoid) when their shoulders get angry. And without a well-designed shoulder-care plan -- and an educated trainer to implement it -- lots of people get stuck in an endless pain loop that hinders their progress, or worse, leaves them too injured to train.
Fall is a time when lots of folks get excited about resuming their fitness program. So it's the perfect time to share this incredible resource from my friend Dr. John Rusin: The 20 Most Effective Exercises to Train Around Shoulder Pain.
Here are two of our favorite movements combined into one: the Banded Face-Pull + Pull-Apart Combo.
Here's another one of our go-to shoulder mobility drills, the Wall Slide With Liftoff.
At Max Velocity, we evaluate every client with a Functional Movement Screen so we can identify weaknesses and movement restrictions and provide a customized corrective exercise program. If you think this process is only for beginner or de-conditioned athletes, think again. Whether you're an advanced overhead lifter, Olympic weightlifter, throwing athlete or weekend warrior, shoulder health is of paramount importance to your success and pain-free training.
If you have movement dysfunction that's causing shoulder pain, it isn't going to go away on its own. And if you insist on lifting heavy and with high intensity without addressing the underlying problems, it's only a matter of time before you get hurt.
Try a few of these incredibly effective exercises and bullet-proof your shoulders before diving into your next overhead training session. Let us know in the comments how this approach works for you.