Ways To Improve Positions
Last week we emphasized the importance of being able to create tension in position to develop power and to only seek enough mobility that optimal positions can be achieved while maintaining this tension. This week we will discuss some ways to improve positions that may be lacking. There are many things that may affect your ability to get into proper positions. Such as a lack of motor control (stability), restrictions of soft tissue, an improper balance of agonist and antagonist muscle groups, joint deformities (uncommon), etc.
The absolutely best way to improve a restricted position is to get into the best position as possible and work to be in a better one. Example: if you are unable to get into a good front rack position with elbows up, shoulders supporting the bar, and with a full grip on the bar; the best thing you can do is get into a front rack actively trying to lift the elbows high while maintaining a full grip. If in the bottom of the squat you are unable to maintain balance over the midfoot, knees tracking out over the toe, with the chest tall; squat as low as you can with a good position and hold it. Actively pulling your chest tall, pushing your knees out over the toe, while maintaining balance in the midfoot. You can also add a counter balance or even something under the heel to help improve this position. This will work the most effectively as it will strengthen the muscles needed to hold the position necessary at the same time lengthening the restricted muscles thru reciprocal inhibition. This will also improve the motor control of the position.
Identify the agonist muscles required to achieve the position and strengthen them in similar angles required for that movement. Example: If your knees come inside of the toe during the squat you can try things like banded lateral walks, supine hip extensions, and hip thrust to strengthen or “turn on” the glutes. The stronger or “turned on” muscle group will be more easily be able to create the ideal position.
Identify the antagonist muscles of the position and perform self-myofascial release (SMR), PNF stretching, stretching under load, or static stretching (personally find this to be time-consuming with minimal effect). SMR can be thought of as self-massage and is the foam rolling, lacrosse ball work that most people are familiar with. PNF stretching is a form of stretching that involves the contracting and relaxing of the muscle groups that you wish to increase the range of motion. It starts with a stretch of that muscle group for 20-30 sec followed by a slight back off and contracting of that same muscle group for 5-10 sec the joint should not change position and still be under a slight stretch then stretched again for another 20-30 sec repeated for 2-4 rounds. Stretching under load is the use of weight to help facilitate the stretch a good example of this is an RDL where you would push the hips back keeping the legs long and back arched until a stretch in the hamstring is achieved and standing back up with the weight. Static stretching is the form of stretching that is held for a period of time generally 2 min+. If you choose to use static stretching only use it after or completely away from workouts as it can have negative effects on force production. These methods will help increase the range of motion of a restricting muscle group.
These methods are most effective being utilized together rather than in isolation. They can be implemented as a part of a dynamic warm up and/or more deliberately as a cool down. They can also be done on rest days to scratch the itch of going to the gym.