Mobility Drill: Banded Hip Flexor Stretch

Why Your Fitness Program Needs Integrated Mobility Work

Are you on a training program that states it will get you the sexy or shredded body you have always wanted?  Does it have nutrition integrated in with it’s programming?  If it doesn’t…drop it like a bad habit!  This is similar to how I feel to fitness training programs that offer to make you fit, stronger, or lean but don’t have integrated mobility work paired with it.  If you want someone to achieve these attributes you are doing them a disservice if you aren’t looking out for them long-term.

They may help you get the results you want short term, but if you want to have a healthy strong body long term and do the things you love pain free, mobility work and stretching is a must!  Let me give you a life example of my own:

I participated in Track and Field from my young adolescent years all the way through college.  I loved it and it seemed to work for me.  I got great results aesthetically from the training we did and decent strength gains when we were hitting the weight room.  But…the biggest issue that I have come to realize now that I am pushing 40 is that we never emphasized stretching or mobility work.  When practice was over and all the hard work was done…you were on your on with no guidance in these areas.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved all my coaches and they all had an impact on my life growing up.  But I wish they cared a little bit more about what was going to happen to me long term if I didn’t do proper recovery and maintenance work on my body.  I should take responsibility as well because I knew stretching helped to some degree, but didn’t care too much about it if my coaches didn’t.  Go figure, we were all so smart in those days…

Let’s fast forward to the present day.  I have been competing in Spartan and Obstacle Course racing now for almost 4 year.  Prior to that I was doing Crossfit.  My body is an absolute mess and it isn’t all due to the training I have been putting in these past few years for the sport of OCR, it takes time and hard work to beat the hell out of it.  There are many athletes in my age group and older that have healthier bodies and have had similar athletic backgrounds to me.  The main difference I find is that they had coaches in the past that incorporated proper warm ups, cool downs, and stretching for these athletes…and if they didn’t they have excellent genetics on their side…mine must be from the basic gene pool.

On the same token I find as we get older, we get wiser with our training and recovery protocols.  I find that I spend more time working on my recovery and mobility work more than actually working out.  Crazy right?!  Why?  Because of all the tight connective, muscular, and fascia tissue problems I have due to a nonexistent recovery protocol in my past and overtraining in college to stay competitive with the top athletes.  Now pair that with training hardcore in Crossfit and OCR and all while over 30 and bam, you got a train wreck a coming (I’m there now with a bad foot injury still).

In our 20s we bounced back quickly and in are early 30s you can somewhat get away with it unless your basic like me…I had to start working on reversing the damage from the past all while keeping up with the wear and tear I am doing to my body in the present.

How does this relate to the training program that you are on?  It does!  Let’s say the program you are on is getting you excellent strength gains and you look great too.  The problem isn’t short term.  The problems you will deal with training on a program without integrated mobility work will come up maybe a decade or two later, maybe sooner if you are like me and trained hard most of your life with very little to no mobility work. Fortunately for us there is so many programs and gyms out there now that give you the tools and knowledge you need to keep your bodies healthy and hopefully pain free and still have the positive results that we all want.

How do you find these places?  Google gyms, fitness, Crossfit, etc. in your area and look at their websites.  See if they blog or post anything up about what they represent or apply with their clientele.  Do they have Facebook and Instagram pages?  I find that social media is the best way to get a quick glimpse of what each gym is all about and I can make a pretty good guess whether I want to train or send someone there.  When all else fails…try them all out and do a comparison.  In my opinion a gym or fitness program that is nailing it has:  strength and conditioning, mobility, and nutrition fundamentals built into their program.

Now go out there a win!

 

 

Death Stretch

Mobility Tip of the Week: Death Stretch

Got tight hips and quads?  Sit a lot?  The Death Stretch is hands down one of my favorites to recommend.  This mobility exercise gets its name from the pain (often associated with death) it has caused others in the past.  Kelly Starrett of MobilityWod calls it the Couch Stretch.

(this is not the couch stretch fyi…)

I was first exposed to this mobility drill in 2009 when I first joined Robb Wolf‘s gym, Crossfit NorCal (if you are into history of Crossfit, this might be an article of interest).

I was green when it came to the term “mobility” then as most folks in 2009 were.  Crossfit and mobility weren’t a household name yet, but they definitely were a growing trend.  I was taking NorCal coach Nicki Violetti’s Olympic Weightlifting classes then, and we had to do this drill a few times during the class session.  I dreaded it!  I was as tight as Scrooge with his money (still a work in progress) and my hips and quads felt like they were going to rip off each time…but she stressed consistency.

Well…I drank the Kool-Aid (no sugar added as the gym was Paleo and the owners had a code to follow…) and kept working on it.

I finally started seeing some progress.  Gosh darn it.  They were right.  I could pull a leg up in a few months in and the stretch actually started to feel good instead of down right painful.  Eventually I was able to sit up tall and get my glutes engaged which allowed me to get my hips forward (this allows you to maximize the stretch in the hips and quads).

Here is a great video of my On Ramp coach Cindy Oji (The O.G.) demonstrating The Death Stretch from NorCal Strength and Conditioning’s extensive library on YouTube:

I first started off with this stretch doing 2 minutes per leg.  Not sure if that is the best strategy if you are tighter than a 2 dollar bill like me.  I would suggest for newbies to hit 1 minute per leg and alternate for a second minute per leg (still hitting 2 minutes a leg, just breaking it up into 2 rounds).

Death Stretch
A great way to start the Death Stretch for Beginners!

That way you aren’t overloading your nervous system too quickly and you can start building up the stimulus and exposure over time to excel with this mobility drill.  In my opinion 2 minutes should be the maximum hold for this stretch, but some will argue to hold for 4 minutes.  If you have the time, then go for it.  I find using this drill and adding a variety of other mobility drills will maximize your time and effectiveness.

Now…go give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you by posting a video or photo on Instagram or Facebook tagging @norcal__spartan and using #norcalspartan so I can see how you are doing.  Got any questions, DM me on Instagram or comment on this post.  Get out there and win people!

Week 4: NorCal Spartan Training

Welcome to the NorCal Spartan blog!  Just wrapped up week 4 of my Spartan/OCR training. Training this past week has been great, though it’s been a little crazy in Northern California.  We have had some flooding evacuations and spillway issues in the Butte County area.  Even though this has all been going on, I still managed to stay focused and increase my mileage for the week for my running aerobic base phase.  I was stoked that my body allowed me to consistently run over 8+ miles on most of my runs this week.  Going to have to start carrying gels with me as the mileage slowly increases over the next few weeks.  The Hawaii Ultra Beast will be here before we know it!  Here is my training from this past week:

photo-feb-16-11-36-52-am

Monday 2/13:

  • 60+ Min Run at Bidwell 5 Mile
    • Ran 8.7 miles in 1:16:32 (8:47 avg. mile pace)
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 60 mins just working aerobic base, it was wet and muddy, so made sure to hit every puddle and mud area for training purposes for races*
  • Intermediate Class
    • Strength:
      • 5×3 Back Squat @ 225#
      • 5×3 Box Jump @ 40″+ (can’t remember the height of the last jump)
    • Secondary:
      • 3xMax Barbell Press @ 115#, averaged around 5 reps
      • 3×2 Swimmers
    • Conditioning (1 Round):
      • 23 Clean and Jerks @ 135#
      • 23 Bar Facing Burpees
        • *didn’t focus on time, just went at a controlled tempo*

photo-feb-13-5-29-54-pm

Tuesday 2/14:

  • Advanced Class
    • Oly:
      • 3×5 Light Barbell Hang Power Snatch + 5 OH Squats @ 45# (went light focusing on technique and movement)
    •  Strength/Secondary:
      • 4×5 Deadlift @ 315#
      • 4×30 sec Free Handstand Practice
      • 4×4 Hanging Hip Touches (4 L / 4 R)
    • Conditioning A (1 Round 1 minute stations + 30 sec rest):
      • Battle Rope
      • DB Thrusters @ 35#
      • Tuck Ups
    • Conditioning B (1 Round 1 minute stations + 30 sec rest):
      • Ball Slams
      • Body Rows
      • Jump Rope Single Unders
    • Conditioning C (1 Round 1 minute stations + 30 sec rest):
      • Battle Rope
      • DB Thrusters @ 35#
      • Tuck Ups

Wednesday 2/15:

  • 55+ Min Run at 1 Mile Park
    • Ran 6.8 Miles in 59:06 (8:35 avg. mile pace)
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 55 mins, just working aerobic base*

Thursday 2/16:

  • 60+ Min Run at 5 Mile Park
    • Ran 8.1 Miles in 1:15:00 (9:12 avg. mile pace)
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 60+ mins, just working aerobic base, ran through the muddy terrain*
  • OCR Specific Workout:
    • Strength/Core:
      • 3x150m Bucket Carry @ 80#
      • 3×1 min Straight Arm Plank
      • 3×30 sec Straight Arm Side Plank ( L / R)
      • 3×30 sec Reverse Plank
    • Conditioning (4 Rounds, 1 min of rest between rounds):
      • 3 Strict Ring Muscle Ups
      • 6 Burpees
      • 9 Strict Ring Pull Ups
      • 12 Box Jumps @ 24″
        • Rd 1 = 1:26, Rd 2 = 1:29, Rd 3 = 1:53, Rd 4 = 2:36 (definitely was done after this round)

Friday 2/17:

  • Took Friday Off.  Needed the recovery day.

photo-feb-18-2-45-12-pm

Saturday 2/18:

  • 90+ Min Run at 5 Mile Park
    • Ran 10.2 Miles in 1:34:04 (9:14 avg. mile pace)
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 90+ mins, just working aerobic base*

Sunday 2/19:

  • Took Sunday Off, legs needed a little recovery from the mileage from the week and to be ready to hit the next week hard.

Looking to learn more about Obstacle Course Racing and hate reading to gain information (if you made it this far, chances are you like to read…)? Check out The Obstacle Order Podcast!  They have 104 episodes of great content on OCR and Spartan Racing.

Live in the Northern California Area and need a place to train OCR and Spartan?  NorCal Strength and Conditioning has two locations, Chico and Marysville.  Email me at matt@norcalsc.com for more details and information!

For more things Spartan, OCR, etc. make sure to “Like” Us on Facebook and “Subscribe” to the blog so you don’t miss anything (on the right side bar menu)!

Stay tuned next week for Week 5 of Programming here at NorCalSpartan.com!  Till then, make sure to Get Your Fitness On!

#3: Mobility Tip of the Week

Hello NorCalSpartan.  This is Week 3 of “Mobility Tip of the Week.”  This week we are continuing to build off our Achilles and Calf segment, but adding in the ankles.  The lower portion of the leg is super important to take care of mobility and flexibility wise to stay injury free.  Adding in all of these drills weekly will give your body a great fighting chance to stay away from injuries.  Here is a short video clip on our new drill:  Ankling

Head on over to our Products page to see what we recommend for obstacle course training and racing.


Jefferson Curl

#2: Exercise Tip of the Week

Hello NorCalSpartan.  This is the second installment of “Exercise Tip of the Week.”  This week we are going to show you a great exercise drill called the “Jefferson Curl.” This movement helps keep you low back and hamstrings mobile and will build some strength and flexibility in both areas at the same time.  A racer needs mobile hamstrings and a strong low back for all the uphill and carry work.  When performing the Jefferson Curl here are some key points to keep in mind (if you are new to this movement, start very light and as you achieve mastery and your strength increases, you can then increase the weight amount):

  1. Start with the weight in both hands standing in a tall position (can use many different objects from a dumbbell, kettle-bell, barbell, slam ball, etc.)
  2. Glutes should be engaged throughout the movement starting at the top position
  3. As you begin to move downwards (keeping the legs as straight as possible) tuck your chin towards your neck and slowly roll forward one vertebrae at a time
  4. The goal is to get as far down as possible while maintaining straight legs with a flexed back position
  5. If you can get past your toes on the way down, stand on a box to allow yourself more range of motion to work the movement
  6. Now reverse the process back to your start position moving each vertebrae up one at a time

This video from our friends over at NorCal Strength and Conditioning is a great representation of how the Jefferson Curl should be completed.

Head on over to our Products page to see what we recommend for obstacle course training and racing.