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!

 

 

Bent Arm Strength

Training Bent Arm Strength to Crush Spartan Obstacles

Let’s talk Spartan Race obstacles.  So many people are failing obstacles like: Multi-Rig, Olympus, Twister, Monkey-Bars, Rope Climb, and the list goes on.  You’ve been training your grip strength like a mofo so that you can crush them in the next race.  Let me tell you…you are only getting one major piece to this puzzle.  Grip strength will only take you so far on obstacle completion, though it’s definitely required.

You need to start incorporating Bent Arm work.  And I don’t just mean bicep curls or the shake weight!

Bent Arm Strength

I mean actually doing movements that force you to hold in a Bent Arm position (though bicep curls will help believe it or not!).  Everyone who is smashing these obstacles has great bent-arm strength.  Keeping your arms straight makes it very difficult to complete these obstacles as you lose your grip very quickly (especially if the obstacles are wet!).

Spartan Race is full of Pulling obstacles.  There is very little push type movements besides the Burpee. (TMX, Tough Mudder, seems to be adding some more thought into their variety with pushing and pulling which is awesome to see!  Really want to try one of their races when I’m healthy).

This requires building strength in the Lats, Biceps, Scapulas, Rhomboids, Flexors, you get the point!  It also requires a bit of mobility work so you can avoid tearing your rotator cuffs when swinging or “pulling” yourself through the obstacles.  I have seen so many strong athletes get hurt on these obstacles due to poor mobility in the shoulder girdle.  So, if you want to stay in the game and keep conquering these obstacles you need healthy shoulders.

Ok.  Now what.  Oh, you want me to tell you what movements to work on.  There are a ton!  But let’s just go with these 3 basics that will help you with dominating these obstacles and you can work on them in most gym settings:

1. Hinge Rows– learned this baby at the Gymnasticbodies seminar a few years back.  I love this movement!  Once you have mastered the Ring Hinge Rows, you can start working on the Bar Hinge Row (stay tuned I will talk about that one in the future).  Hinge Rows are a great movement for building great bent-arm strength.  They also give the added benefits of improving your shoulder and scapular mobility at the same time.

Now this movement can be very tough for many individuals.  I have beginners start by sitting on the ground with their hips under the rings.  I set the ring height to when the athlete finishes the movement at the top that their arms/elbows are at 90 degrees.  Now, this movement can feel like nothing if you are sitting on the ground and pulling yourself into the hinged position…but if you go to a count of 5 on the way up and a count of 5 on the way down for 5-10 reps, even advanced athletes will get fatigued and really feel how to move towards progressing to the hinge row with their legs and hips off the ground.

2. Gunner Carries (flexed-arm carry)– this is an absolute bicep and grip strength killer.  If you really want to get nasty with this one, do a Gunner hold while doing a Wall Sit.  Work the legs and work that bent-arm strength all at once.  I would start really light here!  5-25 lbs if using dumbbells or if using a plate, you can double those numbers depending on how much gunshow power you have!

Bent Arm Strength

If you’re walking…choose a weight that you can hold in the Gunner position (elbows pulled in tight with the angle of the arms just over 90 degrees) for at least 30 seconds.  Same goes for the Wall Sit.  Something you can hold in that position for at least 30 seconds.  Once you get comfortable and stronger you should be shooting for a minute with the same weight!  Don’t go up in weight until you can hold the position for a minute.  Then start over again with heavier weight and build that tolerance up to a minute again.

This video shows a lot of different variations, but the one you are looking for is the second one he demonstrates…looks like Rambo going to town with his machine guns!  Ignore the others.

Bent Arm Strength

3. Pull Ups– Were you hoping for something fancier?  Lo siento…Nothing beats the traditional pull-up for bent-arm strength for dominating obstacles.  There are so many variations of the pull-up…but the one you should be focusing on is hands just outside the shoulders.  This is ideal for engaging the lats, scaps, and biceps and for generating a lot of torque.  If you don’t have a pull-up yet, you got a lot of work to do to get through those obstacles.  Most gyms have a pull-up machine that can assist you if you don’t have pull-ups yet.  Don’t have one of those?  You can do banded assisted pull ups (there is a variety of band strengths you can use to help you through the movement).  If are doing banded pull ups…do not bounce at the bottom position!  You will not build the proper strength out of the bottom phase of the pull by doing this (this phase is super essential for getting your ass over walls, getting into bent arm positions for Olympus, Twister, Multi-Rig, etc.).

This is my favorite walk-through on the pull-up and how to do it correctly (You’ll notice that myself and Mr. Grayson Strange crush the competition when it comes to instructional videos here).

Ok.  Those are 3 movements that will maximize your bent-arm strength game and help you get through many of those demanding upper body obstacles.  Let’s talk volume now.

Volume is super key because you don’t want to over or under train these movements.  You need a good balance.  I like higher volume of these movements as Spartan tends to throw multiple grip/bent-arm strength obstacles one after the other.  This means you are going to need to build up that bent-arm muscular endurance.  But…this also depends on the level of athlete we are talking here.  A lot of coaches and trainers will argue about what the proper volume and weights should be for each person, but I am going to break it down that will work well for most individuals.

I would do these movements twice a week!  1 session focused on high volume and lower intensity (endurance) and the other on less volume but higher intensity (strength).  Give yourself 2-3+ days between sessions to let those muscles recovery properly.

Session 1 (Endurance):

  1. 3×10-15 Hinge Rows (1 minute of rest between sets)
  2. 3×1 minute Gunner Carry (pick a weight you can carry for the full minute without resting, 2 minutes of rest between rounds)
  3. 3xMax Pull Ups (If using band or pull assisted machine no more than 10-15 reps, 1 minute of rest between sets)
  4. Mobilize those lats, rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, scapulas by stretching or using some massage therapy!

Session 2 (Strength):

  1. 3×5 Weighted Pull Ups, 5 Chest to Bar Pull Ups, or 10 Pull Ups (if you can do 10 pull ups switch to Chest to Bar.  if you can do 5 chest to bar switch to weighted pull ups, 2 minutes of rest between rounds)
  2. 3×30 seconds Gunner Hold in Wall Sit Position (go heavier than your endurance session ideally being able to hold the weight correctly for 30 seconds, rest for 1 minute)
  3. 3×8-10 Hinge Rows (Work on accelerating quickly to the bent-arm position with a controlled lower back to the bottom, 1 minute of rest between sets)
  4. Mobilize those lats, rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, scapulas by stretching or using some massage therapy!

Now go try them out and let me know how they go for you.  Looking forward to hearing about how you crush those obstacles in future races!

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!

Week 2: NorCalSpartanTraining

This past week of training started off really well.  Wrapped up a few maxes from my Bulking Season (Offseason training) and was able to get in a few long runs in for my aerobic base phase work.  I have only been able to get in about 8-10 weeks of solid weight training in since the Off Season for OCR is short.  But, I was really happy with the #gainz that were earned. I hit 245# on Bench Press, barely missing 255# (haven’t done consistent bench in a few years, old PR was around 300#, but that was in my early to mid-twenties…)!  I was almost back to my full strength with deadlifting.  I hit 425# Deadlift (first time being consistent with deadlifts since Spring of 2016, old PR is 445#).

My work schedule got shifted a little bit this past week as I moved my coaching schedule in Marysville from Thursday to Tuesday.  Thursday has been my off day due to traveling out of town, but now it will be shifting to Tuesday.  As I came in to Friday I came down with a nasty cold, so I was unable to train Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…ugghhh!  But, here is what I was able to hit last week:

Monday 1/30:

  • Intermediate Class
    • Strength:
      • Max Bench Press- worked up to 245# and missed 255#
    • Secondary:
    • Conditioning (3 Rounds):
      • 400m Run
      • 30 Wall Balls (20#)
      • 10 V-Ups
        • *I didn’t focus on time for this workout, just moved at a quick tempo that I could maintain*

Tuesday 1/31:

  • Off Day (switched from Thursday due to work in Marysville), Still worked Mobility and CARs

shoulder-mobility

Wednesday 2/1:

  • 50+ Min Run at Bidwell 5 Mile
    • Ran 6.2 miles in 55:16 (8:53 avg. mile pace)
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 50 mins, just working aerobic base, terrain had mix of small hills and some muddy areas*
  • Intermediate Class:

bucket-carry

Thursday 2/2:

  • 55+ Min Run at Bidwell 5 Mile
    • Ran 5.8 Miles in 59:28
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 55 mins, just working aerobic base, terrain had mix of small hills and major muddy areas, it would go from light rain to heavy rain*
  • OCR Specific Workout:
    • Strength:
      • 3x150m Bucket Carry @ 75# *goal was not to put the bucket down on each carry*
      • 3xPlank Series-
    • Conditioning  (5 Rounds with 30 sec rest between rounds):
      • 10 Burpees
      • 5 Pull Ups
      • 30 Sec Static Hang in Hollow
        • each round was timed based off how long it took to do the burpees, pull ups, + static hang time
        • Rd 1 = 1:00, Rd 2 = 1:01, Rd 3 = :59, Rd 4 = :59, Rd 5 = :58
          • Barely hung on for the last static hang, was a tough workout

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 102 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 3 of Programming here at NorCalSpartan.com!  Till then, make sure to Get Your Fitness On!