When you say the words “mobility” or “flexibility” to most meatheads, they’ll usually run in the opposite direction. Mobility training is likely the most neglected part of most lifters’ programs, given their goals are anything but getting more mobile. However, whether you’re looking for bigger muscles, more strength, or better sport performance, there’s a 90% chance you’ll benefit from improving your mobility.
The problem is that most people are too busy, and possibly too negligent, to include 10 minutes of mobility work before or after their workouts. Especially if you’re a lifter on a tight schedule (say, on your lunch hour from the office), it’s common and natural to prioritize your strength training workout to get the most out of your time. That’s why it’s important to find movements that create the best bang for their buck. The Spiderman walk is a total-body exercise and you will feel it in your legs as well as your arms and shoulders.
Before we get to that, let’s review the areas of the body that need the most attention.
Think in Circles
Puns aside, this directive is actually a good way to bring attention to areas of the body that generally can benefit from the most rotary capability. Joints that have the potential to move through a great, circular range of motion would be best suited to be mobility trained. Let’s go through them one by one.
The shoulders are a ball and socket joint that allow for an action called circumduction — a 360-degree range of motion that involves internal and external rotation. Freedom and integrity of movement are the name of the game here, and when combined with a nice strong upper back, having healthy shoulders equals safe, strong pressing and pulling with no negative side effects.
In truth, much of your shoulder health hinges on the health of the T-Spine. These are the segments of the spine responsible for the greatest degrees of rotation, and should be the segments that dominate any “twist” action that the trunk goes through. Too often, many immobile lifters and athletes compensate for poor T-Spine function by rotating through the lumbar spine, leading to pelvic imbalances and plenty of chronic lower back pain. Training the lower back for stability while safely addressing the mobility of the T-Spine is the right way to go.
Just like the shoulders, the hips are a ball and socket joint that allow for a great range of motion. They’re generally nested more deeply and securely than a shoulder joint (that’s why it’s much harder and rarer to dislocate your hip than your shoulder). There are a number of muscles that cross over the hip joint from the front or the back, including the glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, tensor fasciae latae (TFL), and more. Their combined flexibility and strength will create the necessary mobility at this joint to achieve its full range of motion.
Many people who have trouble achieving squat depth have issues with ankle mobility. Dorsiflexion (the ability to point your toes toward your shins) is the hidden skill that many lifters lack, that can work wonders for bringing the knees further forward over the toes while keeping the spine upright.
The Best Damn Mobility Drill, Period: The Spiderman Walk
If you haven’t guessed it by now, this movement gives you more bang for your buck than you can imagine. Especially when adding a thoracic twist component to the movement, this will tackle dynamic flexibility and mobility at each of the load bearing joints listed above in a smooth, flowing fashion. Follow these steps to ensure you’re doing them properly.
- Take a lunge stride forward and plant the knee on the ground.
- Plant your hands down on the floor, both on the inside of your leading foot.
- Let your leading knee travel far ahead of the foot, by dropping your hips towards the floor. Be sure to keep the heel on the ground while you do this.
- Slowly raise the outside arm towards the roof, and twist the torso to let the head and chest follow. The inside arm should block the leading knee from caving. Remember to reach up, not back.
- Stand up, switch legs and repeat.
For the visual learners, here’s a video to see what it looks like.
One more thing: Remember to move slowly and breathe. Too many trainees rush through their mobility work. Try to use this drill as a limbering up tool, meaning respect the time it takes to feel a nice, deep stretch, accompanied by deep breathing. If this part of your workout becomes another chore, you may as well not do it at all.