The issue of strength is an issue of tension. How much tension can you generate to produce force against a load? And for most of us, that’s where the idea of tension stops.
Take the back squat. Bar goes on your back. You go through your bracing sequence – butt tight, stomach tight, back tight etc. and then you start to lift. But here’s a question – are you as tight in the bottom position as you were in the top? I’m not talking about the pressure of the weight against you, I’m talking about the pressure you’re generating against the barbell. Chances are when that bar starts moving you start thinking about “lifting” and less about tension. This is especially true in the bottom position where you’re at such a mechanical disadvantage that the brain go into desperation mode and simply thinks “UPUPUPUPUPUPUPUPUP”.
In our circles we talk a lot about mobility and whether or not you can physically get into a certain position. But the next step is to learn how to get into that position AND generate enough tension in that position to both be strong and prevent injury.
The mobility warm-up work in this coming strength cycle focuses on that. Yes, we are warming up muscles and joints and positions, but also teaching how to create tension in those positions. Value-added mobility work. Mobility work for Type A personalities – you get to do mobility and work hard. You don’t have to listen to flute music for 60 minutes in a crow pose to feel like you’re getting.
Soft vs. Hard
Typically we do “soft” mobility. Sit in a position, relax, hang out. Unfortunately I think this teaches the body how to sit in a position, relax, and hang out even when you’ve got a 400 pound barbell on your back.
This is bad.
This is “hard” mobility and will directly translate to and benefit the strength work we’re doing because we’re practicing and teaching generating tension in those important position.
Here’s the lower body warm-up:
You should watch these videos. Like really, do it. Once you know how to perform the movements, this warm-up will take about fifteen minutes.
A little cheat sheet:
1. Get into a position.
2. Relax for about 20 seconds in that position
3. Generate as much tension as possible for about 10 seconds – glutes, core , arms, everything
4. Relax deeper in the position for another 20 seconds.
5. Repeat 2 more times.
You should practice this sequence every day until Monday so you get the flow and know what to do and it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time. Remember this sequence should take about 15 minutes.