Tag Archives: kelly starrett

Sumo Deadlift Mobility

sumo-deadlift-dan-green

The sumo deadlift is a little more intricate and technical than the conventional deadlift, which I have covered more in depth in this article. I recently started using the sumo deadlift in my own training and came to find that my hip mobility wasn’t quite as good as it should be for an optimal pulling position with the sumo setup. I will outline below what I did to begin solving the problem! I still have to improve further, but I’m on the right track and seeing great improvements already.

 

How to Pull Sumo

I’m not going to write out a full tutorial here, but if you’re interested in how a sumo deadlift should be pulled, read this.

You can also look up Dan Green deadlift videos on YouTube, if you’re a visual learner.

 

Sumo Deadlift Mobility Demands

The sumo deadlift places a great demand on hip mobility and also ankle mobility. I’ve covered both topics in the linked articles, but I’m going to just give you a few mobility drills and stretches I have personally found helpful in getting into a better sumo deadlift position.

These stretches are what I specifically use for the sumo deadlift position as part of my daily stretching and warmup routines. You should still be stretching your other problem areas as well.

Super Frog Stretch

This is a great way to stretch your hips from Kelly Starrett (Supple Leopard). I’d recommend doing this after lifting and on your off days. Ideally you should stretch your problem areas at least once per day.

Wide Stance Pause Squats

These will stretch your hips a lot in what I guess you can call a weighted dynamic stretch. Take a stance that’s as wide as you can go, while still reaching parallel. Pause at the bottom for the stretch to happen.

I usually do these toward the end of my workouts with very light weight.

Compress Your Hips

Using a Voodoo floss band, wrap your hip(s) up. Then do some hip stretches (i.e. the couch stretch or a half kneeling hip flexor stretch), light sumo deadlift (this will give you a great chance to open up the hips in the exact position you’re trying to improve) and/or light wide stance pause squats. Below is a video showing WTF I’m talking about.

Floss Your Hips

This is basically a hip flexor stretch using a resistance band. I do this as part of my warmup routine.

Mobilize Your Ankles

This is my favorite drill to improve ankle mobility, which – along with better hip mobility – will put you in a better position for sumo pulling.

I usually do this briefly as part of my warmup and then spend another 4-5mins on it after the workout as part of my stretching at the end of the workout. How much time you should spend on it depends on how tight your ankles are.

 

And that’s about it! I have to add that I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer, so take what advice you find helpful with that in mind. As always, I’m just sharing my personal experience and hope it benefits you in some way.

Should You Overhead Press?

ohp

The overhead press is often praised as the best overall shoulder exercise and also just as often blamed for shoulder injuries – such as impingement, tendinitis or tendinosis of the supraspinatus tendon… or even rotator cuff tears.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a personal trainer. I am a guy who lifts weights regularly and has strict overhead pressed 100kg/220lbs @ 85kg/187lbs. And I’m also working through a mild shoulder injury (tendinosis) right now.

I’m going to outline some opinions from what I believe are reputable sources and allow you to make your own decision about the overhead press based on those. I’m also going to give you my opinion on the matter based on the research I’ve done. I will also share my current training approach to work through my shoulder tendinosis and my plans for the future.

 

The Case Against the OHP

I’m going to link a very well-written article called ‘The Case Against Overhead Presses‘ posted by bodybuilder (among other things) Doug Brignole. I think his competition history in bodybuilding speaks for itself and he certainly knows how to develop a well-rounded, muscular physique. I doubt anyone is going to argue that.

Because you might not have the time to read the whole article, here are some relatively long cliffs (but shorter than the article to be fair):

– The OHP is not the most efficient way to target the lateral deltoid – or the center section of the shoulder – because this part of your shoulder is responsible for raising the arm to the side… as you would do in a side raise. I’ve included a video below where Doug Brignole discusses how to do a side raise, which he basically crowns the ‘king’ of shoulder exercises in his article. He believes you should do straight arm side raises (in various body positions with dumbbells or cables).

– The overhead press is also not the most efficient way to target the anterior (or front) deltoid either, which brings your arm up in front of you like you would in a front raise.

– The OHP requires ‘excessive external rotation’.

– OHP strains small external rotator cuff muscles (I assume he’s talking about the infraspinatus and teres minor) that should not be utilized to keep a heavy weight from falling foward.

– Raising the humerus (upper arm bone) into an overhead position, which is obviously required to overhead press, pinches the supraspinatus tendon and can cause pain, inflammation, tendinitis and tendinosis. Potentially even tears.

– The muscles are not properly aligned in the OHP to place significant stress on the lateral deltoid. Most of the stress is placed on the anterior deltoid and the rotator cuff muscles (to stabilize the movement) as mentioned.

– The OHP is traditionally (and in Doug’s opinion falsely) seen as a primary shoulder builder. He believes people may build impressive, strong shoulders in spite of using the OHP, rather than because of using the OHP.

– The overhead press is an ego (because you can use more weight) and illusion (because the lateral deltoid isn’t contributing significantly) strength movement for the shoulder.

His conclusion: Do lateral raises instead of OHP for shoulder development.

 

Get Your Press Up!

Moving on to Mark Rippetoe’s perspective. I assume most of you know him as the author of the popular full body strength program for beginners called Starting Strength. He is an ex-powerlifter and strength coach.

The article he wrote about the importance of the overhead press is called ‘Get Your Press Up‘. My cliffs are below:

– The overhead press should be a staple in any strength program, especially one designed for sports.

– People aren’t strong enough with overhead pressing today, because it isn’t emphasized enough.

– Mark believes the overhead press is superior to the bench press for shoulder health, because it targets the shoulder as a whole unit.

– Overhead pressing works most of your body. The shoulders, traps, triceps and your ‘core’ all get worked by overhead pressing.

On the Safety and Efficacy of Overhead Lifting

This one is also written by Mark Rippetoe  in collaboration with Kelly Starrett (MWOD and Supple Leopard guy) and Lon Kilgore.

Some cliffs are below again:

– The idea that overhead pressing is bad for the shoulders is not based on facts.

– Overhead pressing balances anterior (front) and posterior (back) shoulder muscle involvement. The bench press is anterior-dominant, but the OHP locks the weight out overhead and thus involves the back of the shoulder as well.

– Stabilizing muscles throughout the shoulder girdle are also worked to bring a weight overhead.

– Not preparing for ordinary overhead movement can cause shoulder dysfunction.

– The authors then describe how the overhead press should be performed in a safe manner. I won’t add cliffs for this part, because it’s fairly in depth and you should probably read it entirely.

– Another part of the article describes some things that cause shoulder impingement. The general idea is that it maybe be aggravated by overhead pressing, but this usually results from poor technique, bad posture, previous injuries and/or genetic abnormalities in the shoulder girdle (or elsewhere in the body).

Conclusion: Overhead lifts done with proper technique and healthy shoulders are safe.

 

More Worthwhile Overhead Press Reading Material

The Truth About Overhead Pressing: While the previous three articles were more theoretical, this one by Tony Gentilcore is more of a way to actively assess your shoulders (to a certain extent) and figure out a way to work around not being able to overhead press, if you can’t pass some of the tests.

Cracking the Rotator Cuff Conundrum by Eric Cressey: A really great article about the rotator cuff, how the individual muscles function and also a nice training program to target them properly. This can make overhead pressing feasible and also safer (and stronger).

Shoulder Shocker by Joe DeFranco: If you’re unable to overhead press safely due to injury or other factors, this quick circuit might be a nice way to hit your shoulders.

 

My Approach and Opinion

In my humble opinion, I think Doug Brignole went a little far to conclude that overhead pressing is so dangerous and useless that it should be replaced in everyone’s training program with the lateral raise exercise. While some of his concerns are valid, others were shown to be without factual basis when it comes to an overhead press done with proper technique and healthy shoulders (as described in this article).

On another note, not everyone should be overhead pressing (in my opinion). Whether or not it can be done should be decided on an individual basis. You have to assess the current state of your deltoid and rotator cuff muscles, your overall posture, muscular imbalances, etc. and make sure the movement can be performed safely. Barring some severe injuries or genetic predisposition, most people should be able to work towards a situation where they are able to safely overhead press with proper lifting technique.

I’m currently experiencing pain in my shoulder due to postural deficits, muscular imbalances and previous technique errors. I trained for years without good balance in my training program, poor technique in some critical movements and general ignorance about mobility work, corrective stretching and ways to properly assess my posture and muscular balance.

Going forward, my approach is to train around the injury and utilize shoulder movements that I can perform pain free. This means avoiding exercises that aggravate the tendinosis I am experiencing, correcting my posture and muscular imbalances, and gradually working toward getting my body to a state where I am able to safely overhead press again. When I do go back to doing OHP, I will make sure to maintain my good posture and muscular balance with a well thought out assistance routine to my primary lifts. This will include rotator cuff specific exercises, foam rolling with a PVC pipe and self myofascial release with a lacrosse ball, corrective stretching (both dynamic and static), proper warmups, and a balanced workout plan.

 

I hope this write up helps some of you, who may be experiencing shoulder problems of your own. Or maybe you’ve just wondered about how safe the overhead press really is. I hope this article answered some or all of your questions.

How to Improve the Front Rack Position

frontrack

The front rack position is useful for the front squat, clean (also any variation of it like the hang clean or power clean) and any olympic style overhead press (i.e. push press or jerk).

 

Front Rack Position

Here is a quick example of what a good front rack looks like.

front-rack

She could improve her position by pushing the elbows in (together) and up a little more. She could also grab the bar a little wider to make this possible.

Key points to a good front rack position:

Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Note that 2-3 fingers on the bar per hand is enough to keep the bar in place for a front squat or to finish a clean, if current wrist flexibility limits you from grabbing it with 4 fingers per hand. The load should be carried by the ‘shoulder shelf’ created by the arm position, so the hands only serve to help hold the bar in position and should not be carrying the load.

Note: For a push press or jerk, flexibility will need to be improved until four fingers can be placed on the bar with a fairly narrow grip (right outside the shoulders basically) to facilitate proper overhead pressing mechanics.

Force the elbows in and up, which puts the shoulder in external rotation and allows for a good position: Chest up, shoulders back and down. The bar should rest in the groove created behind the front delts, very close to the throat.

 

Flexiblity/Mobility for the Front Rack Position

The front rack position requires more flexibility than most other upper body movements. To facilitate a good front squat with vertical torso, hip mobility and ankle mobility will also be important, but I will stick to front rack specific stretches and mobility drills in this particular article. Always take the entire body into account for compound movements.

Areas that need to be stretched and/or massaged (i.e. using self myofascial release) to create a good front rack position tend to be the pecs (especially pec minor), lats, triceps, wrists and thoracic spine (often simply called the T-spine or upper back). Daily or even multiple times daily stretching and mobility work will improve things quickly, but not everyone has time for that. Do these things when you have time for them and prioritize them depending on how bad your front rack position currently is (and how important a good one is to you). Expect results based on how much work you put in and how consistent you are.

The following videos are resources I use to improve my own front rack, which was fairly atrocious a couple weeks back and is slowly improving now as I spend time daily on improving my shoulder and front rack specific mobility. Take what you find useful and use it in your own training.

 

Front Rack Help from MWOD

I’ll start you off with a few front rack specific MWOD videos from Kelly Starrett. If you’re interested in watching more of his videos, check out his YouTube Channel and his web site mobilitywod.com. He knows his shit and – if you have the spare cash – I can also recommend getting his Supple Leopard book. It’s basically the mobility bible.

Tools required: Jumpstretch Band | Dowel Rod, PVC Pipe or Broomstick (I’d go for the PVC pipe because it has some ‘give’ to it.) – Special note: If you don’t have a partner to hold your elbows together for the second stretch, wrap a jumpstretch band around your arms at the elbows to hold them together. You’ll feel like you’re wearing a straitjacket, but it’s all good.

Tools required: Barbell | Squat Stand or Power Rack

Tool required: Jumpstretch Band | Lacrosse Ball Peanut (made with two lacrosse balls taped together with athletic tape like this) or get the fancy MobilityWOD GeminiNote: If you’re going to do a good amount of mobility work recommended by MWOD, a mobility pack from Rogue is a good ‘starter kit’.

The next video is more of an explanation on how to set up your front rack when you front squat. No mobility drills, but it’s very good information.

Tools required: Jumpstretch Band | Kettlebell | PVC Pipe

Tools required: Jumpstretch Band | Athletic Tape

 

Other Helpful Stretches and Drills for the Front Rack

The rest of these aren’t from MWOD, but they’re still really good.

This article describes a nice front rack stretch with a PVC pipe.

In the video above, I set the starting time at the 2 minute mark, because that’s when Glenn Pendlay describes his partner stretch specific to the front rack. The exercise before that is also good for shoulder mobility.

A while back, I did an article with some self myofascial release videos from Kai Wheeler. For the front rack specifically, you’d want to do the traps, pecs, lats and subscapularis ones.

 

Other Grip Options for the Front Squat

With clean variations or Olympic style overhead presses, you really have no options aside from the front rack, but for front squat I believe there are two other feasible options.

Cross Arm Grip

If you don’t have the required upper body mobility to do the front squat with a true front rack position, the cross arm grip shown below might be an option for you.

My problem with this ‘easy fix’ is that you’re not going to improve the underlying issue of poor mobility in the upper body when you take this route. A lot of people also find it easier to maintain their torso position with a true front rack position with clean grip once weights get heavier. The front rack with clean grip also makes it easier to ditch the weight in a more natural way, if you miss a lift.

You can argue that a guy like Dan Green front squats over 600lbs with a cross grip, but he is definitely more of the exception than the rule (with regards to just about any lift).

If you work on your mobility and use a cross grip while you develop the required mobility to do a clean grip front squat, I see no problem with it. I would recommend working toward using a clean grip front rack if possible… or at least gain the required mobility to do so. Being flexible enough to do this will keep your shoulders safer on other lifts as well and enable you to perform them with good mechanics.

Strap Method

You will need some lifting straps for this one.

This is a better stepping stone toward a true clean grip front rack position, if your mobility isn’t quite there yet. Christian Thibaudeau explains in the video above why he prefers the strap method over the cross arm grip and I tend to agree with him on this topic.

 

And that about wraps up the things I do to improve my front rack position. I hope it helps some of you!

Hip Mobility

Other Mobility Articles: Shoulder Mobility | Thoracic Mobility | Ankle Mobility

 

In this article, I’ll be covering some basic stretches and exercises to improve hip mobility. Healthy hips are important both in everyday life and also at the gym or in various sports, so there is really no reason not to make it a priority to at least have decent hip mobility.

 

Can You Squat?

If you can’t high bar back squat ATG (ass to grass) with a fairly upright torso or you’re unable to keep a vertical torso when front squatting, there is a pretty good chance hip mobility is at least part of the reason why. Usually it’s not the only issue of course, but it tends to be a contributing factor.

A full squat is a natural movement that every person should be able to perform. Optimally, you should be able to spend a long time in the bottom position of a body weight squat with your heels on the ground, your feet pointing forward or slightly outward (about 15 degrees) and your knees at least tracking your feet (possibly outside of your feet, if you have excellent hip mobility). It’s a natural way of sitting. It forces you to use muscles that are basically inactive when you’re sitting on a chair.

A squat performed properly will also stretch your hips, so the squat stretch is a great start for a hip mobility routine.

 

The Squat Stretch

This is a great way to stretch your hips, among other things. It also gets you used to sitting in a natural position and will have direct carryover to a lot of lifts like any squat variation, the clean, the snatch, etc. If you can’t spend 10 minutes in the bottom of a body weight squat, you have some work to do. I embedded the first Mobility WOD 10 minute squat video below and linked some more of the 10min squat test videos from Kelly Starrett as well. It shows you some different variations of the squat stretch you can try out whenever you test your ability to stay in the bottom position of a squat for 10 minutes. Push your knees out at the bottom with your elbows, if you can.

10min squat test with a twist | 10min squat test with some more info about foot position | 10 minute squat test with a box | 10min squat test with a banded squat stretch

If you’re unable to get into the bottom position or unable to stay in the bottom position for longer than a minute freestanding, feel free to hang onto something in front of you to get your 10 minutes in. Try to progress to a point where you can do 10 minutes freestanding and beyond. Another good method is using a jumpstretch band to support yourself like this. The band-supported squat stretch also allows you to work on ankle mobility while you’re in the bottom position of a full body weight squat.

My personal experience with the 10 minute squat stretch test: The first time I tried the 10 minute squat stretch test, I was able to get about a minute of freestanding squat stretch time in the bottom position and I spent the rest of the time hanging on to a pole in front of me. About a month later, after daily squat stretches with mostly 2-3min sets of squat stretch adding up to 10mins/day, I was able to sit in the bottom of the squat stretch for 11 minutes straight. Mobility work is mostly about persistence. If you do it often, you will see progress fairly quickly. It also helps to work through soreness, so you’re killing two birds with one stone.

 

Going Beyond the Squat Stretch

Once you can hang out in the bottom of the squat stretch for 10 minutes, it’s fairly easy to maintain that level of hip mobility. I rarely go beyond 20 seconds at a time in the bottom of the squat stretch now, but sometimes I test myself and I can still do 10+ minutes easily. Just do it as part of your warmup and outside of the gym when you have time to keep the hip mobility you’ve earned through hard work. Paused ATG squats and front squats also help, along with the Olympic lifts if you do them.

 

Beyond the squat stretch, there are some other things that can be done to maintain good hip mobility. I’ll start with a nice set of hip mobility drills from Jonnie Candito. I do these exercises immediately after my lower body workouts like he suggests and I really feel like they help prevent soreness and maintain good flexibility in the hips.

 

The Lower Extremity Basic List below from MWOD will also benefit your hips.

 

Here is a great hip opener to do before a lower body workout courtesy of powerlifter Mark Bell.

 

Another one from Kelly Starrett.

 

Also foam roll your hips (along with just about everything else that’s tight) and do the couch stretch!

 

Some more hip mobility videos on YouTube: Hip opening with a box and lacrosse ball | Hip opener yoga | ‘Couch Stretch’ against a wall | Desk athlete hip rescue | Clearing hip impingement | Deadlift or pulling prep with hip mobility work | Better hip extension

 

That about wraps up hip mobility. I like to keep things basic, but if you feel I missed anything important, leave it in the comments. As always, it’s just my approach. I’m not a doctor.