• Move Well Before You Lift Heavy
    Tactical athletes want to lift heavy and work hard, and rightfully so. Learn why stable and mobile joints are the foundation for building strength.
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  • Move well before lift heavyFrequently, a new tactical athlete requests a program with a high level of intensity. They want to lift heavy and work hard, and rightfully so. The stakes are high for tactical athletes. Not that we don’t want to get them into fighting shape, but before that we want to focus on preventing injury by teaching a high quality of movement, as well as address their individual movement issues.

    Any athlete needs to move well before moving under a load. If not, the addition of a load, whether it is a barbell or rucksack, is going to exaggerate the problem or previously injured area in their kinetic chain. Basically, as a tactical strength and conditioning facilitator, you must help the tactical athlete achieve optimal movement patterns before they start lifting heavy in the gym.

    So what do we mean by “good” movement patterns? Inherently, throughout the kinetic chain, there are some areas of the body that should be stable, and other areas that should be mobile. Stable and mobile joints alternate throughout the kinetic chain and therefore complement each other.

    Therefore, a stable joint allows a mobile joint to move correctly, and a mobile joint allows the stable joint to function as it should. If a joint that is supposed to have good mobility does not, often the next joint in the kinetic chain, which should be a stable joint, compensates for the lack of movement (1,2).

    Stable       Mobile 
    Knee     Ankle  
    Lumbar Spine    Hip  
    Shoulder    Thoracic Spine 
    Table 1. Examples of Stable and Mobile Joints

    For example, if you would like to incorporate the deadlift into a tactical athlete’s training plan, but they cannot get into a good start position, you may want to consider improving the quality of their movement. So what do we mean by “good” or “quality” movement? Basically, there are two approaches you can take as a coach.

    You can target the problem areas by specifically working on a particular area, or you can work on improving all of the areas listed in Table 1 on a daily basis. For example, if one of your tactical athletes broke his ankle in jump school and was in a cast for the last couple of months, maybe they cannot get into a low squat because of poor ankle mobility. You can work on just ankle mobility for a period of time, but it is a very specific, almost diagnostic approach.

    Instead of trying to troubleshoot, you may want to try the more general approach. Since most people, and therefore tactical athletes, will have similar movement issues, you may have more success adding general mobility and stability exercises into their daily dynamic warm-up. For example, if you suspect that most of your tactical athletes have poor ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility, you can include exercises such as single-leg squats, hurdle walks, hip mobility circuits, and squats with an overhead reach into your dynamic warm-up. The beginning of a workout is also a good time to include stability work, such as variations of planks and glute bridges (3).
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    1. Cook, G. Mobility, stability, and movement: The risk of conditioning. National Strength and Conditioning Association Webinar. October 7, 2009.
    2. McGill, S. Ultimate back fitness and performance. Waterloo, Ontario: Wabuno Publishers; 2004.
    3. Raether. J. The importance of trunk stability and flexibility for hockey players. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal 9(4): 9–12, 2010.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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