How To Program Mobility/Stability Exercises Within Your Workouts
Programming the best workout is something every coach aspires to do. If a coach says they know everything there is about programming, they shouldn't be coaching. All of the respected coaches I have met in this field have admitted they know nothing. I find this very accurate, as soon as I uncover one answer, another question arises. It can be frustrating at times, but it is how one stays sharp. You can dive into shin angles in a cut, heart rate variability for energy system training, or simply finding a way to motivate athletes with different mindsets.
Well, enough about all of that. In this article, I talk about pairing mobility and/or stability work with resistance exercises. It is something that I have always explored and I continue to try to get better with.
Before I begin, I want to clarify what I mean by mobility and stability. Mobility is a word that is thrown around and can have multiple meanings depending on who you ask. To me, it is the ability to move in a range of motion with control. Stability is the ability to maintain control and strength in a position. You certainly need both to move well in a safe, strong manner. Some may use these together, but for the purpose of this article, I will separate them.
You want to put the athlete in the best position to succeed while training. We want to limit the risk of injury and achieve the benefits from given exercises. With compound lifts, there is a lot going on. Take the squat, you need to have an upright torso, hip internal/external rotation, dorsiflexion, and so on. Then put a hypermobile athlete under the bar, that can barely maintain proper core position while standing or a stiff athlete that can barely sit into an air squat. I’m sure you have seen both of these examples plus many others. That’s why it is important to intelligently pair exercises up.
I’m going to go over the two most common body types that I see...
This type of athlete can usually bend their body in many ways - generally referred to as hypermobile. Most of the time with these athletes, stability is the answer. Getting them to “activate” under load with control is important. Below I list a couple of examples of how to properly program for this.
A1. Squat 3x6 A2. Dead Bugs 3x5/
The dead bug is a great stability exercise for the squat. It is an anti-extension exercise; lights up the anterior core in conjunction with hip flexion. Makes a lot of sense for pairing it up with the squat. Of course, there are plenty of variations to fit the athlete, so make sure to program accordingly. I find 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps per side is a good starting point.
A1. Overhead Press 3x6 A2. Wall Slide 3x5
The wall slide is a great drill to activate the serratus (upward rotator of the scapula). A lot of times athletes who are looser don’t put their arms overhead in a stable manner. Performing this exercises gets the serratus moving to help drive the shoulder and let’s not forget the anterior core working to resist extension. I find 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps is a good starting point.
"Stiff as a board"
This is the kid who can barely touch their toes, usually very rounded in the upper back carrying a lot of tone. For them, they probably don’t need any more stability, they need more range of motion while moving. Below, I list a couple of examples of how to properly program for this.
A1. Squat 3x6 A2. World’s Greatest Stretch 3x5/
With this example, there are many mobility exercises that may fit. Again, every athlete is different and may need a different intervention. I love the world’s greatest stretch - you attack a lot of areas in one drill. I find 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps per side is a good starting point.
A1. Overhead Press 3x6 A2. Foam Roll Lat 3x30/ seconds
Range of motion is what we are looking for. This is where foam rolling can come in handy. I don't think people should be rolling around for 15 minutes, but it has a place for developing more range of motion. When you foam roll you can increase your range of motion for a short period of time. If you foam roll then press you are grooving that pattern, thus gaining range of motion.
These are not the only answers to both examples, they may be, but once again, every athlete is different. Taking that person, assessing them, and doing your best to pair an exercise with another will give you the best outcome. If you have any questions feel free to comment below or shoot me an email!