Weightlifitng requires often extraordinary flexibility in the quest to reach technical mastery and move the biggest weights. Good ankle mobility allows the lifter to get into a deeper squat position, required to catch heavy weights, while supple hip flexors help the athlete achieve a better starting position and to generate power in the second pull. Flexible wrists assist the athlete in catching heavy cleans and being able to jerk more comfortably, while shoulder mobility is crucial for getting the bar into the correct position and keeping it locked out overhead.
As well as helping the weightlifter to improve and maintain their flexibility, regular mobility work both before training and on days that the lifter isn’t working out can ensure that they are warmed up properly before they start lifting and can help to prevent injury. While there are numerous stretches that will allow the lifter to achieve these ends, these five key mobility exercises for weightlifters are among the most effective in preparing the lifter for hitting to the gym or taking to the competition platform.
In order to perform these five exercises, the athlete will require access to a foam roller, resistance band(s), a barbell and a bench or similar raised surface.
Foam Rolling for Thoracic Spine Mobilisation
Use a hard foam roller, preferably with nodules, or length of thick PVC pipe (not the type used in the video above) and rollout the upper back from the bottom of the lats up to the top of the lats. Do this initially with arms against your sides to mobilise the surface muscles. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions, where one repetition is the motion of the roller back and forth. Next, bring your elbows up into the air so that the humerus is more or less perpendicular to the torso and bring your forearm back to touch your shoulder. This will open up the shoulder blades and allow the roller to reach the muscles between them. Roll for 12-15 reps as above.
Hip Flexor Stretch with Back Foot Elevated
This stretch can be done in a number of ways but my preferred method is to use two benches, boxes or even chairs, one to raise the back foot of the leg being stretched and the other to provide support for the hands so that the trainee can stabilise themselves. Raise the back foot of one leg and stretch forward, either kneeling on the other knee or ideally standing crouched on the front foot (think the front foot position in a lunge or split. Move your weight so that knee comes as close to the ground as it can without actually making contact with the floor. Hold for 10 seconds for five repetitions, with a brief rest between each. Repeat for the opposite leg.
Overhead Band Pull Aparts for Shoulder Mobility
Take a resistance band (I usually use a red band) and put it overhead, stretching your arms outwards and slightly behind your head as if taking a snatch grip. Ensure that the hands are upturned, again mimicking your grip in the Snatch. Push against the band and take your arms out to your normal width snatch grip, Hold for 8-10 seconds, take a short rest and repeat five times. Depending on your strength and flexibility, you may be able to use a stronger resistance band. I often perform this exercise in a squatting position, as in the Snatch, to do additional light mobility work on the thoracic spine.
Barbell Ankle Stretch
Sit down into a squatting position and place an empty barbell over your thighs, about 7-10cm back from the kneecap. grip the bar with both hands and push your weight down into it while simultaneously resisting by pushing back with your ankles. The intensity of the stretch can be increased when you are used to the exercise by loading the barbell. This can allow athletes to achieve much greater ankle flexibility and strength and also to help warm up the knees before starting to lift. If loading the barbell, be conservative and gradually add weight from week-to-week as your ankles adjust to the the exercise.
Clean Rack Position Stretch for Wrists
Place a barbell in a squat stands or a squat rack at the usual height that you would take it from the rack to front squat. Either ask a training partner to forcibly hold the bar down or add so much weight to the bar that it won’t move when you try to get it off the rack (be careful with this one!). A Smith machine could also be used. With one of these two options in place, put your hands in the position they would be when racking a clean and push up against the bar to stretch the wrists. Chances are it won’t feel terribly comfortable so take care not to overextend. Hold for about 10 seconds, briefly rest and repeat 8-10 times.