Overcoming Tin Man Mobility!

An overview of the mobility required for Optimal Olympic Lifting Movements.

Olympic weightlifting is a complex sport that requires a combination of strength, power, flexibility, and technical proficiency. To excel in Olympic weightlifting, we need to focus on specific mobility areas to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury. Here are five key mobility areas needed for Olympic weightlifting:

ANKLE MOBILITY

Adequate ankle mobility is crucial for Olympic weightlifting, especially during movements like the snatch and overhead squat. Good ankle mobility allows athletes to maintain a stable and upright position during the receiving phase of the lifts. Limited ankle mobility can lead to compensations and improper weight distribution, affecting lifting technique and performance. These are some of the commonly seen signs of poor ankle mobility….

  • Limited Depth in Squats: Athletes with poor ankle mobility may struggle to achieve proper depth in their squats, especially in front squats, overhead squats, and the catch position of the clean and snatch. Limited ankle dorsiflexion can prevent the knees from tracking forward, leading to compensations in the movement pattern.
  • Heels Rising Off the Ground: During exercises like squats, clean pulls, and snatch pulls, if an athlete’s heels consistently lift off the ground, it indicates a lack of ankle mobility. This compensatory pattern places more stress on the knees and may impair technique and power generation.
  • Forward Knee Tracking: In the bottom position of the squat or during the catch phase of Olympic lifts, the knees should ideally track in line with the toes. Poor ankle mobility can cause the knees to move excessively forward, potentially causing knee pain and compromising lifting mechanics.
  • Inward Knee Collapse: Ankle mobility limitations may also result in the knees collapsing inward (valgus) during squats and lifts. This can create instability and increase the risk of knee injuries.
  • Lack of Balance: Athletes with poor ankle mobility may find it challenging to maintain proper balance during the catch phase of snatches and cleans or when receiving heavy weights overhead.
  • Difficulty Staying Upright in the Squat: Adequate ankle dorsiflexion is crucial for keeping an upright torso in the bottom of the squat. Limited mobility can lead to a more forward lean, placing excessive strain on the lower back.
  • Compensatory Foot Positioning: Athletes with ankle mobility issues may subconsciously adopt compensatory foot positions, such as excessively turned-out feet, to achieve better depth. While some external rotation of the feet is normal, excessive rotation can negatively affect lifting mechanics and stability.
  • Ankle Pain: Pain or discomfort in the ankles during or after weightlifting sessions could be a sign of poor ankle mobility.

HIP MOBILITY

Hip mobility is essential for generating power and depth during lifts like the snatch, clean, and front squat. A mobile hip joint allows athletes to achieve the required depth in the receiving position and optimize the transfer of force from the lower body to the barbell. Limited hip mobility can lead to inefficient movement patterns and potential strain on other areas of the body. Some of the typical signs that your hip mobility needs improving are similar the signs of poor ankle mobility: Limited depth in the squat, Difficulty maintaining and upright torso during the squat portion of the Snatch and Clean and Inward Knee Collapse. Other signs of poor hip mobility include…

  • Excessive Forward Lean: Poor hip mobility may result in an excessive forward lean during squats, cleans, and snatches. This forward lean can shift the weight too far forward and affect balance and stability in the lift.
  • Butt Wink: During squats and other hip-hinging movements, a “butt wink” refers to the posterior pelvic tilt that occurs at the bottom of the squat. This can be a sign of poor hip mobility, especially in the deep squat position.
  • Limited Range of Motion in Hip Extension: Proper hip extension is essential for movements like cleans and snatches. If an athlete has difficulty fully extending their hips, it can negatively impact the second pull phase of the lifts, resulting in decreased power and performance.
  • Hip Pain or Discomfort: Pain or discomfort in the hips during or after weightlifting sessions can be an indication of poor hip mobility.
  • Limited Mobility in Hip Rotation: Hip mobility includes internal and external rotation, which is essential for maintaining proper alignment during movements like squats and receiving the barbell in the clean and snatch.

SHOULDER MOBILITY

Shoulder mobility plays a vital role in the overhead movements of Olympic weightlifting, such as the snatch and jerk. Proper shoulder mobility enables athletes to achieve the correct positioning of the barbell overhead, reducing the risk of shoulder injuries and improving stability during the lift. These are the following signs that your shoulder mobility is letting you down…

  • Limited Overhead Range of Motion: Athletes with poor shoulder mobility may have difficulty fully extending their arms overhead during movements like snatch and overhead squats. This can lead to compensations, such as excessive arching of the lower back or forward lean, to achieve the desired position.
  • Elbows Dropping: During the catch phase of the snatch or clean, athletes with limited shoulder mobility might struggle to maintain an upright and stable position, causing their elbows to drop or have difficulty keeping the barbell in the correct position.
  • Forward Shoulder Position: Poor shoulder mobility can result in a rounded or forward shoulder position during the setup and catch phases of weightlifting movements. This can affect stability and increase the risk of injury, especially in the overhead position.
  • Lack of External Rotation: Insufficient shoulder external rotation can hinder the ability to lock out the elbows fully during overhead movements, leading to less control and stability in the catch position.
  • Difficulty Holding the Barbell in the Rack Position: In the clean, athletes need to achieve a proper rack position to support the barbell on their shoulders. Poor shoulder mobility can make it challenging to maintain the barbell securely in this position, resulting in compromised technique and difficulty in controlling the weight.
  • Pain or Discomfort in the Shoulders: Shoulder pain during or after Olympic weightlifting movements can be a sign of poor shoulder mobility or underlying issues that need to be addressed.
  • Struggling with Overhead Squats: Inadequate shoulder mobility can make it challenging to perform overhead squats with good form, as the barbell might drift too far forward, causing balance issues.
  • Limited Shoulder Flexibility: Shoulder flexibility is essential for movements like the snatch, where the barbell is lifted from the ground to overhead in one fluid motion. Poor shoulder flexibility can result in choppy or inefficient movements.

THORACIC SPINE MOBILITY

The thoracic spine (upper back) mobility is critical for maintaining an upright and stable posture during the clean and snatch. A mobile thoracic spine allows athletes to keep the chest up and maintain a solid back position, which is crucial for safely lifting heavy weights. These are the signs you need to improve your thoracic mobility….

  • Limited Overhead Range of Motion: In movements like the snatch and overhead squat, poor thoracic mobility can restrict your ability to fully extend your arms overhead. This limitation may cause you to compensate by arching your lower back excessively or leaning too far forward, affecting your stability and lifting mechanics.
  • Difficulty Maintaining an Upright Torso: During squats, cleans, and snatches, insufficient thoracic mobility can lead to a forward-leaning posture, making it challenging to keep your torso upright. This can negatively impact your balance and overall lifting performance.
  • Inability to Maintain a Proper Rack Position: In the clean, having limited thoracic mobility can make it difficult to maintain the barbell securely in the rack position (across your shoulders and collarbones). This may lead to the elbows dropping or difficulty in controlling the weight.
  • Shoulder Impingement or Pain: Poor thoracic mobility can contribute to shoulder impingement or pain, especially during overhead movements. This is because limited thoracic mobility forces the shoulders to compensate, leading to improper alignment and increased stress on the shoulder joint.
  • Limited Ability to Perform Thoracic Extension: Thoracic extension is crucial for movements that require an arched back, such as the clean and jerk. If you have difficulty extending your upper back, it can hinder your ability to generate power from the hips and limit the amount of weight you can lift.
  • Upper Back Rounding: During squats and cleans, limited thoracic mobility can cause your upper back to round excessively, leading to potential loss of tension and stability in the lift.
  • Difficulty Holding the Barbell Overhead: In overhead lifts, inadequate thoracic mobility can make it challenging to keep the barbell stable and aligned directly over the centre of mass. This can affect your ability to maintain control during the lift.

WRIST & ELBOW MOBILITY

Wrist and elbow mobility are essential for properly receiving the barbell during the snatch and clean. Adequate wrist and elbow mobility enable athletes to achieve a secure and comfortable grip on the bar while catching it in the front rack or overhead position. Limited mobility in these areas can lead to difficulty in catching the bar in the right position, affecting the execution of the lifts. These are some of the signs of poor wrist and elbow mobility….

  • Limited Overhead Range of Motion: In movements like the snatch and overhead squat, poor wrist and elbow mobility can restrict your ability to fully extend your arms overhead. This limitation may cause you to struggle with locking out the elbows or achieving a stable overhead position.
  •  Keeping the Barbell Overhead: During overhead lifts, such as the snatch and jerk, poor wrist and elbow mobility can lead to the barbell drifting forward or backward, making it challenging to keep the weight directly over your centre of mass.
  • Pain or Discomfort in the Wrists and Elbows: If you experience pain or discomfort in your wrists and elbows during or after Olympic weightlifting exercises, it may be a sign of poor mobility and improper positioning.
  • Inability to Maintain a Proper Rack Position: In the clean, limited wrist and elbow mobility can make it difficult to keep the barbell securely in the rack position (across your shoulders and collarbones). This can lead to discomfort and difficulty in controlling the weight.
  • Difficulty with Front Rack Position: Poor wrist mobility can affect your ability to get into a proper front rack position during the clean and front squats. Limited elbow mobility can also hinder your ability to keep your elbows high and chest upright.
  • Wrist Extension Issues: In movements like the clean and front squat, poor wrist extension can cause the wrists to bend excessively backward, leading to discomfort and reduced stability.
  • Inability to Flex the Elbows Fully: Proper elbow flexion is essential during movements like the clean and rowing motions. If you have difficulty flexing your elbows fully, it can hinder your ability to maintain proper form and generate power effectively.

It’s important for weightlifters to incorporate targeted mobility exercises and drills into their training routines to address these areas and improve their overall performance in Olympic weightlifting. Regular mobility work can enhance lifting mechanics, reduce the risk of injuries, and contribute to long-term progress in the sport. Click here for some of the mobility flows that I have created, which target these areas and can be done before or even after a training session.

If you haven’t already, check out my other blog (click here) where I talked about the tests we can do to see the areas the are lacking in mobility. Once we have conducted the tests we then can make sure the mobility flows we create are more specific to our highlighted areas.

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