There are three training principles that will be discussed; yoga, calisthenics, and plyometrics. These aren’t mutually exclusive of one another, nor is weight-training exclusive of these. If you really want a balanced physique, you don’t want to be that guy with the huge chest that can’t wipe his own ass. Nor do you want to be the person that can twist in a pretzel but can’t lift a pretzel.
Bear with me for this mini technical lesson:
Static stretching and dynamic stretching hold different benefits but are entirely different mobility protocols. Static stretching is your “stand, reach, and hold” stretching; this is fantastic for post-workout long-term recovery. Dynamic stretching is your low-impact movement stretching; this fires up the muscles and gives your body a means of expecting load preceding your workout.
Remember these two key concepts: 1. Ligaments do not stretch. 2. Tendons hardly stretch. When we discuss “ankle mobility” or “wrist mobility,” we mean the muscles around that area. An example of this could be discussing the movers of the knee (quadriceps and hamstrings). Your ACL isn’t bending your knee. However, if the ACL has been compromised, you will have reduced mobility and strength. Strong muscles support healthy joints, and healthy joints help maintain mobility over time. And believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much flexibility. Being overflexible’s downside are weak joints. Terribly weak joints. In fact, if you must see the downsides to this, check out this gruesome video of a woman leg pressing incorrectly and locking her knees out.
If you don’t want to watch that, her legs bend the opposite way. You’re welcome.
Now that I'm done lecturing…
Yoga: balance, static stretching, core strength
Yoga is fantastic. When done correctly, it will increase your mobility. The hips, scapula, knees, and ankles will benefit greatly from the specifics of yoga movements. Yoga is very low-impact, and any fitness level can start and advance given proper commitment. It’s also very relaxing. The shoulders and hips, being ball-and-socket joints, should have an extreme range of motion (ROM) in relation to other joints, such as the knees and elbows. Yoga can help “open” these joints up to boost overall ROM, and subsequently allow for more power output. Athletes benefit from yoga as much as the average layman does, simply because our bodies have a designated way of moving.
My advice: Athletes, do yoga. Don’t be a bro. Yoga enthusiasts, go weight-train; you don’t want to be that woman in the video.
Plyometrics: balance, dynamic stretching, core strength, explosiveness
Plyometrics are bodyweight intensive explosive exercises. Take any bodyweight exercise and make yourself push, pull, or jump with enough power to leave contact with whichever surface you moved from. If you have the overall strength to do this, you’re an incredibly strong individual. However, some enthusiasts of plyometric exercises utilize prime movers to complete the movement, and over time may neglect mobility training. While plyometric exercises can be low impact dynamic stretching, it doesn’t incorporate static stretching nor really test the body’s flexibility.
If you watch a basketball player jump really high, they’re not squatting all the way to the floor to do it, but they’re still hitting their head on the rim. This is power. It’s impressive. But can they do a 3rd-world squat? This begs the question, “would that even benefit them?”
It would. They have to come back down to the floor, right? They have to be able to absorb that load. Basketball players are notorious for knee problems, not necessarily because of direct impact to the knee (say, like, with rugby), but because of the stop-and-go nature of the sport. Longevity in the sport can be increased through mobility training.
My advice: athletes, continue doing plyometric exercises. It’s what makes you better than the rest of us. Incorporate proper impact-absorbing techniques by strengthening the glutes, lower back, hamstrings, and core. Weight-lifters; if you want to be stronger, your total body strength needs to be stronger. You can’t just be strong in those 12 inches of bar movement. You’ll plateau and more than likely in your pursuit of leaving that plateau, cause repetitive joint discomfort.
Calisthenics: balance, dynamic stretching, strength while balancing, core strength, explosiveness
Calisthenics is where yoga and plyometrics synchronize. If you’ve ever seen a gymnast do ring-work, you understand this concept.
Calisthenics is a wonderful training principle. You build muscular endurance and balance from holding and moving; you’re also holding and moving in positions where the prime movers (or large muscle groups, like the chest and back) aren’t in the most powerful positions. Check out a muscle-up:
This isn’t like a normal chin-up, where the biceps, back (specifically the lats), and shoulders are moving in a semi-straight line. It’s also not like a push-up or decline push-up, where the triceps, shoulders, and chest are exerting the most force. In the muscle-up, the power you’re generating is of course from your prime movers, but the most difficult portion (transition) is being performed with help from the core and small muscle groups, like the biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
You need mobility to accomplish this exercise. You need core strength, power, and flexibility to do it most impressively.
My advice: people who don’t weight-train should at least be proficient in calisthenics. You will not age like milk if you consistently perform calisthenics; you’ll age like wine. And like wine, you’ll be attractive to women. And if you’re a woman, you’ll be attractive to women. Which, if you haven’t figured out yet, is the most important thing.
People who do weight train will begin to realize if they’re flexible and explosive with their own bodies, it will transfer to strength gains in the gym. Or at least to strength gains in more difficult mobility exercises, like Olympic lifting or ATG squats.
NOW, you may be wondering about certain limitations to mobility…
Factors limiting mobility
There are internal and external factors affecting your mobility levels. Internal factors include your current fitness level, internal temperature, the type of joint, or your muscular development. External factors (things outside of your control) include genetics, gender, outdoor temperature, or clothing.
This whole article culminates in a number of things you should leave here with:
1. Mobility gives you a stronger sense of homeostasis.
2. Strength + mobility makes a stronger athlete.
3. If you’re training with one singular style, you’re severely limiting your overall potential.
4. There is no “perfect” exercise regimen; powerlifting will not make you a contortionist, nor will being a contortionist make you squat 500 pounds.
5. Last, and finally, remember: overall fitness transfers into any athletic endeavor. If you’ve built balance, core strength, and endurance, you may be able to jump into a run and last longer than normal. If you’re a very strong Olympic lifter, you may be able to progress in yoga quicker than average. If you’re an advanced yoga enthusiast, calisthenics may just come “naturally” to you.
The bottom line? It’s impressive doing the splits. It’s impressive doing muscle-ups. It’s also impressive bench-pressing 500 pounds.
But can you do all three?
Go for it!
*Sources loosely referenced