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    General Overview of Resisted and Loaded Mobility

    General Overview of Resisted and Loaded Mobility

    The two pillars, or modalities that the ProBar is built-upon revolve around the inner spring *resistance of the bar, as well as the ability to custom *load the bar with 500g slugs into the handle tube, which, based on your hand position, creates various lever options to make the weight feel lighter or heavier.

    There are even options where you can combine both modalities in single exercises, something few, or we actually dare say NO other tools on the market provide at the level of efficacy of the ProBar. The ProBar's shoulder and thoracic spine primary focus adheres to the philosophy that if we can improve upon these two areas of our movement function, most other areas will improve, if not self-correct altogether.

    Before explaining what loaded and resisted flexibility training mean, know that incorporating this into your training program can both build your muscles and develop mobility, all at the same time. Who wouldn't want that? And more importantly, everybody needs that!

    BENEFITS OF LOADED STRETCHING

    In his article How Stretching Can Build Muscle & Develop Strength, Dr John Rusin describes loaded stretching as "one of the single most effective “mobility” tools that (he has) used with (his) athletes and clients to finally make notable progress towards improving mobility by unlocking the neural tension that is likely the cause of dysfunction through the system."

    Dr Rusin also states that loaded stretching "has the ability to pack on muscle mass in a way that is both safe to the joints and effective for increasing relative intensities of sets without ever adding another sloppy rep into the mix."

    Indian Clubs and Gada Mace training provide excellent examples of loaded stretching using many muscles at once. When using heavier loads, you don't want to overdo some of the moves unless you have built up proper conditioning to it. Also, as reps increase, your form can become sloppy and that's when the injury risk factor plays.

    The ProBar's light weight still delivers enough tension on the muscles to provide a stimulus for growth with the ability to add more reps, and its modular configuration allows the user to go from a short weighted bar acting like an Indian Clubs to a longer weighted bar falling more into the family of a Mace.

    RESISTED STRETCHING AND HOW IT WORKS

    The idea of reciprocal inhibition and its infusion into the ProBar's patented mechanism is best described in the following terms: it is a "neuromuscular reflex that inhibits opposing muscles during movement", according to the Brookbush Institute.

    Other words you may hear relating to the reciprocal inhibition concept are PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) and the myotatic stretch reflex. What is the stretch reflex?  It is, essentially, a protective measure to prevent muscle tearing, nicknamed the "pullback reflex" also. It plays an important role in proper posture and as a muscle is being stretched, it also sends a signal to contract it to counter the stretch. It's a balancing act of adjusting and maintaining.

    Reciprocal inhibition happens when we move, automatically, but it doesn't prevent imbalances unless you purposely decide to use it for corrective reasons. As a matter of fact, postural or movement dysfunctions can cause the inhibition of functional antagonist muscles (tight psoas and weak glutes) without decreasing neural drive to the buttocks (so that function is maintained, although sub-optimally). That's when you intentionally would do corrective movements (stretches or exercises) to correct this by strengthening the weak muscles and loosing the hypertonic ones.

    We cover loaded stretching and resisted stretching specifically in the following two articles, along with some ProBar exercises geared respectively at each modality:

    - Resisted 

    - Loaded

     To honor the claim of being able to do BOTH at once, here are a couple of exercises that not only work both concepts at the same time, but they also target posture-dependent muscles and joints that chronically shorten over time, causing hypertonicity in them and consequently causing opposing and surrounding muscles to weaken from underuse, even "turn off" if ignored.

    TRIANGLE WINDMILL

    Triangle Windmill from ProBar on Vimeo.

    Its name is inspired both from a triangle pose in Yoga and the kettlebell Windmill exercise. The ProBar is used in its long staff configuration, which is 4 feet "locked" (the bar distracts by an extra 4 inches per "piston" in the sliding mechanism that activates the spring resistance). It is also asymmetrically loaded with a 500g (1.1lb) slug on one end of the ProBar.

    The 500g added load is meant to be on the "low side", the side you bent towards. E.g. if you are side-bending left, the slug should be on the left side of the ProBar. That extra load gently pulls you deeper into the stretch.

    Prior to going into the stretch, distract the ProBar (twist and pull mechanism) and exhale as you side bend. The resistance created by the inner springs takes care of that reciprocal inhibition by engaging the upper posterior chain muscles and inhibiting the commonly tight front muscles (pectorals and anterior deltoids). As demonstrated in the video, you can work your way to having both legs straight for a greater stretch in the hamstrings, also a habitually tight set of muscles.

    T-TWIST (THORACIC SPINE)

    T-Twist from ProBar on Vimeo.

     The T-Twist is primarily done with the distraction/twist & pull feature (resistance), but as you adjust your angle up or down from horizontal, you can create a gentle pull downward which makes it a loaded stretch and results in an increase in both flexibility and mobility, or you can add more resistance by adjusting the leverage and raising the extended end slightly upward. That action makes the movement more difficult as you are working against gravity. This is when that myotatic stretch reflex kicks in!

    This single move opens up the chest and the tall-kneeling stance requires for the glutes to remain active, which helps inhibit the hips and psoas muscles (work the weak, loosen the tight). The tall kneeling stance also minimizes twisting of the lumbar spine and promotes twisting of the thoracic spine, an area of mobility often not functional optimally and inhibiting anything from posture to performance in most activities.

    Spring-Resisted Mobility and Reciprocal Inhibition

    Spring-Resisted Mobility and Reciprocal Inhibition

    What is reciprocal inhibition and how to best explain it simply?

    To the lay person, it simply means that when one set of muscles is contracting, its opposite set is relaxing (the inhibition part) to facilitate that contraction. Or, from a different perspective, the contraction of one set of muscles helps relax the opposing muscles, if you're looking from the other side of that fence :)

    How does it pertain to the ProBar and how does it benefit you, more importantly?

    In our habitually "protracted" posture, you know, the texting, laptop forward hunching and extended sitting time we adopt for the majority of our technologically enhanced days, we tend to create some overuse patterns and keep some muscles always on, while others don't turn on enough or at all.

    So, we look like shrimps, or cashews and it trickles down to our entire system: obstructed airways leading to poor breathing function, neck tension, lack of flexibility (most notably at the shoulders and neck), headaches etc.

    And think about it: for those working their pecs on Monday, a better way to showcase them is to stretch them by building your back, as this article from T-Nation explore.

    The second we activate the inner spring in the ProBar by performing the gentle "twist and pull" action on the "piston", we experience resistance from the ProBar's inner spring, whose mechanics want to close the bar (the sliding mechanism). That pulling action automatically engages the upper posterior chain and in that, we contract the upper back musculature (which, depending on the angle of the elbows, whether we point them down or back, for instance), will contract the latissimus dorsi, the rhomboids, the retractor scapulae, the upper and middle trapezius.

    And that, by default will inhibit the usually tight pectoral muscles, reciprocally. They turn off, allowing them then better stretch and expand that relaxation to other surrounding muscles around the thoracic cage, allowing more freedom and range of motion, leading to better breathing and better stretching.

    It is important than for any part of the injury rehabilitation process, we want to take care of the 3 R's, according to Gray Cook in this article where he discusses how to Reset, Reinforce and Reload, which is something the ProBar helps create, sometimes all at once as the "auto-correct" function of the Twist & Pull patented mechanism dials into proper form, the tension creates, well, tension strength and "time under tension" (a Charles Poliquin staple philosophy explained in this Men's Fitness article) is a form of internal loading, vs external loading with weights.

    Simple :)

    Here are 3 moves that help you increase thoracic mobility through working the shoulders into a greater range of motion by tapping into the patented Twist & Pull mechanism.

    SHOULDER 360º

    The founding move that started it all was the Shoulder 360º (because the glenohumeral joint, a.k. shoulder, has virtually a 360º range of motion but for the torso getting in the way). Doing this "brachiation"/shoulder dislocate (scary word) was facilitated by the reciprocal inhibition. When using a weighted bar, the extra load was helping with the contraction but at the expense of control (once you pass the threshold/sticky point, that weighted bar can fall fast!).

    A rubber band, by contrast, was good, but didn't provide a good metric of measure as the hand positioning on it changes every time you grab it, and doesn't really "transfer". And, unless people know to create tension, which they always give up on with use, a basic PVC pipe wasn't cutting it (and extending one's grip is the next go to facilitation, which doesn't solve the problem, rather works around it).

    So, the distraction with constant tension resistance "Eureka'd" its way into what is now the ProBar. In the video, what you can't "feel" is that the move is both easier (from an execution standpoint) yet harder (because now the shoulder/thoracic muscles are activated).

    Shoulder 360 from ProBar on Vimeo.

    TRIPLE STRETCH

    The next move is more static, with a slight pulsing action, is the triple stretch. We could consider this an easier version of the Shoulder 360º simply because you don't need to go all the way around with the bar, front to back, only enough to feel the chest and anterior deltoids open up, allowing he chest and rib cage to expand more. The staggered stance also promotes reciprocal inhibition as you squeeze the back leg's glutes which then inhibits the hip flexor on that same side, thus opening it up. An added bonus of this exercise is the core activation, hitting three key things we all need more of: hip and shoulder flexibility/mobility and core stability. Hence, the name "triple stretch". Perform again switching your stance for symmetry.

    Triple Stretch from ProBar on Vimeo.

     

    BENT-OVER ROW

    The Bent Row, aka 'bent over row' is a fresh take on a classic exercise where a weight such as a barbell, pair of dumbbells or kettlebells, can be used, or a cable pulley. Here, we use a short unweighted ProBar. Short because it is optimal for grip width unless you have a really wide wingspan, which would also place some nice extra work on the rear deltoids. But, to focus more on the reaction of the shoulder blades, the short ProBar is preferred.

    Use any grip, overhand or underhand, and row the bar with your back flat, angled 45º or more (user's choice) and row to your belly button or upper abs for a variety of angles and feels (go higher for a greater chest stretch). The tension from the inner spring is constant throughout the exercise, especially if you do not close the ProBar and re-"twist & pull" in between repetitions.

    Bent Row from ProBar on Vimeo.

     

     

     

    Ballistic (Loaded) Stretching with the ProBar Mobility Stick

    Ballistic (Loaded) Stretching with the ProBar Mobility Stick

    There is a lot out there in the blogosphere and Internet about whether ballistic stretching is good or bad for you, and the differentiation versus dynamic and ballistic is confusing depending on the article you read. We have 3 exercises for you that illustrate various forms of ballistic stretching.

    Ballistic will often be described as jerky short range of motion movements targeting athletes, whereas dynamic stretching involves a full range of motion not going beyond the muscles' and tendons' normal range of motion (as if one could stretch beyond, which is not possible as it would imply having elastic or extendable bones...). Some contraindicate ballistic stretching for lay people, others call it dangerous. Our stance is: there are no bad movements, just bad execution of movements.

    One common and more familiar ballistic exercise is the kettlebell swing and its ballistic nature lies in the momentum generated by the kettlebell. Properly done, it is an exercise designed for swinging a kettlebell you cannot simply raise frontally with a slow lift. Think more of a wrecking ball on a crane that needs to be swung to generate power.

    Indian Clubs are perfect examples of ballistic movements. Yet, they are by no means "jerky", without any bouncing motion that could be considered dangerous for your health. Rather, they employ a smooth gliding action with a gentle pull on the shoulder muscles, which are loaded by sheer action of the weight in the hands and therefore are getting better primed for heavier lifts later on. More body parts are engaged with more advanced movement patterns, but the crux is shoulder dominant.

    Take the basic Forward Slash ProBar exercise to get back to our ProBar world here. Think, by analogy of execution, of swinging your arms forward as if trying to shake off some water from your hands. By adding a short weighted ProBar in each hand, the added weight adds leverage to the movement.

    When slashing, the process is not that difficult as you benefit from the swing and the momentum it generates. Stop the movement at any point and now the weight is being felt as heavy "statically". Imagine this: hold a bucket of water close to you, at arm's length or at the end of a broomstick. The weight of the bucket is the same, the leverage isn't.

    While we've all seen the guy in the gym swinging his dumbbells up while doing biceps curls, he's doing it ballistically. A cheat curl, essentially, designed to move more weight.

    The loaded movement of the forward slash with the dual weighted ProBars, one in each hand, gently loads the shoulder and allows it to move in both flexion (when going forward) and extension (going backwards). As the muscle gets warmed up during the process, you can increase your range of motion. The resulting increased mobility in that shoulder is "loaded mobility".

    Forward Slash from ProBar on Vimeo.

    For a more advanced Indian Club Pattern, check out Pattern 1

    The "low to high" swing is performed in a transverse plane of movement with also two short weighted ProBars (vs the sagittal forward slash), and the load allows better engagement in the core musculature upon rotation, but the upward (as well as downward) extension of the movement gently "pulls" the body into a fuller range of motion. Gradually increase that range as you become more familiar with the movement.

    Low to High Swing from ProBar on Vimeo.

     

    The "lumberjack chop" performed with a single weighted short ProBar is also a ballistic movement and its purposeful "stop and recoil" action, as if pulled back by an elastic, creates more tension on the core and grip strength to stop the short weighted ProBar from moving further forward, as opposed to following through like after hitting a baseball with a bat. By adjusting the speed of movement, you can work on a wider "swing" and more range of motion, from shoulder to hip, unilaterally.

    Wood Chop from ProBar on Vimeo.

     

    Top 4 ProBar moves to improve your balance

    Top 4 ProBar moves to improve your balance

    Did you take last week's quick 3 self-screening tests? Do it now by clicking HERE.

    If you or someone you know had a hard time with the balance (first screen, the other two being balance and functional breathing), here's a quick recap of what the test is and what it does: put on your socks, or take them off, while standing, without assistance from anything or anyone. Simple. Not easy for all.

    WHAT IS THE TEST?

    As some have reported to us, it wasn't just their balance that was the issue, but they're mobility (or lack thereof) and even lack of flexibility. One person described their low back screaming at them as if it were an IED! Another nearly fainted from holding their breath (indicating a high level of tension/stiffness), so you see how all 3 elements are tied for overall wellness, well-being and shan't be taken for granted.

    WHAT DOES THE TEST INDICATE?

    This isn't a simple test of balance, like standing on one leg, rather balance AND mobility. What is being tested is unilateral ("each side") ankle mobility, as well as that of the hip and knee. The upper body also is engaged, one way or another, relaxed or stiff, and we're looking for the ability to flex the spine without pain. One person reported not being able to do it, to testing themselves again and doing it with a very straight back. While accomplishing the task is functionally a milestone, the stiff back is a potential indicator of hypo-mobility (not enough), therefore another area makes up for it by being hyper-mobile (too much). So, functionally, yes, but technically, no bueno! We can even speculate that a stiff back leads to a held breath, braced, shallow (and thus leading to fainting).

    HOW DO WE MAKE IT BETTER?

    In the case of a stiff low, or even upper back, or a generally ram-rod stiff spine, the kind that makes you move like Batman in its original suit (Michael Keaton's or Christian Bale's in Batman Begins), spinal decompression is a simple go-to.

    You can:

    - Hang from a pull-up bar: do a couple scapular retractions then just hang with no other effort than your grip. Let the entire body "sink low". You can even gently twist from side to side.

    - Lie on a Swiss ball/resistance ball and gently letting yourself roll backwards (towards the head, or the ground below your head) to rebuild a bit of back extension.

    - Hang inverted (inversion table, or with boots strapped to a pull-up bar).

    These options are simple, fairly passive and provide relief.

    A better option is where you engage the muscles and restore the movement quality by actually engaging the muscles. Such exercises can be:

    - Hip bridge: lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat. Drive your hips up and squeeze your buttocks. It will open up your hips and engage the low back as well.

    - "Drawing in" maneuver followed by tuck-roll: in the same position as above, place a folded towel under the small of your back. Push down, as if trying to push your belly button into the floor. Hold for a few seconds then release. Repeat up to five times, then tuck your knees into your chest as much as you can, give your shins a big hug and roll back and forth to restore the flexion/extension balance.

    These are beneficial regardless and worth doing simply because of what our modern lifestyle is. We still need to work on the lower extremity.

    A gentle way of improving, ankle, knee and hip mobility, if you've done the above moves, is to stay on your back, knees bent, feet flat, and do the following:

    - Ankle Circles: cross one ankle on the opposite knee (you will form a figure 4 with your legs) and do ankle circles. You can do those assisted by using your hand (more range of motion can be obtained) or by using your mind power to circle with the ankle (more muscular activation).

    - Knee Circles: lift one leg up and hold its hamstrings with both hands, and perform knee circles. 

    - Hip Circles: a little tougher, you'll feel the core engage more on this one. Let go of your hold on the mammies and just circle the hip. You can go wide and drop the leg close to the ground for an even greater ROM (Range Of Motion).

    Repeat on both sides, of course.

    Now, all these are good, but what if we could take care of all of this in  half these moves while engaging your musculature and getting you prepped for a proper workout?

    Here are the ProBar moves that can take care of your spine and major lower body joints in one fell swoop!

    Please note: we are not working on "balance" per se, which would be the obvious choice. Instead, we focus on the "pre-balance" aspect, making sure you can be stable and structurally solid. You can't balance without a solid foundation, otherwise it's only a house of cards!

    While you can work on pure balance exercises to improve your balance, you're really only studying for the test and while your balance may improve, a healthy and functional individual should be able to pass "socks on/socks off" test without having to work at it. The lack of balance stems from a movement dysfunction that infringes upon the ability to do this "freely".

    TOP 4 PROBAR MOVES TO IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE:

    - Prone Shoulder Press: for spinal health strength and alignment.

     

    - Front Lever Squat: for ankle, knee and hip mobility in a quad-dominant move.

     

    - Hinge & Press: for a hip-dominant move with spinal strength and alignment.

    Hinge and Press from ProBar on Vimeo.

     

    - Ankle-threading: simple yet effective ankle mobility exercise that also isolates and self-assesses your progress. This exercise is featured in this sample routine that happens to work both mobility and balance at once.

     

     

    Top 3 moves to improve your leg and hip mobility

    Top 3 moves to improve your leg and hip mobility

    In the second self-test of the 3 screens posted HERE, we explore mobility in the lower limbs by standing up unassisted from a cross-legged sitting position.

    Much like the balance screen (socks on/socks off test), and because for most of us who ambulate in a bipedal fashion, the health of our ankles, knees and hips is crucial, in connection to our spinal health.

    These are the very muscles and limbs we develop as babies until we walk upright. We go from a C-shaped spine to an S-Shaped spine. The "tummy time" pediatricians encourage for babies is where we develop core strength, and the ability to push ourselves up (OK, fine, that's a upper body move) also extends the spine (which we lose from sitting too much and revert back to looking like a cashew).

    Since we spend time on our feet, our poor ankles are bearing the brunt of our weight, plus gravity's push. Our hips get locked from sitting too much and their stiffening reduces their mobility, which puts extra work on the knees. Our knees are designed to move in one direction only, alas. The hips and ankles do the rest. So if our hips are tight and ankles stiff from carrying all the weight, the knees move "funkily" and suffer. Wanna get rid of knee pain? Address your hips and ankles.

    Look at the source, not the site!

    HOW TO MAKE YOUR ANKLES, KNEES AND HIPS BETTER?

    Check out our recommendations in our article on balance. The same supine (on your back) exercises work here too, because it's all tied together. You can give it a twist by performing them standing up, which also helps with balance.

    The caveat is you're not working on your dynamic and core strength and you're not really working on the functionality of the day-to-day demands of "Life" unless you are a professional slackline or tight-rope walker.

    TOP PROBAR MOVES TO RESTORE LOWER LIMB MOBILITY

    - Assisted Squat: to work on the pattern and keep a straight spine.

     

    - Front Lever Squat: for a deeper range of motion and greater angle of bend in your knees, hips and ankles, this is a good follow-up to the Assisted Squat.

    Front Lever Squat from ProBar on Vimeo.

    - Hollow Rocking: this keeps the entire body tight and puts a nice burn on your "Dear Abbies", necessary for that first "lift" of the ground as you performed the "stand up unassisted" test. 

     

    Hollow Rocking from ProBar on Vimeo.

    ADDITIONAL SAMPLE ROUTINE

    Now, you can also follow this simple progression that works both your balance and your mobility, as it includes warm-up drills for your ankles, your knees, your hips and then progresses to address the left and right sides of your body.