Olympic weightlifting requires more than strength. It requires mobility, or flexibility through a range of motion. An athlete with limited mobility can still lift weights, but the athlete cannot reach his full potential as a weightlifter. For instance, an athlete who struggles to maintain an upright torso in the bottom of a squat can compensate for the lack of mobility by executing a power snatch instead of a full snatch. This athlete will be outperformed, however, by athletes with similar–or even less–strength and the ability to stabilize the barbell overhead in a squat.
Strength makes a weightlifter. Mobility makes a champion.
If you are searching for a place to start, consider this mobility workout used by Hampton Morris, reigning 50kg American youth weightlifting champion (14-15 yr.) and Team USA member.
PSOAS Smashing: Take a hard ball, such as a softball, and place it between your hip crease and the floor. Gently roll out the muscles in this area for 90 seconds each side. This movement helps release tightness in the pelvic area and promotes a better neutral spine.
Glute Rolling: Cross one foot over the opposite knee. Place a hard ball under the glute muscles and roll for 3 minutes each side. This movement can also be performed on a foam roller. For weightlifters, the glutes are an area of hidden tension, with the tension putting stress on the hip, lower back and knees.
Banded leg stretches: Lie on your back and wrap a resistance band around the bottom of one flexed foot. Holding the band, guide the leg across the body until you feel a stretch. Keep the shoulders and lower back on the floor. The inactive leg remains extended on the floor. Hold for 1 minute on each side.
This movement stretches the TFL (tensor fasciae latae), IT band, and hamstrings.
While you have the band around the foot, take the foot to the outside of the body and hold for one minute. This movement stretches the groin.
Finally, bring the foot toward your face and hold for one minute. This movement stretches the hamstrings.
Posterior Hip Stretch: Lie on your back with one ankle crossed over the opposite thigh, just above the knee. Use a band to apply pressure to the opposite foot. Alternatively, lie with your bottom against a wall and intensify the stretch by pressing your foot against the wall. Hold for 1 minute. This movement will be felt on the outside of the hip.
Knee to Chest: Lie on your back with your legs extended in front of you. Grasp one knee and bring it to the chest, keeping the other leg extended and flat against the floor. Hold each side for 1 minute. This movement stretches the lower back, glutes and pelvic muscles.
Internal Hip Rotation Stretch: Lie on your back with your knees together and your feet
wide. Allow your knees to fall toward the floor. If necessary, keep the knees together with a resistance band. Hold for 3 minutes. This movement guards against lower back pain, knee injury and hip impingement that is caused when the spine attempts to compensate for lack of rotation.
Lying Wall Stretch: Lie on the floor with your bottom against a wall and your legs extended straight up toward the ceiling. If available, use a resistance band to keep the legs together. Place a light weight, such as a small sandbag, on the feet to intensify the stretch. Hold for up to 10 minutes. This pose not only relieves lower back pain, it also refreshes the legs by giving blood and lymph circulation a boost toward the upper body.
Improved mobility makes injuries less likely by helping the body handle the stresses of weightlifting.
Hampton uses these accessories to execute his mobility workout. If you do not have a weight bag, make your own with some rice, dry beans or sand!
No need to buy a fancy ball for rolling. A softball will do the trick.
A variety of resistance bands or straps can be used in this workout.