Flexibility Fillers: 3 Exercises to Make the Most of Your Rest Periods

Use these flexibility fillers to get in some mobility work between sets of the Squat, Bench Press and Sumo Deadlift.

Let's be honest. Warming up before a workout isn't very exciting. Nobody walks into the movie theater and whispers to their friend between mouthfuls of popcorn, "I gotta tell you, the previews are my favorite part of going to the movies!" And no one gets hyped up for foam rolling and dynamic stretching the way they get psyched for heavy Deadlifts.

But warming up is essential for improving flexibility, boosting mobility and instilling proper movement patterns. Like flossing your teeth or eating your veggies, it might not be fun, but it keeps you healthy.

But who says you have to do your whole warm-up before you start lifting?

To get you under the bar faster and make the most of your precious time, try using flexibility fillers—low-intensity mobility drills done between sets of heavy barbell exercises to help you master the movement pattern. You'll spend less time drudging through your warm-up and get stronger in the process.

RELATED: STACK Fitness Weekly: Essential Mobility Drills for Baseball Players

Strength Exercise: Squat
Flexibility Filler: Walking Spiderman with Overhead Reach

Squatting looks simple but takes a tremendous blend of mobility, flexibility and strength to maintain proper form under heavy weight. The Walking Spiderman with Overhead Reach hits all the muscle groups and movement patterns that drive a pristine squat pattern. It improves mobility at the hips, ankles, hamstrings and thoracic spine, while opening up the chest and shoulders to make it easier to get the bar on your back.

How to:

  • Lunge with your right leg at a slight angle (about 30 degrees).
  • As your back knee touches the ground, keep your chest up and touch your fingertips to the floor just inside the instep of your right foot.
  • Keeping your chin tucked, straighten both legs and lift your hips toward the ceiling to stretch your hamstrings.
  • Return to the lunge position, keeping your chest up.
  • Straighten your left arm and rotate it toward the ceiling, trying to show your armpit to the sky and letting your eyes follow your hand.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Sets/Reps: 3x5 per side between sets of Squats.

Strength Exercise: Bench Press
Flexibility Filler: Yoga Push-Up

The Bench Press builds Hulk-like strength in the chest, shoulders and triceps, but it can hinder shoulder mobility because of the way the exercise locks the shoulder blades into place. To undo the flexibility detriments of the Bench Press, perform the Yoga Push-Up, which restores proper movement of the shoulder blades while sprinkling in some ankle mobility and strengthening the often-ignored serratus anterior, a muscle that stabilizes the scapula.

How to:

  • Assume a normal push-up position, keeping a straight line from head to toe by squeezing your abs and glutes and making a double chin.
  • Lower yourself toward the floor, keeping your elbows tucked toward your armpits and leading with your chest, not your chin.
  • Once your chest touches the floor, drive yourself up and back, aiming your hips at the ceiling.
  • Make an A-frame or Downward Dog position by driving your armpits to your ears, shrugging your shoulders and pushing the floor away from you as hard as possible.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3x8 between sets of Bench Press.

RELATED: STACK Yoga for Athletes: Dolphin Push-Ups

Strength Exercise: Sumo Deadlift
Flexibility Filler: Lateral Lunge with Overhead Reach

The Sumo Deadlift requires less mobility than the conventional Deadlift because it uses a wider stance (one to two steps outside your hips), allowing you to start with a more upright torso. It provides all the strength benefits of the Deadlift while making it a little safer on the lower back. It's a fantastic exercise for novice and advanced lifters alike, and the Lateral Lunge with Overhead Reach drives all the movements that complement the Deadlift: mobility at the hips, hamstrings and ankles, along with core and spinal stability. Use this flexibility filler to loosen up your lower body while turning on your core for a stronger Deadlift.

How to:

  • Stand tall and take a long sideways step to the left, keeping both feet pointed straight ahead.
  • Keeping your chest up and both heels flat on the ground, sink into a low lateral Squat, straightening your right leg and trying to sit your left hip onto your left heel. Make sure to sit back, not forward.
  • Once you're as low as you can get, reach overhead with straight arms. Brace your abs and make a double chin to prevent your lower back from arching or your ribs from flaring upward.
  • Stand up and repeat on the opposite side.

Sets/Reps: 3x4 per side between sets of Deadlifts.

RELATED: Best Exercises for Improving Joint Mobility

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