If you can easily fold your body in half or slide into splits like a gymnast, there’s no doubt your level of flexibility is impressive. But it can cause some problems in the weight room if you’re not careful.
First and foremost, we need to establish that a high level of flexibilty isn’t a good thing. Athletes need to be able to move through the ranges of motion required by the movements they perform in their sport and workouts. A hockey goalie needs to be able to go into a split, but this isn’t necessary for a forward or defenseman.
RELATED: The Role of Flexibility and How It Affects Your Game
And a football player shouldn’t have the flexibility of a gymnast. Football players need to be mobile, but they need stiffness around their joints (provided by muscle) to protect their body and maximize power transfer.
But if you happen to be a hyper-flexible athlete—whether because it’s something you worked toward or you were simply born that way—there are some things you can do to protect your body in the weight room and improve your performance on the field.
Appreciate That Flexibility Doesn’t Equal Control
Just because you are able to move through large ranges of motion doesn’t mean that you’re clear to do whatever exercises you want. You must show that you can control those ranges with strong muscular contractions before you begin adding large external loads. Having more flexibility means that you have more range you must learn to stabilize, compared to your less flexible peers.
RELATED: Flexibility Isn’t the Problem With Your Hamstrings
An easy way to know that you have control is learning to feel the right muscles working during a particular lift. For example, if you’re doing a good job controlling your hips and spine during a Deadlift, you’re likely to feel your abs, hamstrings, glutes and quads working.
Add Isometrics to Your Training Program
Isometric training is a simple and safe way for flexible athletes to increase stability and joint control, especially at end ranges of motion where muscular contraction isn’t as strong and joints are more susceptible to injury. Not only do these exercises increase strength near end-ranges of motion, but they also help athletes develop better awareness of where their body is in space.
RELATED: Stability Training Can Improve Your Agility and Range of Motion
Don’t Hyperextend Your Joints When Finishing Lifts
Having excessive movement in your joints due to laxity of your muscles, ligaments and joint capsules can leave you prone to unstable positions when you lift weights. An easy way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your lifts, while keeping your joints healthy, is to monitor the position of your joints when locking out a lift. Check out the three examples above
Use External References to Develop Better Spatial Awareness
It’s common for hypermobile athletes to have trouble orienting their bodies in space. This is partly because their muscles and nervous system haven’t developed stability throughout their ranges of motion. Though isometrics will greatly enhance stability and spatial awareness, it will not yield the same training results for strength and power as weightlifting. Therefore, it’s wise to alter common exercises to make them more beneficial for hypermobile athletes. The best way to do this is by adding external references, allowing athletes to develop better awareness of their bodies in space.