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Inhibition In Movement: A Crime Against Strength

Inhibition In Movement: A Crime Against Strength

Too many times I witness people wanting to focus on developing strength and they immediately want to pile more and more weight onto the bar in an attempt to grow their strength. I mean this sounds like the logical response in an attempt to produce strength, right? Sure it is…and I’m not saying that it’s not, but there is a step that many leave out that goes between getting stronger and just piling on a truckload of weight.

The Situation…

This past week I was approached by a young trainer that was picking my brain about what he needed to do in order to make some size gains. I quickly asked the most obvious question…Are you doing the big 3: bench, squats, and deadlifts? 

His response was that he was hitting the bench press and squats, but that he didn’t deadlift anymore because…you guessed it…he hurt his back. So one more time…because he hurt his back he didn’t deadlift anymore. This is a common response that I have gotten from many people over the years and my response to that is always the same. I always reply with There is no such thing as a bad exercise only bad people.


So to throw out a quick little test in order to help him out I asked him if he was able to bend over and touch his toes from a standing position. He jokingly responded that he could if I were to put a $20 bill on the ground in front of him. Admittedly I thought that was pretty funny.

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Nevertheless, I asked him to try again and so he made an attempt to bend over to touch his toes. He couldn’t get any further than his knees. I asked him how old he was and he said he was 23. I then told him I was 39 and demonstrated how I could stand and bend over to touch my toes with a full ROM.

Afterwards I looked at him and explained that his lack of ROM was the very reason he hurt his back. This entire ordeal took about 30 seconds and I had already diagnosed his problem. Now I’m not saying that to pound my chest, or to drop the microphone and walk away.

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I’m merely pointing out that he had already known that he was incapable of that ROM and was inhibited in his mobility in that very way, yet he never associated that with being the source of his low back pain.

When I told him this he asked why? The explanation was simple. I told him that because he was limited in his ROM that he couldn’t even get himself into a stable position for the deadlift in the first place simply because he lacked a full ROM. I went on to explain that where there is inhibition there is always going to be a compensatory response and in his case this response was in his low back.

You see the tightness and restrictive ROM of his hips and hamstrings were robbing him of his ability to perform the deadlift in a satisfactory and pain free manner. Essentially this inhibition was a thief and committing the ultimate crime against his strength and size gains by redirecting the stress of the movement to target his low back.

The Solution…

Whenever I encounter this issue with people I always look to correct it with a simple series of progressions in order to increase the ROM of the hips and hamstrings. When a compensatory response occurs this means that one muscle, or group of muscles are being stressed to an abnormally higher degree which means the individual is inhibited and in turn weaker as a result.

The idea is that if we remove the restriction…or the inhibition then the individual will be stronger due to the fact that the stress of the movement is more adequately distributed throughout the body.

I quickly introduced the young trainer to a simple toe touch progression to eliminate his problem. As you can see in the video this toe touch progression doesn’t require a great deal of time to implement. This is a simple progression that I’ve been using for years for such cases, but I never just stop here when looking to sharpen one’s mobility.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. In the meantime make sure you check out and reserve yourself one of the  brand new BRF Hoodies featuring the credo Strength Is About…Not Adopting A Victim Mindset.

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Please feel free to post up in the comments below. Stay strong and keep training smart!

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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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