Growing up, I had the concept of stretching drummed into my head with every sport I did. I still believe it's a good idea, but not the way it was promoted thirty years ago.
Dumbbells are the perfect tool for the type of stretching I now prefer, especially for ballistic movements. As a Master's Age lifter, otherwise known as an old guy lifter, I have found this method to be essential, if I don't want ruin my next workout. I call these Dumbbell Flex Reps. I first learned this technique as a part of my lower body training, working with Fred Lowe, but I have really expanded it. I now do some sort of Flex Rep training with every workout.
I don't have time for marathon training sessions. Instead of doing endless stretching, like some aging athletes, I abbreviated my warm-up period, with actual training. As regular readers know, for almost seven years I have used the Indian Clubs at the beginning of every workout, instead of much of the early stretching I used to do. I may do more Indian Club work in the workout, but I always to some at the beginning. The Flex Reps have eliminated most of the rest of my stretching, as well as some of the explosive movement warm-up sets.
This is really a simple method. It is based on using a full range of motion in the movement, so barbells and kettlebells are not your best tool for the job. In many exercises, barbells and kettlebells cut the actual range of motion or leverage force factor, compared to a dumbbell. You will need to have a variety of dumbbells. They do not need to be huge, as I never use more than 60% of my 1 rep max in a related lift. In fact, depending on the movement, I may only use 30-40%. If you have an entire rack of dumbbells, good for you. I generally prefer adjustable dumbbells, but I do have a job specific selection. A nice pair of rotating Olympic Dumbbells and a couple pair of adjustable standard size dumbbells will do the job. However, I am not a fan of the Standard Spin-Lock Dumbbell Bars with the threaded rod. The collars always come loose, resulting in floppy plates. Always make sure to use decent collars on dumbbells.
This is what you do. As you move through the range of motion for that movement, you continuously flex. Sounds simple. Now try it.
As an example of actual training, think of the overhead barbell squat, which has a snatch grip. I used to do a ton of work stretching with a broom stick, easily taking up 5-7 minutes. Today, I will do a variety of dumbbell curls Flex Repped, and maybe 30 seconds with the broom stick. It also allows me to skip some of the “warm-up” sets and move into the heavier weight faster. I kill two birds with one stone. I am getting in some biceps training and prepping for the compound movement.
When I am getting ready to do one hand movements, like a one hand dumbbell swing or one hand dumbbell snatch, I do a similar routine for my shoulders and forearms. My preferred dumbbell of those small muscles is a rotating Olympic Dumbbell Handle. Nobody doubts using one for the one hand dumbbell snatch, for the same reason you use it for the shoulder and forearm warm-ups. You do not want jerkiness. The entire Flex Rep needs to be smooth.
Try it for yourself. I wish I had been doing this method when I was in my twenties, because half a lifetime later, it is fantastic.
All the best,
“Today is a good day to lift.”
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