Why People With Hypermobility Should Do Weight Training
Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Okay, I’ve never been flexible. My body is like a piece of wood. It took me years to get to this level I’m at now, which is average. Why? It can be condensed to two things:
I wasn’t born flexible.
I didn’t care.
I still don’t stretch, but I mobilize now. I realized that being able to work through a full range of motion makes me a better athlete. Also, doing weight training gives you more flexibility, so it’s a win-win.
I think as long as you can work in the range of motion that your sport requires, then you’re flexible enough. Which means if you’re a powerlifter and you can squat to parallel or even an inch lower, you’re good. Don’t waste time on stretching.
On the other hand, if you can’t get under the bar because of your tight shoulder/lat/wrist, then it’s time to do some extra work.
What about dancing, yoga and other performance sports where bendiness is essential?
When you look at a yoga class or a dance show you’ll see extremely bendy people. Sure, those folks like to do that and maybe because some of them were already flexible so it seemed like an activity that would suit them, but still, it’s impressive. Although, even among flexible people there are hyperflexible or hypermobile individuals.
IIndividuals with extreme amounts of flexibility are often dubbed hypermobile. You can have a lot of flexibility and not actually be hypermobile—just ask world-class gymnasts and ballet dancers. To actually be classified as hypermobile, there is a test that assesses mobility at several joints called the Beighton Score. Here is a link for more info and to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Link
Why should hypermobile people do weight training?
The problem with hypermobility is the lack of stability. They can easily get hurt because they just can’t stop the movement in a stable position and the joint overshoots.
They also don’t feel pain when they stretch, so it’s even harder for them to realize when it’s time to stop the motion.
Do you know the feeling when the back of your knee starts screaming at a stiff leg bend-over? They don’t.
(if you’re hypermobile and you do feel pain seek professional help.)
Strength Means Stability
It’s really hard to define strength. There are people who can lift very heavy weights, some can jump very high and some can hold themselves in a cross position on rings. We came up with terms like strength-endurance, power and isometric strength to categorise different force output attributes. Still, in general, being able to stabilize our body throughout muscle tension is a close definition.
Stabilizing joints with the surrounding muscles as a hypermobile is crucial. You don’t have to deadlift 200Kg, but being able to pick up at least your body weight with good form is a nice goal to have. This requires joint stability, mind-muscle connection, proprioception (body's ability to perceive its own position in space), rate of force production, engaging multiple muscle groups at the same time.
“Prolonged therapy and general conditioning are typically required, with special emphasis on improving strength and proprioception to address symptoms and prevent future injury.” Link
I see clients with excessive flexibility struggle to find strong positions on the lifts. This is especially important during compound movements like squat and deadlift.
Engaging the core is quite difficult when you can’t feel your joint locking out. What I find working the best for my clients is a floor-based warm-up routine.
Most people I train are stiff and we have to mobilize before hitting the weights. In the case of bendy individuals, we can easily skip the mobility part but focus more on getting tighter.
You see, when we perform the warm-up on the floor we have an extra stable point in space. This gives very good feedback to our body where to stop the movement (hence the fact there is nowhere else to go, the floor itself is going to stop the movement).
Doing a glute bridge on the floor will teach the correct end position of the hip hinge, which can help stabilize lifts on squat and deadlift type of movements.
Here is a floor-based warm-up sequence for better proprioception:
I also include some extra stability components where I ask my clients to get into a certain position and don’t let them move them. This will require them to engage and use their stabilizer muscles we generally call “the core”. This consists of the shoulders, the trunk and the hips.
Note for coaches:
The best way to do it is to push them unexpectedly. If they don’t know where the force is coming from they tend to stiffen up quite well. These pushes shouldn’t be hard, just enough to create stiffness in their bodies.
You can take it to the next level by telling them where to flex and really challenge their abilities.
You can break it down to lower and upper-body exercises depending on the workout you are about the face on that day. If it’s a leg workout you could do a half-kneeling hold or an iso lunge if you are more advanced.
I prefer to do full-body in case of compound movements, like a plank hold for advanced lifters and kneeling push-up hold for beginners.
For more about Petrobution Training see the link below:
Muscle can contract or stretch, kind of like a rubber band. And it also can stay in the same position which is called isometric state.
Isometrics are great for muscle motor-unit recruitment. In other words, we can engage more muscle groups at the same time for maximum effort lifts. We use it to build up weak points in compound exercises or prime the body prior to explosive movements.
Isometric or static strength training is also great for rehab/prehab because of the excess stability component. It provides awareness around the joints, firing the muscles up for future work. For this reason, I like to use them early in the training session, perfect for hypermobile individuals.
However, static holds can be very demanding on the nervous system. Using them for longer than 10 seconds per set or 10 minutes per session is extremely fatiguing. Often used in the wrong way, holding planks for minutes is not the correct way of including isometrics in the training routine.
It should be a full-body exercise, squeezing every single muscle actively for 5-8 seconds.
External rotations, clamshells, glute bridges, calf raises are excellent tools to do between sets for extra awareness and strength in the smaller muscles.
Hypermobility can be a great thing if you’re an aerial performer but can be difficult to deal with in everyday life.
Injury can be an issue if strength is missing. On the other hand, extra flexibility allows full range of motion, which is great to build strength on.
Muscle strength differences in healthy young adults with and without generalized joint hypermobility: a cross-sectional study https://bmcsportsscimedrehabil.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13102-016-0037-x
Don't stretch, unless your sport requires you to do it.
Make strength training your priority. Strength is stability.
Start with Proprioception drills
Tempo work, isometrics and slow eccentrics are your best friends.
Embrace your hypermobility because this is just something you have to work on and not a negative function. Work hard. It will pay off.