As you may already be aware, I’m not a huge fan of long, protracted warmups or pre-workout stretching. Workouts should be effortless, enjoyable, almost fleeting interludes between the activities you really want to spend your time doing, and spending twenty minutes beforehand to “lube up your joints” and “grease the gears” doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities. Additionally, if I’m going to burn time doing traditional, static, gym-class stretches they’d better confer some real benefits. You know, things like reduced injury, reduced soreness, improved performance. Yet studies are either mixed, show no difference or point to the exact opposite.
Now if you’re lifting very heavy weights and subjecting your joints to high levels of force, a more thorough, diversified warmup may be in the cards, but it’s not necessary for most folks involved with Primal Blueprint Fitness. For us, a couple simple strategies are plenty to prepare the body for what lies ahead. On sprint days, for example, doing a few pseudo-sprints at 75-85% effort make for a fantastic warmup. For a workout involving squats, lunges, and hip extension, a minute or two of static Grok squatting lets my hips know that mobility is in the air today. I’ve spoken at length about both concepts, but today I’m going to introduce another simple yet effective warmup/stretch strategy: the Grok hang.
The Grok hang is simply an overhead hang. You’ll need something to grab onto overhead, like a branch or a pullup bar. Pullup bars work best, especially one situated at a height that allows you to graze the ground with your toes when hanging with arms fully extended. And that’s the most important part of the Grok hang: the full extension of the arms. You’ll want to relax and really stretch. When I say stretch, I mean stretch until you’re able to place your heels on the ground (from the original toes-barely-grazing-the-floor position). To achieve this, grab hold of the bar with an overhand grip and with your toes on the ground (barely, remember) and take a deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds and let it out slowly, gradually, over three seconds or so, and relax into the hang. Repeat the breathing exercise until your heels touch the ground. This will really stretch just about everything that interacts with the shoulder girdle – lats, pecs, biceps, and delts – and prepare your for a workout that requires excellent shoulder mobility. Move your hands out a bid wider than shoulder width once you’re comfortable enough to increase the stretch. If you’re forced to use an overhead bar too tall for toe-grazing, just be careful with the stretch; you won’t have the heels-on-the-ground cue, so you’ll have to be even more in tune with the intricacies of your body. If you’re forced to use an overhead bar too low, just bend at the knees to allow the stretch to occur; be careful not to turn this into an ab exercise, of course, because that will defeat the purpose of stretching your entire body.
In retrospect, it might actually be more accurate to call this the Orangutan hang (and hey, that almost rhymes), but I’m pretty wedded to this Grok stuff, so Grok hang will have to stay. Ever notice how arboreal apes will just hang and hang from branches for minutes on end, sometimes holding on with just a single hand? Well, I’m not suggesting you do that; it’s unnecessary, and, as mentioned in the recent NPR piece on unique functionality of the human shoulder, ape shoulder girdles are built to hang at full extension for long periods of time, while human shoulder girdles are not. We may be meant to throw, manipulate tools, gesticulate, and everything else we do with our arms, but we can still hang – just not for hours on end. It’s even beneficial for humans to take in the occasional ape-like hang from an overhead branch or pullup bar, which is why it’s an important part of the PB warmup arsenal. Give it a try before your next workout and see how it works for you. Thank for reading, everyone!