Third Space trainer Loui Fazakerley explains what those orange sticks you keep seeing are all about…
If you do more than cross the gym threshold, bench, shower and leave, then you may have noticed an interesting piece of kit that’s appeared in recent months. I am, of course, talking about those bendy orange sticks. But are they just a short-term fad? Will they come and go like the ab-cradle or the shake weight (remember those?) No training system is the be all and end all, but these sticks are a useful tool to add to your training routine and are here to stay.
The sticks improve your body’s movement efficiency by lengthening, strengthening and improving the control of the muscles around your joints. If you’re looking for more from your workout than beach-ready biceps or an Instagram-worthy butt, and instead want to create a more athletic body that moves better, then sniff out a stick at your next session.
The main principles that make the Stick Mobility system so beneficial are:
- Leverage & Stability (accessing new ranges of motion and becoming stable there)
- Visual & Kinesthetic Feedback (feeling and seeing the progressive improvement)
- Irradiation & Isometrics (helping to recruit more muscles to strengthen movements)
- Coordination (connecting the lower and upper body to the brain)
The sticks are a lot more versatile than they look and there are many beneficial exercises that can be performed from different positions. Here are six of my favourites:
Propellers / Stick Rotations
A lot of people’s shoulders these days are stuck in an internally rotated position due to desk-based jobs. These will help to improve your ability to rotate your arm both ways in the shoulder socket. Either the 4 foot or 5 foot stick is best for this drill depending on your arm length. Start with a mid-stick grip extending your arm out in front of you with a thumb up grip. Then slowly begin to rotate the stick inwards until you reach your end range before slowly rotating the stick back the other way. The goal is to try and gain more range with each rotation while slowly speeding up the movement in the style of a helicopter propeller.
Continue to undo the damage of your desk jockey posture, which can lead to shoulder and neck pain, and therefore days off work, by opening up your chest, shoulders and upper back. The 4 or 5 foot stick is best for this drill. Start by placing both palms against each end of the stick. Then begin to pull one end down and across your body in a diagonal movement. Once your rear shoulder reaches its full extension, repeat the movement in the other direction in a figure of 8 motion (as if kayaking). It’s best to start off slow and controlled then begin to speed up the movement.
This is a great stretch to target the muscles of the hips which can get tight from extended periods of sitting down, and therefore make your lower body exercises less efficient. Once again, the 4 or 5 foot stick is best for these. You can also double up if you have access to two sticks. Sit down with your legs in the form of two 90 degree angles and use the stick(s) to give you more stability. You can also reach the stick(s) forward over the front shin to help stretch out your arms and back muscles (lats) while you’re getting a nice stretch through your front glute.
Split Stance Monkey Hang
This exercise is a great one to open up the chest, lats and rib cage while helping to lengthen the hip flexors in the lunge position. It’s also a great one to strengthen your grip and shoulder muscles. The 6 or 7 foot stick is best for this drill depending on your height. Place the stick on the side of your body and take a firm grip of the top of the stick. Step into a split stance lunge position and then sink your hips towards the floor.
Bow & Arrow
This is a great way to open up the “lateral line” of the body, which are the muscles running from the outside of your foot all the way up to your lats by your arm pit, and can benefit a lot of your upper-body lifts. This move can also target your inner thigh muscles depending on the width of your stance. Use either the 6 or 7 foot stick for this. Start with a slightly wider than hip width stance and place the stick down by the side of your body. Take your opposite side arm over the top and grip the top of the stick with a thumb down grip. Take a mid-stick grip with the arm on the same side of the stick and extend that arm straight out to your side. This should take your body into a side bend and give you a nice stretch through the muscles on the side of your body.
Ninja Lunge Flow
This is a true total-body exercise and will help to lengthen the muscles from your inner thighs all the way into your upper back and chest. Use the 6 or 7 foot stick for this one. Take a double hip width stance and place the stick down by the inside of one foot. Grip the top of the stick with the same side arm and drop your hips low into a Monkey Hang position. Then reach for the bottom of the stick with your free hand and begin to descend into a side lunge. Start by going in the direction that the bottom hand came from and then shift yourself over to the opposite side to experience a different stretch. You should feel a very good stretch in your inner thigh muscles as well as your upper back and chest muscles.
Concentrate on these moves during a mobility focused session in the gym and you’ll prime your body to move, feel and perform better in your whole week of training. Try this new trend and you’ll stick with it, we guarantee.
*Book a PT session with Loui in Third Space Soho for a 1-2-1 stick mobility workout and reach new performance heights as well as your toes.