You may not have noticed it, but the chances are your gym has a wooden stick made of dowel about an inch thick lying around somewhere. This simple tool is useful for practising the bar path of big lifts, and can also be used to add serious strength and power. “Using a stick can help increase your control through large ranges of motion,” says David Arnot, co-founder of London’s Evolve353 gym. “The more control you have of your big joints, such as the shoulders and hips, the more mobility and stability your develop. Mobility and stability of a joint allows the body to produce greater power.“
The stick takes advantage of mechanical leverage to make it easier to overcome the body’s resistance to bending. “It’s a great addition to your warm-up after a pulse-raiser, so make sure your muscles and joints are warm and focus on the areas you will be working on in the session,” says Arnot.
If you’re doing overhead work, do the first drill. If you’re squatting, focus on the drills that target the hips. “Spend at least 30 seconds on each stretch because the benefits get greater as the hold is held,” says Arnot. “If you have the time, hold each move for one to two minutes. Add this to your warm-up at least once a week and work up to three times.”
How Start holding the stick at hip height in front of you with a wide grip. Bring the stick up and over your head in an arc. Go back as far as you can, then return to the start and repeat.
Why “This is a moving shoulder ‘dislocation’ to improve control through the range of movement rather than a stretch,” says Arnot. “It’s great for shoulder health and to improve the overhead squat position.”
How Hold the stick horizontally to one side with the elbow on that side bent at roughly 90°. Rotate the stick through 180° until your upper arm is parallel to the floor.
Why “This is a great drill to improve the front rack position in a front squat. You can really work on the back and shoulder muscles, which all need to be on your side if you want to front squat well.”
How Start holding the stick vertically with one hand on the top and one hand on the bottom. Whichever hand is on the top, bend the way to feel a stretch in your side.
Why “You will feel this down near your hip – the quadratus lumborum to be precise – and up at your lats. If you take a knee you can stretch your psoas and obliques, especially if you push your hips forward and out.”
How Get into a kneeling lunge position holding the stick overhead with straight arms. Push your hips forwards to increase the stretch, or forwards and towards the front leg side to increase the stretch.
Why “This is a hip flexor stretch. Adding in the lean will give you an oblique and psoas stretch. It’s great if you have been sitting all day, and it’s also good before you perform lunges and squats.”