Five Tips from Mike Stare

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Five More Tips from Mike Stare (

6. Perform thoracic mobilization before exercise, not after. There always seems to be controversy regarding when stretching should be performed to maximize function. Fortunately, the answer is clear regarding joint mobilization: perform exercise aimed solely at enhancing normal joint arthrokinematics prior to exercise. Studies have demonstrated that mobilization of the thoracic spine enhances voluntary force capacity of the lower trapezius, which is a muscle group that plays a pivotal role in ensuring optimal scapulohumeral mechanics. The foam roll has been used very successfully as a self-mobilization device for the thoracic spine, and will be a key exercise in the beginning of your routine.

7. Look to your daily life as the root of joint injuries. The more we learn about joint injuries, the more we learn that damage is more likely the consequence of repeated micro trauma, versus a one-time, acute macro-trauma. Joints respond very well to frequent, intermittent, and gradual loading, as opposed to infrequent, sustained, or sudden loading. Joints receive their nutrition from the passive diffusion of nutrients in the synovial fluid, facilitated by movement and intermittent loading. Prolonged sitting and standing can often rob the joints of the stimulus required for optimal health. When our minds are occupied, it is amazing how we can find ourselves enduring prolonged and awkward postures. Even worse, we may not feel the adverse affects of this in the short term, thus we don’t have an impetus to modify them. This is usually because many structures, such as disc, meniscus, and joints are aneural is areas, and often do dot relay noxious stimuli until a higher degree of damage occurs. Clinical experience and research shows that countless joint conditions, including osteoarthritis, shoulder impingement, low back, and neck pain are all correlated with prolonged sitting or repeated bending and twisting. It’s obvious to focus on technique, program design, corrective exercise, and nutrition for optimal performance. However, neglecting to address movement patterns and postures with daily tasks can subvert much of your hard work and often contribute to injury.

8. Use deloading to stimulate recovery. When we fracture a foot, it is well known that taking load of the bone for a limited time will facilitate healing. We should use the same logic regarding injuries to our weight bearing joints to various degrees. Vertical deloading through band or bar hangs are an example of removing loading upon the spine. This is often a welcomed break from the excessive loading we impose upon our spine through maximal strength workouts. The degree to which we perform our deloading should be proportionate to the degree to which we load our spine, be it chronic loading (sitting at our desk) or acute loading (heavy deadlifts), and proportionate to the severity of the symptoms (e.g. manual traction for acute back pain). Deloading can also be done with lower body exercises such as lunging when bodyweight is enough to irritate a flared up knee. Try taking a strong band suspend it from a rack, and loop it under your arms. The stronger the band, the greater the deload. This will allow you the benefits of facilitating the desired motor pattern and full joint excursion without reproducing the painful irritation of the joint.

9. Try the modified 1-leg squat to assess leg strength discrepancies. Strength discrepancies amongst the legs is very common, and often the cause of injury and decreased performance. A very simple technique to identify a unilateral strength deficit is as follows: perform a one leg squat or modified Bulgarian squat (non-stance leg moving backward). At the bottom of the movement, when the stance leg is at least 90 degrees and toes of the trail leg are in contact with the ground, lift the toes of the trail leg off the ground before ascending exclusively on the stance leg. Any strength discrepancy will be obvious based on the perceived difficulty from one leg to the other or the presence of compensation patterns.

10. Address your lumbar stability and position sense before overloading. Far too common is the failure to adequately master position sense and stability prior to overloading a joint. Doing so will lead to injury through structural damage and decreased performance through muscle inhibition. You cannot build the second floor before solidifying the foundation of a building. You cannot throw a punch with a limp wrist. Accordingly, you should not lift heavy before you can demonstrate proper joint position and stability.

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All the Best,