General Overview of Resisted and Loaded Mobility
The two pillars, or modalities that the ProBar is built-upon revolve around the inner spring *resistance of the bar, as well as the ability to custom *load the bar with 500g slugs into the handle tube, which, based on your hand position, creates various lever options to make the weight feel lighter or heavier.
There are even options where you can combine both modalities in single exercises, something few, or we actually dare say NO other tools on the market provide at the level of efficacy of the ProBar. The ProBar’s shoulder and thoracic spine primary focus adheres to the philosophy that if we can improve upon these two areas of our movement function, most other areas will improve, if not self-correct altogether.
Before explaining what loaded and resisted flexibility training mean, know that incorporating this into your training program can both build your muscles and develop mobility, all at the same time. Who wouldn’t want that? And more importantly, everybody needs that!
BENEFITS OF LOADED STRETCHING
In his article How Stretching Can Build Muscle & Develop Strength, Dr John Rusin describes loaded stretching as “one of the single most effective “mobility” tools that (he has) used with (his) athletes and clients to finally make notable progress towards improving mobility by unlocking the neural tension that is likely the cause of dysfunction through the system.”
Dr Rusin also states that loaded stretching “has the ability to pack on muscle mass in a way that is both safe to the joints and effective for increasing relative intensities of sets without ever adding another sloppy rep into the mix.”
Indian Clubs and Gada Mace training provide excellent examples of loaded stretching using many muscles at once. When using heavier loads, you don’t want to overdo some of the moves unless you have built up proper conditioning to it. Also, as reps increase, your form can become sloppy and that’s when the injury risk factor plays.
The ProBar’s light weight still delivers enough tension on the muscles to provide a stimulus for growth with the ability to add more reps, and its modular configuration allows the user to go from a short weighted bar acting like an Indian Clubs to a longer weighted bar falling more into the family of a Mace.
RESISTED STRETCHING AND HOW IT WORKS
The idea of reciprocal inhibition and its infusion into the ProBar’s patented mechanism is best described in the following terms: it is a “neuromuscular reflex that inhibits opposing muscles during movement”, according to the Brookbush Institute.
Other words you may hear relating to the reciprocal inhibition concept are PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) and the myotatic stretch reflex. What is the stretch reflex? It is, essentially, a protective measure to prevent muscle tearing, nicknamed the “pullback reflex” also. It plays an important role in proper posture and as a muscle is being stretched, it also sends a signal to contract it to counter the stretch. It’s a balancing act of adjusting and maintaining.
Reciprocal inhibition happens when we move, automatically, but it doesn’t prevent imbalances unless you purposely decide to use it for corrective reasons. As a matter of fact, postural or movement dysfunctions can cause the inhibition of functional antagonist muscles (tight psoas and weak glutes) without decreasing neural drive to the buttocks (so that function is maintained, although sub-optimally). That’s when you intentionally would do corrective movements (stretches or exercises) to correct this by strengthening the weak muscles and loosing the hypertonic ones.
We cover loaded stretching and resisted stretching specifically in the following two articles, along with some ProBar exercises geared respectively at each modality:
To honor the claim of being able to do BOTH at once, here are a couple of exercises that not only work both concepts at the same time, but they also target posture-dependent muscles and joints that chronically shorten over time, causing hypertonicity in them and consequently causing opposing and surrounding muscles to weaken from underuse, even “turn off” if ignored.
Its name is inspired both from a triangle pose in Yoga and the kettlebell Windmill exercise. The ProBar is used in its long staff configuration, which is 4 feet “locked” (the bar distracts by an extra 4 inches per “piston” in the sliding mechanism that activates the spring resistance). It is also asymmetrically loaded with a 500g (1.1lb) slug on one end of the ProBar.
The 500g added load is meant to be on the “low side”, the side you bent towards. E.g. if you are side-bending left, the slug should be on the left side of the ProBar. That extra load gently pulls you deeper into the stretch.
Prior to going into the stretch, distract the ProBar (twist and pull mechanism) and exhale as you side bend. The resistance created by the inner springs takes care of that reciprocal inhibition by engaging the upper posterior chain muscles and inhibiting the commonly tight front muscles (pectorals and anterior deltoids). As demonstrated in the video, you can work your way to having both legs straight for a greater stretch in the hamstrings, also a habitually tight set of muscles.
T-TWIST (THORACIC SPINE)
The T-Twist is primarily done with the distraction/twist & pull feature (resistance), but as you adjust your angle up or down from horizontal, you can create a gentle pull downward which makes it a loaded stretch and results in an increase in both flexibility and mobility, or you can add more resistance by adjusting the leverage and raising the extended end slightly upward. That action makes the movement more difficult as you are working against gravity. This is when that myotatic stretch reflex kicks in!
This single move opens up the chest and the tall-kneeling stance requires for the glutes to remain active, which helps inhibit the hips and psoas muscles (work the weak, loosen the tight). The tall kneeling stance also minimizes twisting of the lumbar spine and promotes twisting of the thoracic spine, an area of mobility often not functional optimally and inhibiting anything from posture to performance in most activities.