The Art of the Limber Body

April 11, 2018 by VAHVA Fitness

A great selection of movements to loosen up the body, relieve tightness and mobilize the joints. Excellent for developing a limber body!

Pure strength training (hard styles of training) alone can make you stiffer if it's not balanced with a softer approach like yoga, mobility or movement training.

Stiffness and rigidness are amazing qualities to possess but so are the qualities of being limber, loose and lissome.

Our whole approach strives to balance these two qualities to create the most well-rounded and balanced human being.

What being limber really means is that there is no tightness in your body and you are able to use the joints and muscles without restrictions, like a naturally functioning animal would. This should be the natural state of the body.

A lot of people are strong but they develop strength and power in very one-dimensional planes: basically they are mostly able to produce force in simple movement patterns (such as up-and-down). 

Most people lack the mobility and strength to perform proper lateral movement, circular movements or in general produce force when their body isn't in a perfect alignment.

For example, it's a whole different story to generate pushing force when you are primarily supported by one leg (a common situation in sports and martial arts) compared to when your back is supported by a bench as in bench press.

A powerlifter may be stronger than an athlete on paper with his impressive bench press, but that strength doesn't mean much if you haven't developed proper stabilization to generate force during free movement. 

The best athletes and movement artists of the world develop their bodies in a way that they become masters of all angles and positions. You achieve this by having the comprehensive approach to training and fitness in general. 

To really reach the pinnacle of fitness, one-dimensional strength alone is not enough. Your body needs to have the ability to provide support (stabilization) and be comfortable in different positions and alignments (being limber). 

In fitness you usually only get one side but rarely the both. You get guys who can lift heavy but aren't mobile or limber. Then there are people who are amazingly flexible and skilled but don't have much strength or performance. 

Ideally, we want you to get both because that is what natural being is all about: it's about balance.

Spirituality In Training

Yoga style of training and movement training usually attract certain types of people while turning off others. 

Yoga is often seen as the most spiritual way of training, but in reality all types of training are spiritual. It's more about engagement than what you do, it's always HOW and not WHAT.

To get the benefits of yoga, you don't have to dress like a new age person and say "namaste" (although there is nothing wrong if you do), there are still a lot of benefits to be acquired.

Spirituality in training simply means self-discovery and self-development. In yoga it's connecting to your inner self and your body. 

When we talk about mindfulness, we don't mean anything woo-woo. We mean being present in your training, contracting the right muscles and as a result reaping the best results. It's a very practical concept anyone can utilize. 

The more you train, the more you understand how much your state of mind affects your workouts and the way you perform any exercise.

In the beginning lack of mindfulness won't hurt you, but the more advanced you become, the more self-aware you need to become regarding what you do and how you do it.

Below we have demonstrated some amazing exercises that range from yoga to movement training which you can use in your training.

They are good as a warm-up but preferably should be done as a full workout because they may challenge your body more than pull ups or deadlifts will if you aren't used to them. 

Breathing and Abs Vacuum

breathing abs vacuum rickson gracie choke

Without oxygen you will barely survive for minutes and breathing is the way to get more oxygen in. Although everyone who is alive knows how to breathe, not everyone is doing it very well. 

The tension in your chest and respiration muscles can affect how well you breathe. It has also been shown that majority of the muscles in your upper body contribute to breathing.

The more you can relieve tightness and tension in your upper body, the better you should be able to relax and as a result breath properly. 

Abs vacuum was popularized by old school bodybuilders and martial artists such as Rickson Gracie, but it has probably been around since the ancient times. 

Abs vacuum trains the inner transverse abdominis. First you need to empty your lungs by exhaling and then hold your breath while pulling your stomach in. Once you learn this, you can learn to control the abdominal muscles while holding the vacuum.

How to start? It's really about practice. Practice this and you will deeper dimensions in your core. 

Spinal Waves

spinal wave movement

In the spinal wave you practice controlling your spine. You start by rounding the spine as much as you can and then arching it. You move the spine by flexing the abdominals and back muscles.

Feel your spine move segment by segment - eventually you will find flow in the movement and turn your entire body into a wave.

You allow the hips and shoulders move naturally along with the movement of the spine. With the spinal wave movement you are basically mobilizing the entire upper body.

Lizard Crawl to Twisting Stretch 

lizard crawl to thoracic stretch

In the lizard crawl to twisting stretch you take one step in the lizard crawl, then rotate the trunk, press yourself up and reach with the arm over the shoulder. 

The benefits of the lizard crawl to twisting stretch:

  • Builds dynamic multi-dimensional strength in the chest, triceps and shoulders 
  • Mobilizes the hips, spine (thoracic) and shoulder girdle (scapula)

Lizard crawl alone is a brutal movement that will target the entire body and mobilize the shoulder girdle, spine and hips while developing immense pressing strength in the arms, chest and shoulders. 

This is the reason why mastering the crawl with 10 progressions and 10 mobility drills is the goal of Movement 20XX.

The twisting movement at the end will further mobilize the hips but the best benefit will happen to the core and thoracic spine. 

Judo Push Up

judo push up movement

Judo push up is one of the many basics of Movement 20XX online course and for a good reason: it's a fantastic strength and mobility exercise for the upper body. 

The benefits of the judo push up: 

  • Develops mobility in the shoulders and spine
  • Trains heavily the chest, triceps and shoulders.

You start from the angular position where your hips are high and then you dive in and come up by arching the spine.

The more you can focus on purely controlled movement, the better results you can expect. Judo push up can be difficult to do correctly in the beginning, but it's worth it.

Spinal Raise

spinal raise

Spinal raise is a bit similar to the wall deadlift except here you are not supported by the wall and the movement is softer and less rigid. You are also stretching the hamstrings and glutes here. 

You start the spinal raise by lowering yourself down to the pike stretch with straight legs and then stretching the posterior chain as much as possible. Then you stabilize the hips and raise yourself up by extending the spine. 

The hardest part is keeping the hips stable and not extending the hips - you should only extend the spine which means you will only raise yourself to horizontal or a bit above.

A similar movement called body curl is also part of the free mobility routine. You can download the mobility routine by clicking here (highly recommended!). 


V-pose abs

V-pose comes from yoga and pilates and it's a stability strength movement for your core and hip flexors. 

You take a V-shape by raising the legs and pointing the arms forward. Try to stabilize the body as well as possible by feeling the core and hip flexors contract.

The benefits of the V-pose include:

  • Develops strength in the entire core but mainly abdominals when done correctly
  • Trains the hip flexors and quadriceps

What makes yoga an interesting art form is that it combines mobility and stability training in a way many other arts do not.

Arched Leg Raise

arched leg raise hip flexors

Arched leg raise is a specialized hip flexor raise movement where the abdominal activity has been minimized by arching the lower back.

Arching the lower back decreases the activity of the abs and increases the activity of the hip flexors which makes it amazing for developing the hip flexors. You should also feel the lower back muscles work (stabilization).

How big of an arch you take depends on your flexibility. As long as you can feel the hip flexors contract, you are probably doing the exercise right.

Side Bend

side bend exercise

Side bend is something more people should be doing because most people severely lack strength and flexibility in their obliques.

Side bend is a simple movement, you extend your arms and then bend to the side while trying to stabilize the hips. You are on your toes.

You should feel the side bend very strongly in the obliques and potentially in lats and abdominals.

Single Leg Pose

single leg pose yoga

Mastering the single leg pose should be a goal for all athletes and movement artists. 

Just because it looks easy initially, doesn't mean it's not a high-level movement. We will cover more about the importance of single leg work in the future. 

Basically single leg work (balancing and stability) will lead to amazing results in general athleticism and your ability to move as long as you are moving on your feet. 

When you do single leg work right, it can be as or more complex than balancing on one arm. Yep, you heard it right!

I hope you liked the exercises! Movement workout like this can be utilized once a week or every now and then. 

Train hard, stay safe.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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