The DeFranco Agile 8 to Improve Mobility – Fitness Volt

Strength training is arguably one of the best things you can do for your body. Lifting weights builds muscle and strength, increases bone mass, reduces age-related muscle loss, increases insulin sensitivity for easier weight control, and is even good for your heart. It’s BIG medicine!

However, strength training can also lead to tighter muscles and reduced joint mobility, especially if you mainly use exercises that involve a short range of motion.

Combined with too much sitting and not enough stretching, strength training can contribute to postural problems, joint stiffness, and muscle tightness. These issues can lead to pain and injuries, as well as a loss of performance.

If you want to squat deep, lunge without discomfort, and do dumbbell flyes without wrecking your shoulders, you need to work on your mobility and flexibility as well as your strength.

When it comes to stretching, many lifters are guilty of doing just a couple of minutes at the end of their workouts. And some don’t stretch at all. It’s no wonder that a lot of lifters are tight and immobile.

While you don’t need the flexibility of an elite gymnast, it’s worth spending a few minutes a day on your mobility.

The DeFranco Agile 8 is a short but effective stretching routine designed for lifters. It can be done as a warm-up to ready your body for strength training or anytime you want to stretch your muscles and mobilize your joints.

What Is the DeFranco Agile 8?

The DeFranco Agile 8 is a warm-up routine designed by Joe DeFranco, an elite strength and conditioning coach. DeFranco works with a large number of professional athletes and sports teams, NFL players, MLB and NBA players, WWE wrestlers, UFC fighters, and Olympic athletes.

He’s also the author of Westside for Skinny Bastards – a popular strength and bodybuilding routine.

The DeFranco Agile 8 comprises eight mobility exercises that are done back to back. It’s designed not just to stretch and mobilize but gently raise your core temperature too. Because it’s dynamic rather than static, it’s the ideal warm-up before strength training.

In contrast, static stretches tend to relax and shut your muscles down and lower your core temperature and heart rate. As such, static stretching is not so useful for warm-ups.

As well as being a great way to warm up before working out, the DeFranco Agile 8 can be done almost any time of day to improve mobility, such as after a long period of sitting or first thing in the morning to wake your muscles up.

Ideally, you should do a few minutes of light cardio before starting the Agile 8, but that’s not essential.

The eight exercises performed during the DeFranco Agile 8 are:

  1. Foam rolling the IT band (outer thigh) – 30 seconds per leg
  2. Glute/piriformis myofascial release with a tennis ball – 30 seconds per side
  3. Foam rolling the adductors (inner thigh) – 30 seconds per leg
  4. Rollovers into V-sits – 10 reps
  5. Forward and backward fire hydrant circles – 10 reps per leg
  6. Groiners – 10 reps per leg
  7. Frog jumps – 10 reps
  8. Kneeling hip flexor stretch – 3 x 10 seconds per leg

DeFranco Agile 8 Exercise Descriptions

Get the most from this series of movements by doing each one correctly. Remember, this is a warm-up/mobility sequence, so take your time, don’t force any of the exercises, and keep your movements smooth and relaxed.  

1. Foam rolling the IT band

The IT band is one of your hip abductors. It runs the length of your outer thigh, from your hip to the side of the knee. The fibers of the ITB are prone to adhesions (fibers gummed together that cause localized pain or hot spots). Foam rolling eases these adhesions, restoring mobility.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your top leg bent and your foot in front of your lowermost knee. Place a foam roller beneath your bottom thigh, just below your hip.
  2. Roll up and down your outer thigh 10-15 times, paying extra attention to any “hot spots” you encounter.
  3. Change sides and repeat.
  4. If you are new to foam rolling, don’t be surprised if you find it very uncomfortable. This will pass as you get used to using your roller, and any adhesions are released.

2. Glute/piriformis myofascial release with a foam roller or tennis ball

Foam rolling your glutes and piriformis can help restore lost hip mobility by eliminating adhesions. This is an important exercise if you want to squat deeper. This exercise also fires of your glutes, which increases muscle engagement so you can lift heavier weights.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your torso upright, legs bent, and weight resting on your arms. Place your foam roller under your glutes. Cross one leg over the other.
  2. Leaning toward the crossed leg, roll across the glute on that side, seeking out any hot spots. Work up to the top/outside of the glute and all the way down to the bottom of your pelvis – the ischium.
  3. Do 10-15 rolls and then swap sides.
  4. You can also use a tennis ball to target more specific parts of the glutes/piriformis muscle.

3. Foam rolling the adductor

The adductors are your inner thigh muscles. Tight adductors can lead to groin strains when sprinting or lunging and could stop you squatting as deeply if you use a wide stance.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on all fours. Lower your hips down toward the floor, knees spread apart. Place the foam under your lower thigh, just above your knee.
  2. Roll up and down the inside of your thigh, paying extra attention to any hot spots.
  3. Do 10-15 rolls and then swap sides.

4. Rollovers into V-sit

This exercise will help mobilize your upper back, lower back, and hips. Because it’s pretty dynamic, you should also find that it helps elevate your heart and breathing rate and may even start you sweating.

Take care not to do this exercise too quickly or vigorously. Stretching too fast or far could lead to pulled muscles. That said, you should find you can move a bit further rep by rep as you warm up.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs bent. Hold your knees if you wish.
  2. Roll backward and touch your toes on the floor behind your head.
  3. Roll forward and extend and spread your legs out in front of you.
  4. Reach down toward your toes.
  5. Roll back and repeat ten times.

5. Forward and backward fire hydrant circles

This exercise will warm up and mobilize your hip joints. It should also help fire up your hip and core stabilizer muscles and increase muscle engagement for more powerful contractions.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your hips over your knees. Brace your core.
  2. Keeping your leg bent, draw big forward circles with your left knee. Bring the knee forward, out, back, and down. Do ten reps.
  3. Then, do ten more reps but, this time, with your knee traveling in the opposite direction, i.e., backward. Again, do ten reps.
  4. Swap sides and repeat the forward and backward circles on the other leg.

6. Groiners

Groiners stretch the muscles of the hips and lower back and mobilize the hip joint. It’s a more dynamic exercise, so it will also raise your core temperature and heart and breathing rate.

How to do it:

  1. Get into the push-up position with your arms and legs straight, core braced.
  2. Bend one leg and bring your foot up to the outside of your hand. Do not twist your shoulders or lower back. Your foot should be flat, and your shin vertical.
  3. With a bit of jump, drive that leg back into the starting position and simultaneously pull the other foot up and in.
  4. Continue switching feet until you’ve done ten reps per leg.

7. Frog jump

This is another hip and lower back mobilizer but, this time, you’ll be working both legs at the same time. This is an excellent preparatory exercise for squats and deadlifts. This exercise is also known as a two-legged groiner.

How to do it:

  1. Get into the push-up position with your arms and legs straight, core braced.
  2. Jump your feet up so that they land outside of your hands. Push your knees apart and keep your hips up. Do not sink into a squat.
  3. Jump your legs back and into the push-up position, and then repeat.
  4. Do ten reps.

8. Kneeling hip flexor stretch

The final DeFranco Agile 8 exercise is a modified static hip flexor stretch. Prolonged sitting can cause the hip flexors to shorten and tighten, reducing hip mobility. Tight hip flexors can inhibit your glutes and also affect your posture.

How to do it:

  1. Step forward into a lunge and lower your rearmost knee down to the floor. If your left leg is forward, raise your right arm above your head, or vice versa.
  2. Push your hips forward to stretch your hip flexors, reaching up with your arm to intensify the stretch.
  3. Hold for ten seconds, relax, and repeat twice more.
  4. Switch sides and repeat.

The DeFranco Agile 8 – Wrapping Up

The entire DeFranco Agile 8 sequence should take less than ten minutes, so doing it before training should not add much to the length of your workout. However, once you are done, you should feel much more mobile and ready to go, leading to better, more productive workouts.

If the DeFranco Agile 8 has a downside, it is that it mainly affects the lower body, and especially the hips. As such, it’s not so useful on upper body training days. However, you can take inspiration from the Agile 8 and use it to create an upper-body warm-up routine, e.g.,

  1. Foam rolling your lats x 30 seconds per side
  2. Thoracic spine foam rolling x 30 seconds
  3. Use a tennis ball to roll your pecs x 30 seconds per side
  4. Forward and backward shoulder circles x 10 each direction
  5. Band pull-aparts x 20 reps

Warming up is (or should be) an important part of working out. A good warm-up prepares your body for what you are about to do, so you can perform at your best. If you are serious about pushing your body to the limit in training, it’s time to get serious about warming up, especially if you are mostly sedentary or have minor aches and pains.

However, DeFranco’s Agile 8 is not just a great way to warm up. It will improve and maintain your mobility. Do it daily to stay loose and supple.

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