Flexibility is often overlooked but mobility and flexibility are just as important as lifting! Without the proper mobility, lifts like the squat can be a major challenge to accomplish correctly and can lead to serious issues. That’s where Joe DeFranco's Limber 11 routine comes into play.
Let’s be honest, who really likes to stretch and warm-up? If you're like most people you’ll agree that stretching can be a pain, literally. But it doesn’t have to be! And if we reframe our mindset around the benefits of flexibility we can see greater improvements in our training.
The key to improving movement patterns, correcting imbalances, keeping the body ready and providing support during activity is flexibility. Moving the body through its full range of motion is the simplest definition of flexibility. Being flexible lets you elongate or stretch all your soft tissues. The aim is to gain efficiency over the body and its ability to use the right muscles to create force, reduce force and stabilize. Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11 helps you do just that.
What Is Limber 11
The Limber 11 is a mobility drill that will help improve your flexibility in your lower body. Created by Joe DeFranco, a leading Strength and Conditioning coach based out of New Jersey. His concepts are backed by a lifetime of knowledge. Having worked with many of the top ranking NFL football players, Joe’s coaching and guidance is second to none. Joe’s original mobility routine was the Agile 8. After having much success with the Agile 8 and realizing people were doing it, Joe decided to enhance this routine and thus created the Limber 11.
At the core of this routine is a technique called myofascial release. Essentially what it is a technique that focuses on finding knots or tender spots within the muscle and “breaking” them up. The body has mechanoreceptors which are little sensors that alert the body. These mechanoreceptors are made up of muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs. The muscle spindles keep the muscle in check and don’t let it stretch too fast. When the muscle is stretched the spindle sends the signal through the feeling of tightness. The techniques in the Limber 11 help you increase efficiency and flexibility working past this signal safely is ideal.
What You’ll Need For Limber 11
You only need a couple of things to get started with Joe’s Limber 11 routine. The techniques require the use of
1. Foam Roller
Foam rollers are cylinders made of foam which acts as a pressure point stimulant helping you find the tender spots.
Foam rollers come in several different densities as well as finishes. They vary from soft to hard in terms of actual density as well as smooth or bumped. It’s been said that the harder the density of the foam roller the better as it provides a much firmer and stable surface to work with. Foam rollers with knobs or bumps are great for stimulating the muscle tissue and really digging in deeper to the pressure points.
2. Lacrosse ball
Lacrosse balls are small balls that can also act as a pressure point stimulant just like a foam roller. I would like to point out that if you're new to myofascial release you may find it to be very uncomfortable. It will get better in time, just stick with it and keep going. The benefits are immense.
If you’re just starting out with Limber 11, it’s best to start with a firmer density smooth surfaced foam roller and go from there.
Here are a few recommended foam rollers and balls to get you started
1. Best Foam Roller For Beginners
A long-time favourite of ours and trusted by coaches, trainers, athletes as well as physical and massage therapists.
It's pretty firm and with trigger points to give you instant and long-term relief for aching and tired muscles.
This also includes free access to online instructional videos from the experts at Trigger Point, that help you with foam rolling best practices
2. Best Travel Foam Roller - Lightweight Foam RollerLightweight Foam Roller
3. Best Basic Lacrosse Massage Balls
4. Trigger Point Massage Ball
This is trigger point ball with a flat base.
The tacky base texture enables you to use the ball against floor or wall surfaces.
This unique design helps you to keep constant contact on trigger points whilst moving to get to the right spot.
We found this thing excellent for massage as it doesn't slip around on the wall like lacrosse balls do!
3. Best Complete Set - Includes Roller and Lacrosse Ball
A firm favourite This kit has everything you need!
Includes a Hollow Core Massage Roller with End Caps, Muscle Roller Stick, Stretching Strap, Double Lacrosse Peanut, and a Spikey Plantar Fasciitis Ball.
Also comes with access to a 4K eBook that helps you to learn how to use everything in the kit to target specific muscle groups. You can read and then watch the techniques being demonstrated on video
The routine only takes about 10 minutes and can be done any time. Ideally you would want to do it on a daily basis depending on how inflexible you are. You can reserve this routine for your warm-up or do it every day independent of training.
The idea behind the Limber 11 is to efficiently move your joints through a full range of motion. If the body is moving properly in all ranges of motion it is therefore efficient and has benefited through the practice of flexibility.
The following video was created by Joe himself and thoroughly explains the routine in detail.
Limber 11 Follow Along Instruction (with Gifs!)
The techniques in the Limber 11 routine may not be well known to all. While Joe does a great job at explaining them we’ve broken them out into this individual list as a reference.
1. Foam Roll IT Band - 10-15 passes
Slow and controlled movement with big long passes. Pause on tender areas and flex/extend knee. Range is bottom of hip all the way to the outside of knee.
The “IT Band” is the iliotibial band. It runs from the outer pelvis over the hip and down below the knee. The purpose of the IT band is to help stabilize the knee. Foam rolling the IT band puts pressure on the muscle. Pausing on painful areas or “knots” can break them up. This Limber 11 movement helps relieve the tightness in the IT band.
2. Foam Roll Adductors/Inner Thigh 10-15 passes
Place foam roller at a 45 degree angle. Start high in the groin with slow long passes to halfway down the adductor. Then do the same from halfway down the adductor to the inside of the knee. Similar to the IT band, flex/extend at knee when you find a tender spot.
The adductors are muscles that originate on the bones of the hip and attach to the femur. They are any of the muscles that move a part of the body toward the middle of the body. The adductor muscles are the adductor longus, adductor brevis, and adductor magnus. This Limber 11 technique helps relieve tightness in the groin area.
3. SMR Glutes/Lacrosse Ball Glutes 30sec - 2min
Put ball on ground, wedge between glute, cross leg over thigh, begin rolling. This should be decently uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable it is, the more you need it. Roll for about 30 seconds. If you find a tender spot, pause and breath through the tightness. You can straighten leg and roll to hit the hip area.
The gluteus maximus are a foundational muscle for a lot of other lower-body actions. It's the main extensor muscle of the hip and largest of the three gluteal muscles. The gluteus maximus extends and laterally rotates the hip joint. This Limber 11 technique helps relieve tightness in the lower back.
4. Bent-knee Iron Cross 5-10 each side
Lay down flat on your back. Bend your knees as if you were going to crunch with feet off of the ground (calves parallel to the ground at the start). Drop knees side to side. Keep knees together. Keep palms down. Do not let your hands come off the ground as you drop your knees. When you drop your knees, you’re going to move your head in the opposite direc- tion. Hold for a second or two, then switch sides. You can increase speed when warmed up, but always start slow and get a feel for the movement.
Higher up the kinetic chain is the lumbar and thoracic spine. The function of the thorac- ic spine is to hold the rib cage and protect the heart and lungs. While the function of the lumbar spine is to bear the weight of the body. This Limber 11 technique helps relieve tightness and pain in the lower back.
5. Rollover Into V-sits 10 reps
Roll back to try to touch the ground behind your head with your toes, then roll back to a V sit, leaning forward to reach in front of your feet. You can assist on the way back over by grabbing your calves. Try to increase the size of the V as you go.
The posterior chain is a group of muscles that include the hamstrings, gluteus, erector spinae muscle group, trapezius, and posterior deltoids. It helps in preventing injury, improving posture, and generating strength and explosion for athletes. This Limber 11 technique targets the low back, glutes, hamstrings and groin helping to improve movement patterns.
6. Rocking Frog Stretch 10 reps
Positioning is important. Get on hands and knees. Toes point out. Should feel ground pull- ing skin of knee. Get down on forearms, then push your butt straight back, hold for about 2 seconds, then release. This should be slow and deliberate.
The groin is the area between the abdomen and the thigh on either side of the pubic bone. There are 5 muscles in the groin. They are the hip, including the pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, and the gracilis muscle. This Limber 11 technique helps reduce the chance of groin injury while increasing mobility in that area.
7. Fire Hydrant Circles 10 forward, 10 backward
Most people do this wrong. Keep both elbows straight. A lot of people bend their elbows as soon as they start moving their hips. The motion should come from the hips. Stable at the core. Knee bent, heel stuck near your butt. Think like you’re drawing a circle around a circle.
The four main muscle groups of the hip are gluteal, adductor, iliopsoas, and lateral rotators. Their purpose is to support the body in both static and dynamic postures. This Limber 11 technique is designed to help improve strength in that area and increase range of motion.
8. Mountain climbers 10 each leg
Focus on range of motion before speed. You can do these inside or outside your arms. He does them outside the elbow to get a dynamic stretch on the groin. Start in a narrow hand- ed push up position with a flat back. Bring one knee up to the outside of the elbow. Then sink down a bit. Then exchange knees and continue sinking the knee before changing sides.
A strong core and cardiovascular system helps to improve all areas of athleticism. Mountain climbers target every muscle in the body including the deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings and hip abductors. This Limber 11 movement is designed to help increase athletic performance and get you warmed up.
9. Cossack squats 5-10 each side
This takes a tremendous amount of stability. Start with legs wide and toes pointed out at 45 degrees. Sit back and slide to one side. Push out on the knee your sliding to and keep the heel down. The straight leg toes should point to the ceiling. Switch sides, keeping the heel down and the knee out. Keep chest up best you can. If it is too hard to keep the heel down, you can use a bench or box to decrease the stability requirement. Hold on to the box/bench to support yourself while you do the squats.
The cossack squat is a progression of a bodyweight squat. It’s a movement that shifts the weight onto one leg and focuses on stretching the long adductors inside the thigh. This Limber 11 technique is designed to be a great drill for flexibility and mobility and dynamic warm-up.
10. Seated Piriformis Stretch 20-30sec each side
You will need a bench or chair. Then cross one leg over the other thigh. Use your hand to push down on the opposite knee and lean forward. You can grab the shin of the leg that’s on the ground. It’s ok to round the back a bit. Keep inner thigh pushed down to maintain the angle that hits the piriformis. You can also use your elbow to do some soft tissue work on your adductor. The massage isn’t that comfortable, but it loosens up the adductor. Fin- ish the stretch by taking the knee and pulling it into your chest. This is where you maintain a neutral spine.
The piriformis is a small muscle located deep behind the gluteus maximus. It runs from the lower spine to the upper surface of the femur. It helps the hip rotate, turning the leg and foot outward. This Limber 11 technique helps to reduce tightness in that area and help prevent injury.
11. Rear-foot-elevated Hip Flexor Stretch 5-10 reps, 3 second hold, each side
You will need a bench or chair. Cross one leg over the other. Use your hand to push down on the opposite knee and lean forward. You can grab the shin of the leg that’s on the ground. It’s ok to round the back. Keep inner thigh pushed down to maintain the angle that hits the piriformis. Use your elbow to do some soft tissue work on your adductor. Fin- ish the stretch by taking the knee and pulling it into your chest.
The hip flexors, glutes, and thighs are the main muscles of the lower body. The hip flexors often get overlooked but are an essential area to stretch and strengthen especially if you’re someone that is seated for long periods of time. This Limber 11 technique is designed to help to reverse the effects of being seated all the time while improving mobility into hip extension.
Keep with the Limber 11 and see how your lifts improve. And also be sure to visit Joe’s website and check out what he has going on. Improving your mobility and flexibility will really pay off in the long run.
Increasing your body's ability to efficiently move your joints through a full range of motion will drastically improve your ability to increase strength, build muscle and burn fat.
For a quick reference guide make sure you download, print out and hang up in your gym our exclusive Limber 11 PDF: