Have you tried a flexi bar?

Ok well not a branch still attached to a tree as Lizzie is expertly demonstrating above. But the man-made kind as I am demonstrating below (please ignore the grimace)-

 

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A flexi bar is basically a long bar with small weights on the end and a handle in the middle. When exercising with it, the aim is to keep it moving with minimal movement yourself; but it only works if your core is active – seriously active –  because you have to absorb the movement/vibration it creates in order to provide stability back through to the bar. If you flop, it stops.

Flexi bars have been around for a while but I only encountered them about 18 months ago, and as there is quite a knack to using them plus the fact that they are such hard work, I don’t recommend them to many clients. However, I think that for riders they can be excellent for encouraging core activity whilst dealing with a moving target – rather similar to riding – and particularly for improving shoulder girdle stability in relation to hand/rein contact.

I have discovered that using the flexi bar in 1 hand is a great way to compare stability between left and right arms. I am very right handed, and so when I use the bar in my left hand I have to recruit a lot more muscles other than my core – when compared to when it’s in my right hand – just to maintain the momentum.

If you look at the 2 pictures above, when the bar is in my left hand I am tense in my right arm, and my left shoulder has crept up. In the 2nd picture, my left arm has stayed relaxed and my shoulders level. This demonstrates how much I have to alter my body to stabilise my left arm when it is doing this degree of exercise, and so highlights an area I need to focus on strengthening.

Another way the flexi bar can be useful is during movement itself; an example would be during a squat. Trust me, keeping your core active whilst keeping the bar moving AND doing a squat/lunge etc is tough!

img_20190608_192152061 You can see from my face how hard this is! Plus you can see that even with both arms on the bar, my left arm is weaker because my elbow is further away from my body so I am probably overusing my deltoid.

If you haven’t used a flexi bar before, don’t be surprised if you fatigue very quickly. I can do 1-2 sets in each position before I can no longer sustain the momentum. The good thing is that you can’t really over do it and injure yourself, because once you fatigue, the motion stops and you can’t actually keep going and keep pushing yourself. The key is technique, and then with time building on the duration of each set that you do. I have found this to be a good cardio exercise too, and sometimes I will incorporate this one into a HIIT session.

For a dynamic introduction to the flexi bar, I will be doing a session on YouTube for everyone to laugh at….

Louise

Published by Louise Towl Physio

I am a Chartered Physiotherapist with Pilates training, and I am an ACPAT (the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy) and RAMP (Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners) registered Veterinary Physiotherapist. Away from work I have ridden all my life, competing in various disciplines and now focussing on dressage. With my retired horse, Baz, I competed at Advanced level, and I now have a younger horse, Lizzie, who is currently competing at Elementary.

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