Double Leg

Hip Extension Mobilization Sequence 1

Movement #1: Half-Kneeling x 1 minute each side

*If the hip on your front leg is hiked up, relax it down. Your hips should be level.

*Find a neutral pelvis by aligning your pubic bone slightly forward of your hip bones.

*Breathe easily in and out through your nose for 1 minute.

*Repeat on both sides before moving onto movement #2.

Movement #2: Half-Kneeling with Butt Engagement x 30 seconds x 3 rounds

*While maintaining your neutral pelvis, engage the butt muscles on the back leg

*Hold for 30 seconds while breathing easily and engaging your butt like crazy!

*Relax and repeat for 3 total rounds on one side before moving onto the other side.

*Bonus points if you can feel how engaging your butt moves your the top of your femur back in your hip socket and your thighbone slightly back in space.

*Do sequence on both sides before moving on to Movement #3.

Movement #3: Opposite Contractions

*Engage the butt muscle on your back leg while attempting to drag your knee backward and imagining that you were going kick your heel to your butt (without actually do it).

*Hold this contraction strongly for 20 - 30 seconds.

*Then perform the opposite contraction by actively kicking your back foot into the floor and attempting to drag your back knee forward in space.

*Hold this contraction actively for 20 - 30 seconds.

*Move back into the first contraction and repeat the sequence for a total of 3 rounds.

*Make sure to end with the the hip extension engagement. This means the engagement where the butt muscles on your back leg are actively trying to pull your thigh bone back in space and move your pelvis slightly forward in space.


Straight Leg Deadlift

KEY POINTS

Keep the weight close to your body. Pull your shoulder blades down your back to help with this. Imagine squeezing a clutch purse between your upper arm and armpit.

Keep your ribcage and pelvis aligned. This will maintain the neutral curves of your spine.

Keep your knees stacked directly over your ankles.

Press your feet strongly into the ground.

Feel your hamstrings. Imagine you are going to kick your butt with your heels. This can help you find your hamstrings.


A Quick Look At Some Deadlifts

Stand directly over your kettlebell, dumbbell or sandbag. If you are using a barbell, keep the bar close to your body.

Your armpits should be over the handle of the kettlebell or barbell.

Hinge from your hips while keeping your spine neutral.

Keep your knees directly over your ankles.

Strongly grip the kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag or barbell. Feel the pinky finger edge of your hand wrap strongly around as part of your grip.

Pull your shoulder blades down your back and break the bar with your hands.

Bubble your butt.

Press your feet into the floor and stand up. Push the floor away from you as you stand.


Dumbbell Squat

KEY POINTS

  • Stand with your feet just wider than your pelvis with your feet slightly turned out.

  • Externally rotate your thigh bones. Feel your weight shift to the lateral part of your foot.

  • Sense into your feet, particularly your heels.

  • Hold the dumbbells in front of your shoulders with the bars parallel to the floor and your elbows directly under your wrists.Initiate the squat by shifting your hips back, NOT by bending your knees forward.

  • Feel for your heels as you continue to sit down and back into your hips.

  • Your knees will eventually come forward slightly.

  • Attempt to sit your hips just below the top of your knee cap.

  • Pause in the bottom for a moment, keep feeling for your heels, keep your thigh bones externally rotated and your knees wide.

  • Press your feet strongly in floor to return to stand. Push the floor away from you as you stand.

 

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Keep your dumbbells tight!

This means: 

  1. Dumbbells in front of shoulders

  2. Elbows under wrists

  3. Dumbbell bars parallel to the floor

  4. Shoulders relaxed back and down away from your ears

In the photo below, my wrists are sloppy. Do you see how the dumbbell bars are no longer parallel to the ground? This is not right, because it is not tight.

In the picture below the dumbbells are way too far forward of my body.

But don't be lazy and rest the dumbbells on your shoulders as in the picture below. You're here to work, so keep it tight!

Keep it right! Keep it tight! Now: Get squatting!

Kidney Bean Feet

KEY POINTS

  • Stand with your feet directly under your hip bones and your toes forward.

  • Look at the arches of your feet and the inside of your ankles. Are they dropping toward the midline? What is the shape of your foot?

  • If your arches are dropped, externally rotate your thighbones to help lift the arches of your feet. Your inner ankles should move in and away from the midline as well.

  • Spread your toes long.

  • Do your feet look like kidney beans?

 

 

Vertical Shin Bench Squat

VOLUME ON FOR VERBAL INSTRUCTION

This exercise teaches how to use your hips (as opposed to your knees) as the main engine for your squats.

Great for people who are new to strength training, recovering from knee surgery, with osteoarthritis or other knee injuries, with osteoporosis of the hip and and low back.

Once you master this movement, you can practice it every time you sit down and stand up from a chair, your bed or the toilet!

KEY POINTS

Sit at the edge of chair or bench with your feet wider than your pelvis and your knees stacked over your ankles.

Your shin bones should be perpendicular with the floor.

Without allowing your knees to shift forward, shift your butt back and lean your torso slightly forward.

Press your feet strongly into the floor and stand up.

DO NOT let your knees move forward! Keep your shin bones perpendicular with the floor.

To return to the sitting position, sit your hips back and slowly lower yourself to the chair.

DO NOT let your toes lift off the floor as you sit back. Keep your feet strongly anchored into the ground.

As you get stronger, practice simply tapping your tush on the chair as opposed to sitting all the way down.

Take another look at the Vertical Shin Bench Squat:


Lower Body Alignment Points


The way we habitually hold our bodies can have implications on our movement efficiency, power production and pain. Here are the basic points for finding a neutral position in your lower body.

 

Please maintain a light-hearted mindset when practicing these alignment exercises. Do not be goal oriented or easily discouraged. Instead approach them with a spirit of curiosity, as a way to gather information about your habits and to begin to experience additional options for the way you carry your body.

KEY POINTS

  • Stand with your feet directly under your hip bones.

  • Point your toes forward.

  • Shift your weight off the balls of your feet. Untuck your pelvis. Make your leg perpendicular (more or less) to the floor.

  • Externally rotate your thigh bones. Feel the weight shift to the lateral edge of your foot. Feel your arches lift. Your "keep pits" should face straight back.

  • Bring your hip bones and your pubic bone into the same vertical plane.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

The is great debate amongst Body Geeks (i.e., researchers, academics, coaches, movement instructors, somatic practitioners) about the relevance of bony alignment guidelines and exercises such as this.

My intention here is not to say that there is one perfect, static, pin-point alignment that we all must find and maintain.

My intention is to help you begin to become aware of your habitual way of holding yourself and explore how this habitual posture might be holding you back from your health and fitness goals by disrupting force production throughout your kinetic chain and making movement less efficient, placing unnecessary strain on your joints and connective tissues, changing the fluid pressure of your internal organs, potentially causing you pain and more.

The alignment of your bones is not everything. Many studies show that "good" posture and exercise technique (form) are not always indicators of pain-free movement. You can perform a "perfect" squat and still have hip pain.

I do not believe in having people stand in front of grids or measure their joint angles with special tools in order to assess their alignment. This approach takes people away from feeling their own bodies and encourages them to rely solely on external markers to measure "progress." I believe that our job as movement professionals and body workers is to help our clients to find greater intimacy with their bodies, not less.

Our bodies are naturally asymmetrical. Just consider your internal organs: the way your heart sits to the left of your midline and your liver sits to the right. Consider the twists and turns of your intestines and the amorphous shape of your stomach. Doesn't it seem only natural that the bony structures that surround and protect these organs would be asymmetrical to some degree as well?

But to say that alignment doesn't matter at all is to ignore basic laws of physics. The way our bones organize themselves in relationship to one another, in relationship to our soft tissues and viscera and in relationship to gravity absolutely DOES impact the force loads to which your body will (or will not) adapt.

Poor alignment is part of the reason why bunions get formed and why shoulder injuries are common in yoga classes where Chaturanga (yoga's variation of a push up) is centerstage. Sometimes it's a very big part of the reason why. Over the years I can name 6 clients who came to me with bunion pain. All 6 of these people had been told they needed surgery for their bunions and all 6 of them were cured of their bunion pain within a couple weeks simply by learning to align their lower body and mobilize their toes.

I have similar stories around shoulder, hip, knee and low back pain.

The more we know about ourselves, our bodies, our habits and our movement patterns, the more empowered we are to take ownership of our health.

While it is important that we not be rigid in your assessment and application of alignment points or to invest all your energy and efforts into standing and moving "perfectly," it is also important to become aware of the way you habitually hold your body and move. Attempting to improve your alignment in your daily life and in your exercise technique is a practice worth pursuing.