Mobility Exercise of the Week: Left-Stance Toe Touch
Written on June 19, 2013 at 6:23 am, by Eric Cressey
They say that nothing in the fitness industry is really "new" nowadays. Rather, new concepts usually originate with things that are already out there simply being "spun" in different ways. Maybe it's a different cue, or a new way to program an old exercise. Today's post is a great example.
Gray Cook has put out some outstanding stuff with respect to improving the toe touch pattern (and outlining why a toe touch is an essential movement skill in the first place). And, Ron Hruska of the Postural Restoration Institute(PRI) has brought to light how asymmetry is normal and somewhat predictable (based on our anatomy), but must be managed within acceptable limits. A central focus of both these approaches is that we have to get closer to neutral before we try to perform, especially if that performance includes strength training that will further solidify neural patterns.
Greg Robins gave a great introduction to some of the PRI postural distortions and corrections in a recent post here at EricCressey.com. As a Cliff's Notes version, we often get "stuck" in our right hip (adduction/internal rotation) like this:
When you look at these individuals from the front, you'll see an adducted right hip, low right shoulder, and anterior left rib flare:
However, this isn't just a frontal and transverse plane problem; rather, it also generally is accompanied by a sagittal plane concern: poor control of extension, meaning our weight is carried excessive forward via a number of different compensations: excessive plantarflexion (ankle), anterior pelvic tilt (hips), lordosis (lower back), scapular anterior tilt (shoulder blade), humeral extension past neutral (upper arms), or cervical hyperextension (neck/forward head posture). At the end of the day, virtually all of these folks – regardless of where they get their excessive extension – have a compromised toe touch pattern. They simply aren't able to posteriorly shift their weight sufficiently to make it happen. And, given their asymmetries from above, you'll often see a big side-to-side difference in the form of a posterior right rib humb when they demonstrate a toe touch for you. I have literally hundreds of photos exactly like this on my computer from working with clients, and I can honestly say that I've only seen three that have a posterior left rib hump! Effectively, they're in left thoracic rotation and right hip adduction.
As you can see, then, many folks may be better off performing their toe touch progressions with a bit of frontal and transverse bias, and that's where I started experimenting with the left-stance toe touch (with toe lift and med ball). Right handed individuals with the aberrant posture Greg demonstrates above tend to be "slam dunks" for improving a toe touch with this variation; the results are markedly better than if they do the drill with the feet side-by-side.
By learning to "get into" that left hip, we're actually activating the left hip adductors to help pull us back to neutral. And, when we're in neutral. We can pick up heavy stuff, throw 95mph, and sit in the car for more than 20 minutes without right-sided low back pain. All the villagers rejoice.
This is one exercise demonstration I include in my "Understanding and Managing the Hip Adductors for Health and Performance" presentation in our new resource, Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body. This collaborative effort with Mike Reinold has been a big hit already, and is on sale at a big introductory discount for this week only. You can check it out here.
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