This is going to be complimentary info to a friend’s post on the importance of being able to touch your toes (read here). In mobility class we frequently go over ways to increase a persons’ ability to touch their toes, which in turn improves your overall athletic ability in movements such as the deadlift and squat. The 2 main components of being able to touch your toes includes hamstrings and the spine. It can either be a flexibility issue, motor control issue or both. A motor control issue means that your brain has been programmed to do the movement wrong and all you have to do is practice the correct movement to retrain your brain. The main part that people get wrong with this movement is skipping the hip hinge and going straight into rounding the back. See this video here for a better explanation of the hip hinge, but it’s exaclty what the coaches teach all of your when you’re squatting, deadlifting, swinging a kettlebell, etc. If you were to skip the hip hinge during these exercises (aka bending at your hip instead of your spine/pelvis) and just round your back to get into position you are placing strain on your spine that it was not built to withstand over time. A rounded back is a non-efficient way to move with weight and is bound to put you at risk for injury. Why would you want to set up to lift a heavy weight, using muscles that are not built to move heavy weight? They may get strong and allow you to lift OK amounts of weight. But you’re still limiting your potential and damaging your spine. And your coach will yell at you…..
To practice the hip hinge movement and improve your overall flexibility to touch your toes, TRY THIS.
If it’s purely a flexibility issue instead of motor control, there are 2 areas that you will need to work on:
- Spine mobility
You may have awesome hamstring flexibility but terrible spine mobility. Or vice versa. Or maybe both are bad! How can you tell? Try to touch your toes using the hip hinge explained above, without allowing your spine to move. Take note of how far you can go, come back up and try touching your toes your normal way. If you go further with the first one you have pretty good hamstrings and possibly a stiff spine. If you go further with the second one you may have good spine mobility and restricted hamstrings. My favorite way to tackle the hamstrings is in this video below:
Spine mobility is not usually a common thing for people to work on, so below are a few ideas…….all good things even if you can touch your toes.
- T-spine rotation with reach
- Use the foam roll and/or lacrosse balls to work on your thoracic spine (some ideas here and here).