So, raise your right hand if you'd like to sucker punch Punxsutawney Phil right about now.
Of course, I'm kidding....I'd only expect a yes from someone like Michael Vick.
But, if you live in the northeast, you're probably getting battered with some rain/snow combination today, as well as a few days from now. It's winter, and it sucks....but on the bright side, it gives me more time to write!
Anywho, I realized a few days ago that there's one exercise/position I do with many of my clients, but have yet to share. And, what if I told you that this exercise helps build "core" stability, hip stability, helped you breathe better (yes, you breathe terribly), and can help alleviate back pain?
The plot thickens..
Well, it's simply called "half kneeling." Why? Because one knee is down, and one knee is up. Brilliant, I know.
But, why is this position, and any exercise we do from here, so beneficial? Get ready for a bit of nerd speak.
The "hip flexors" are actually made up of more than just one muscle, in fact, they're made up of five: the psoas, iliacus, tensor fascia latae, sartorius, and rectus femoris (and actually more than that, but we'll simplify it a bit). This position is great for a few reasons: first, it helps some of these flexors to actually do their job and stabilize the "bowl" of the pelvis. Next, by getting in a proper half kneeling position, the deep stabilizers of the hip will finally be able to do their job, allowing the other, bigger muscles to calm down and stop doing the job of others.
The other benefit of half kneeling is that, when done correctly, it optimizes the diaphragm and our breathing patterns. Most people I meet have poor breathing habits, which is brought on (and contributes to) flared ribs and a titled pelvis (think: ghetto booty). When done correctly, as you'll see below, this position can help bring us back to neutral.
So what is the proper half kneeling position?
First, here's what you want to avoid:
While I am showing good ankle mobility (cue: self high-five), I'm relying totally on my passive tissues (i.e. ligaments and tendons) to create stability. Instead of actually doing work, I'm stretching my hip capsule and flaring my ribs. The former can lead to a whole host of problems, while the latter creates inefficient breathing patterns as I mentioned above.
Now, here's the correct position:
Note how my knee is directly below my hip, and my ribs are down. Not to mention I'm showing off my tremendous calf muscles. That's right ladies, those aren't implants ;)
But, since there are still plenty of ways to cheat this position, I decided to try and photograph myself from another angle so you can see some of the differences:
Here, my posture is terrible. While i'm keeping my knee directly under my hip, I'm shifting my weight to my left side to avoid using my hip. Once again, I'm creating stability by using tendons instead of muscles, and well, it's as ugly as it looks.
Boom: the correct posture. While it appears that my right hip is higher than my left, that has to do more with my shirt than with my actual hip position.
So, once we're here, what do we do? Well you could just hold this position for some time and be a registered bad ass. However, one exercise I love is the half kneeling halo. Observe:
This exercise is done best with a kettlebell, but there plenty of other exercises you can do too. As I mentioned, just getting into the proper position is half the battle. And, you can see in the video that my stance is much narrower, as my front foot and back knee are more in a line than in some of the photos. As this position gets easier, this is one way to really ratchet up the difficulty.
Try it out and let me know!