I was inspired by this video of Quinn Henoch’s, founder of Clinicalathlete.com, YouTube page. I think it displays a concept that is paramount in learning and developing motor control in unilateral exercise
This was a great way to teach the single leg RDL. Many people dread doing single leg work because they find it difficult get into position let alone balance on one leg. By hip hinging first bilaterally, you learn to shift your COG(Center of Gravity) to each foot and understand how it feels to have more of your weight on that side. By having your weight on each foot, you can take a breath to solidify the position there and learn to own it. A fantastic quote by Gray Cook sums this up “If you can’t breathe in that position then you don’t own it. You can’t survive in that position”. If you’re not able to breathe there then it becomes a high threshold environment because your body perceives it as a threat. By being able to breathe in this position they are able to own it and survive. It also helps for a person to have an understanding that their weight is supported by both of their feet and then can we explore in shifting their weight over each limb to get them more comfortable. Once they’re set in position and own it they can pick up the other leg and extend it. Now we can have fun loading it and plan accordingly with their mobility whether to pull from the floor or a box.
Another fantastic example of applying this approach is Pablo Orozco, Clinical athlete student, and founder http://suppleperformancetherapy.com, demonstrating the same concept of starting with a bilateral squat and progressing it into a pistol by shifting his weight to his right side and displaying the motor control on one leg.
This is an impressive display of the many planes of motion he can own and the fact that he can get there builds more resiliency. Katy Bowman talks about this concept of owning the different planes of motion in her book “Move Your DNA” calling it “rainbow loads”. Pablo definitely traced the rainbow like a ninja! Kudos! The fact that your body can get into those different ranges of motion without feeling like you’re holding your breath is not only a remarkable display of motor control but can be a preventative measure from injury.
We can even apply it to the upper body as Karen Smith, SFG chief bodyweight instructor, and Phil Scarito, Master SFG, demonstrate the one arm pushup.
Phil sets the position by setting his whole body and maintaining tension as he corkscrews both of his shoulders into the ground. He uses the power breath to add more tension to the system so he is stable as he moves one arm off the floor and executes the movement. This is also an excellent exercise to teach the one arm one leg pushup which would be the gold standard of this concept which is to teach you to root with one hand and your opposite foot. If you can do that then you’re a stud!
While we do most of our training bilaterally, we cement our success by getting on one foot and spending time in those positions. Being able to shift your weight to each foot or hand is paramount in life and in many functional activities.
How can we develop this strategy? We need to start teaching people to be mindful and aware of their own bodies. Also, we need to slow down the pace of the movement so they can actually feel and breathe in those positions. So for instance, if we are in half kneeling or tall kneeling, we learn to own that position by getting there and breathing there in that position. I’m not saying that breathing is the answer to all your life’s problems but it is a start as you get the brain to say “It’s ok to be here, there is no threat, so now let’s move”
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Have a great Day!