Touching Your Toes: More “Neural” Than “Tightness”

I have not been posting for what seems to be quite some time now and I hate it.  I am studying to take the CSCS exam on Friday morning and although a certification does not define someone as an athletic development coach, it needs to be done.  If anyone has any helpful hints in the next 48 hours and would like to pass it along to me, (aka: chapters to study more on..etc) please do!  I cannot wait till it is over and it would ridiculously disappointing if I do not pass, haha.

One of the issues that I hear from most people is that they have “tight hamstrings.”  One of the ways in which you can assess this is by using both the ASLR (active straight-leg raise) that is used as one of the steps in the FMS in conjunction with having them perform a toe-touch pattern with the feet together.  One of the hockey players I train as well as many of the younger athletes, cannot touch their toes which can is a good indicator of a faulty motor pattern which may be causing his/her low back pain.  The toe-touch is a pattern that the body should be able to perform and those who cannot will describe their hamstrings as feeling tight as they descend to touch their toes.  The typical answer to cure it: stretch your hamstrings.  But how is it that performing some toe-touch patterning exercises for a few minutes can immediately restore that pattern?  Many times what  may seem tight or weak is often a movement dysfunction and restoring the pattern allows the brain to tell the body to that it is ok to get into deeper ranges of motion.

The toe-touch pattern exercises from Gray Cook

Toes on board (elevated surface) 8-10 reps

  • Toes on board/rolled up towel/foam roller/ or small ball between groins
  • Reach hands all the way up, palms facing forward
  • Slowly descend down as to touch your toes (legs straight), relax neck, when you hit your end range, crush the object between your legs just a tad bit more and bend your knees until you can touch your toes.  Repeat 8-10

The next drill would be the same exact movement but now the heels are elevated.

     Why is the toe-touch important?

-Demonstrates that the body can weight shift backwards (think squat or deadlift movement)

-When weight shifting backwards, muscles need to relax in order to allow the full movement, when you feel “tightness” it is the body firing a muscle to prevent it from falling backwards, not that it is “tight.”  With bad movement or motor control, the brain will tell the body to fire muscles and lock them up in order to serve as a protective mechanism.

-If the hips cannot weight shift back, then what takes up for it? The low back.

So yes, someone who cannot touch their toes means no deadlifting!  But there are always other options and while tight hamstrings may be a real thing for some, so far from what I have seen, it tends to be a faulty movement pattern that needs to be fixed.

 

Cheers,

Matt

 

 

 



Categories: Core Training, Injury Prevention, Strength Training

Tags: , ,

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