Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mobility and Stability

If you are doing all your training on two legs, it's time to get onto one leg. Single leg balancing exercises are crucial to developing joint alignment, balance, strength and stability.

In order to be confident on one foot through a healthy range of motion, you must possess both stability and mobility in the leg. If any one joint becomes locked up or immobile, it will transfer force into the joint directly above or below it, putting you at risk for injury.

In the case of immobile hips or ankles, the knee is at risk because it's the next joint in line, and, unfortunately, knees are highly susceptible to injury or torque. Hip and ankle joints are crucial to the stability of your leg, as they keep your knee in the correct position over the foot. To protect your knee joints, it's important to have stable and mobile hips and ankles.

Generally speaking, I train the body to be mobile in the ankle, stable in the knee, mobile in the hip, stable in the lumbar (low back) spine, and mobile in the thoracic (mid back) spine.

If any of these "mobile" joints (ankle, hip, thoracic spine) lacks the ability to move in any plane of motion, the force of movement instead gets transferred onto the closest "stable" joint (knee, lumbar), putting that joint at risk for injury and eventually causing pain and dysfunction.

Over the next few weeks I'll post a few of my favorite exercises for both strengthening and improving mobility in the "mobile" joints. Over time, these will give you an edge on one leg. Here's the first one:


To build lateral strength: stand on a shallow ledge, such as a curb, with the inside of your foot on the ledge and the outside (or lateral foot) off the ledge. Hold the outside of your foot up level with the inside, using the strength of your ankle. This exercise is especially helpful if you tend to "supinate" the foot (roll onto the outside habitually). If you tend to roll onto the inside of your foot ("pronate"), do the opposite, placing the outside of your foot on a one inch ledge and holding the inside of your foot up. If your ankles are generally weak, do both.

To build mobility: Sit on your heels, "Japanese style", for 20 seconds, two or three times. Or, take a downward dog (yoga style) and bend your knees alternately back and forth, slowly, to isolate and stretch the calves.

As always, have fun, be safe and don't do anything that causes any level of pain.

Lark Miller
Infinite Fitness
Bently Reserve
301 Battery St. SF CA 94111

Phone 415.250.5236

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