I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Miche Hoffer, a former Swedish champion in the decathalon, who was able to point out my lack of hip extension in my latest rabbitting job at Stanford.
Hip extension is the center of all athletic movements and it would be a crime to not utilize it with all the strength I’ve gained from CrossFit.( BTW, I highly recommend checking out Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Body where he outlines Allison Felix’s deadlift program. It’s legit as me and my buddy/CFSM trainer Tuan have seen big gains (20+lbs) in one month).
Since adopting a pose method of running, I’ve noticed a general tendency to pull the foot off the ground too early, resulting in lack of hip extension. I think what tends to happen is the thought to pull asap as soon as the foot hits the ground. What ends up happening is:
- No full push off from the big toe
- Lack of extension through the grounded leg
Miche worked with me on a few hurdle drills; focusing on opening the chest, leaning into the wall, squeezing the glutes, hips fully extended. While one leg is anchored on the ground fully extended, the athlete rotates the other over the imaginary hurdle about hip height. You should be on your toes for this exercise…
Which leads to my next problem. My inability to fully toe off on my left foot. I have a severe pain on the top of the foot where the shoe laces tie and after looking for some answers, stumbled across this blog post by gobarefooting.
The best part of it was the picture of the muscles and connective tissues which makes it easy to trace origins of the pain. I found hammering the tibialis, peroneus and soleus with the lacross ball helps tremendously.
I wish that would have led me to the end of my quest for being a fully functioning, well balanced healthy athlete that can run a 3:50 mile/1:44 in the 800m while deadlifting 400+ (I’m 1/3 of the way there, btw). With the recent help of Jessica Moore, a corrective exercise specialist and pilates instructor, I’ve been focusing on strengthening the smaller stablizer muscles that often go overlooked in training. These movements are awesome for finishers after the WOD or for recovery days in addition to mobility work. They have also been specifically tailored to me. As an athlete I have terrible thoracic spine/shoulder mobility which can also lead to hyperextension. The exercises below focus on this as well as hip/medial glute strength. A few include:
- Supine crossover leg swings (arms in a T, cross one leg over the body to try to touch the opposite hand) 1×10
- 3D Bridging: basic version, abduction (soccer ball between knees, squeezing down as you go), adduction (band looped above knees, pressing out as you go). Focus on keeping all ten toes in contact with the floor throughout. 1×5-10 each.
- Torso rotation: on side, knees bent to 90 with bottom arm supporting head, top arm is reaching out in front of you. Reach top arm to ceiling, then open chest so that arm reaches to the other side. Your eyes should follow your gesture arm (ie the arm that’s moving). 1×10
- Back Extension Series:
Prone on floor, feet hip distance with toes turned out and the tip of your nose in contact with the ground. Place a thin pad (like a towel or yoga mat) across the top of your hips (like where the belt on a pair of pants would sit) to give you some leverage.
W’s, 1×10 Arms will form a W, thumbs point up. Squeeze your glutes to activate them, then lift the arms and legs off the ground while gliding the shoulders together behind you. Finish set with child’s pose, hold for :10
T’s, 1×10 Arms form a T shape, thumbs point up. Squeeze glutes to activate them, lift arms and legs off the ground while gliding the shoulder blades toward one another. Finish set with child’s pose, hold for :10
- Side Plank Series:
Hip Drops (actually a controlled drop to ground), on elbow 1×5-10
:10-:15 hold with straight arm support
(this one can be done with a TRX when one is available, just set the cradles to about 18″-24″ off the floor)
- Pilates Side Lying Series:
Lying on side, bottom arm is supporting head while top arm is long and hand rests on hip with palm flat. Hips and shoulders are stacked on top of one another and legs are straight.
Staggered Legs, 1×10 Lift top leg (about 8″-10″), then bring bottom leg up to join it. Float both legs down to floor together. Be careful not to let the lower back extend when you lift and keep the torso steady- no forward/back shifting. All movement should take place at the hip joint.
- Leg Circles, 1×10 front, 1×10 back
Lift top leg (8″-10″) and draw a circle about the size of a basketball. Toes of the gesture leg are pointed and knee is straight. Imagine trying to lengthen the leg and the top side of your body so there is no lateral flexion. Again, all the movement should happen at the hip joint- no bent knees.
These actually weren’t very easy at all. While doing these, think of firing order; glutes then hamstrings. You find yourself focusing very diligently on each movement.
In addition to all this, look out for a MWOD addressing the “toe off” malfunction
That said, I’m extremely grateful for all the wonderful coaches in my life that continue to help me become a better athlete. Our CrossFit community is truly amazing and I’m always learning something new! Thank you x 1,000,000.
Never Let It Rest,