One Weird Trick: Installment 10 – Bend Over to the Front, and Touch Your Toes
Have you ever wanted to drop it, drop it, drop it low? (If Lexy Panterra, the twerkmaster featured above, can’t help you, no one can.)
If you’ve endlessly tried stretching your hamstrings, getting massages, and nothing works, give this one weird trick a go.
If you want the meat and potatoes of a how to touch your toes, check out my post here that goes into a lot more detail.
For an updated point of view on what I think of touching your toes, read on below, and enjoy!
Sometimes, improving your toe touch is not what you need. In fact, let’s back track to the question behind the intent for wanting to touch your toes:
What do you need? What do you want?
Before you undertake any new exercise endeavor, it helps to understand why you’re about to try what you’re doing.
Not the Four Horsemen… But the 4 Buckets
If you want to:
- Improve athleticism
- Improve movement quality
- Improve fitness quality and/or levels
- Reduce feelings of pain
These are all different goals, and they all require different and unique approaches when looking to affect these items positively (or maintain at best).
I know plenty of high level athletes that have difficulty touching their toes. Does this mean they need to touch their toes to improve to their next level? Not necessarily. On a specific level, athleticism could mean many things, but does touching your toes mean anything?
I’d argue, yes, and also no.
Yes, having the ability to shift into and out (read: extension and flexion) of your hips is important.
No, because having unrestricted range of motion at your hips is also important, but for a different reason (it identifies hip pathology)… so you need to be able to control it.
Improving movement quality on a general level can talk about skipping, lunging, running, push ups, or the simple things that involve more frequency and repetition.
On a specific level, movement quality can refer to the quantitative movement patterns found deeper within the movement patterns:
What happens in detail when you touch your toes?
When you touch your toes, you are demonstrating good quality going into flexion, which can also speak to your ability to control your abdominal musculature, along with relaxing and inhibiting the posterior musculature to allow for a forward bending motion.
Does touching your toes mean you’ll have a good push up? Skip? Sprinting pattern? Not necessarily, but it is one piece to the puzzle, certainly.
On the other end of things, when you are aiming to improve your fitness levels, your ability to get into certain joint positions can certainly impact you when you’re trying to get better at sprinting, running, rowing, or anything usually involved with the word “conditioning.”
At the same time, another fitness quality that is difficult for other coaches to understand is power and speed, which speaks to rate of force production.
If your hip position (or anywhere up or down the kinetic chain) is out of position for whatever reason, do you think force production will be limited?
Reducing Sensations for Pain
I usually disregard any discussions about pain, but I’ll attack them directly today.
Sometimes if certain vertebral facets (anterior, posterior, or lateral aspects of the vertebrae) are in contact with one another, that shit hurts. Nerves are on high alert, bones are touching where they aren’t supposed to necessarily, and not much in your body is happy when you have to round over like a mofo to deadlift a heavy weight off the ground.
Placing a band around the hips, or navel (belly button) is one way to provide a posterior weight shift, along with providing a slight distraction away from extension based back movement patterns at the lumbar spine. This sensation of shifting the center of gravity (into more flexion) can provide relief for those that are experiencing extension based back pain. (1)
At the same time, if you find yourself STILL in pain, go go go go go to a professional.
I’ll Need a Band and a Yoga Block…
So with all of this under your belt, let’s introduce today’s “one weird trick” to help improve your toe touch.
This is a very quick and easy video to understand.
The directions of the video that may go unsaid:
- Have a band placed around your navel.
- Place a yoga block, hoodie, shoe, anything really, between your knees (or higher preferably), and SQUEEZE TIGHT.
- As you exhale, look down through your skull first,
- Bring your head down (chin to chest) next.
- Chest goes down.
- Lower back flexes.
- Band should help pull you into a posterior weight shift during the whole move.
- Make sure to keep legs locked out.
- Find the weight on your heels – but don’t lose all the weight on your toes.
- Feel this in your abdominals as you exhale – if you feel it in your lower back, pause for a second, inhale again, and restart from that same position as you go down.
- Come back up segment by segment until you are standing straight.
With all of these things said, I also recommend identifying the real reason why you want to improve your toe touch.
Whether you want to do back flips or tie your shoe, there should be a reason for doing these exercises that will help you move better!
Keep it funky.
1- Fritz, Julie M., Anthony Delitto, and Richard E. Erhard. “Comparison of Classification-Based Physical Therapy With Therapy Based on Clinical Practice Guidelines for Patients with Acute Low Back Pain.” Spine28.13 (2003): 1363-371. Web.