Skip navigation

Currently Being Moderated

PERFORMANCE POV // 4 Fundamental Movements

Posted by Jessi Stensland on Jun 29, 2009 10:30:02 AM

Performance POV // Four Fundamental Movements


Here are four movements that I consider fundamental to injury resistance and performance that I have recently witnessed athletes unable to do.  Can you?


1.    Back bend

2.    Single leg balance[Single leg balance|]

3.    Squat jump

4.    90/90 stretch




I ran with a local running group not too long ago.  After the run I was taking them through some functional stretching.  One thing I’ve come to like to throw into my routine, which I’ve borrowed from the sun salutation in Ashtanga Yoga, is the back bend.  The sun salutation starts standing and the first movement is to put your arms straight overhead and reach backward, creating a fluid bend in your back, your whole back that is: upper (cervical), middle (thoracic) and/or lower (lumbar). 


Watching the runners attempt a backbend was painful to watch.  The majority of them, were standing, with hands on their hips, and their back bend was barely anything more than a simple tilt back of the head at the neck though it looked like they were really trying, and possibly even feeling, like they were doing a back bend.


Ideally the vertebrae will all be moving freely and you can achieve a fluid curve from your hips through to your head. It’s common to have decreased mobility through a certain section of the spine, especially if not actively practiced.  That said, it is also easy to maintain a healthy, mobile spine, by regularly doing some back flexion and extension while on the floor on your hands and knees, similar to a cat stretch, for example. In yoga, the cobra and downward dog, among others, are great options as well.


Can you do a proper back bend?







One day a friend of mine, 2:13 marathoner, finally gave in to my continuous chatter about “core stuff” as he called it, and let me take him through a couple basic principles and movements.  We didn’t get far.


I asked him to balance on one leg:  standing with one foot on the floor and the other raised at the hip with the knee bent at 90 degrees and ankles dorsiflexed (pulled up) as in running. 


He couldn’t.  He tried and tried.


Finally he gave up and said, “What does it matter?  I can run a 2:20 marathon out the door, right now.”


Simple answer.  Number one:  You have no guarantee that you’ll stay injury free to even get to the start line or finish the race.  That’s no fun!  Balance, stability, and all the rest are a big part of an injury resistant body.  It’s completely possible to achieve that for yourself.  The bonus is, the training that helps with injury resistance is the same training that makes you more efficient and therefore more powerful as an athlete.  They go hand in hand.  So answer number two is:  You could be running 2:20 with less effort OR running faster with the same effort. 


Win-win-win situation!


Can you?  Not only balance, but keep an eye on your posture and alignment of your

shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.  Are they symmetrical? Tilted?



As importantly, the next step necessary for efficient performance, would be doing a proper one-leg balance squat.  One that is functional, in control, and with your body weight properly dispersed from your head to your toes.


Finally, mastering efficient and stable one leg elastic exercises, like the single-leg linear box hop is key to overall injury resistance and performance, especially in ground-reaction type sports like running. 




The other day my cousin, just prior to shipping out to start his Air Force Special Tactics Officer training for the next two years, took me through my very first full kettle bell workout.   He was a great instructor.  He taught me the moves and the principles behind them.  It was a great workout.  Just after we finished, I was thinking about how, if I was to think about this workout from a Performance POV it was obvious that the major thing that was missing to make this a complete workout was some elasticity.  We had incorporated some flexibility, mobility, strength, stability and even some cardio, but nothing elastic. I mentioned this to him and he was game for doing some.  Squat jumps[Squat jumps|] are a great way to get a quick set of elastic movement into a workout and keep that system fired up for you. 


My cousin is incredibly strong, smart and athletic.  We had just done upwards of 100 kettle bell two-arm swings and yet he could not coordinate a squat jump.  I was surprised, but not really.  Nothing surprises me anymore!  The movement, although seemingly simple, requires triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles.  When done properly, the power and coordination comes primarily from the hips and glutes not from the legs.  It should be initiated through the hips and followed through by coordinating the extension of the knees and ankles to do the movement properly with the least amount of effort and the most power.  Typically people think of their legs when they go to perform a movement like this, however it’s much harder and less powerful trying to control the entire body with the legs than it is the legs with the body. 




This came up because I had overheard a triathlete asking a local triathlon coach about how to rotate better in the water while swimming.  After she got some advice on drills to do in the water, I asked her to come over and do a 90/90 stretch which is a great way to see how much rotation you have in the spine under a bit of a load (similar to rotating from the hips and then pulling in the water.)  She had none.  No kidding.  Yes, the spine could rotate, so she had mobility, but when asked to maintain some pressure at her knees and shoulders, there was zero rotational stability and strength. 


Remember it’s the body that is doing the sport.  Proper technique can only be achieved with a body that’s capable of performing the proper technique and this, more often than not can and should be achieved on land regardless of sport.  You may feel what you think is rotation, but rotating your whole body from side to side is not what you’re looking for.  Rotating through the spine will help you swim more efficiently.





Go move well!!




Comments (1)