Every once in a while we will post and discuss one specific movement/exercise/idea and share some thoughts. We'll keep things on the positive side here so you won't find us posting about exercises to avoid or that we don't like. Simply check in to see if we can help you add something new to your routine or give you a different perspective on an old favourite. Let's start off really simple.
1. The Prone Kneeling Leg Extension
If you are new to fitness or unfamiliar with this exercise it's one of those movements that you might see someone do and think, "That looks easy, probably doesn't do very much". Yes anyone can get on their hands and knees and stick a leg out behind them. But to do the prone kneeling leg extension perfectly you need excellent control and stability in the hips and core. You want to avoid twisting, which the body will want to do, and will do, when you are lacking strength and stability in the right places. The idea is to throw your centre of gravity off to challenge the muscles to keep the torso and hips levelled. Pretending you have a glass of water on your lower back is a good way to visualize the stability you should be going for. Do not spill that water. This is one of many exercises that is extremely simple and subtle. You can do it practically anywhere and in the long run it can help you progress in many other exercises.
Start on your hands and knees, aligning yourself so that your wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under the hips. Ensure that your pelvis is tilted correctly (I could write forever on the importance of pelvic control) so that your spine is neutral. This will mostly likely be an anterior(forward) pelvic tilt*. From here you want to brace your core and slowly extend one leg straight out behind you in a controlled motion. Go to full extension and point your toes. You do not want to go to the point where your back ends up in hyper extension. You want a nice straight line going from your head(which should be looking down at the ground) to your toes. Hold it for a few seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat this with the other leg. Remember, the idea is that you're not really moving anywhere except for your hip, knee, and ankle of the extended leg. Your body should be stable and flat. Don't forget that glass of water on your lower back. Try it, it's harder than you'd think (to do it perfectly). If it feels too simple for you, add a pause to the extension. Hold your leg out for 3,5, or even 10 seconds.
Here's what it should look like
*To do this place your hands on your hips with your index and middle finger on your iliac crest(the pointiest curve in the front of your hip bone). You want to feel that iliac crest slightly move/tilt forward. If it feels like you're sticking your bum out then you've got the right idea.
Hip and core stability, as well as a healthy lower back is crucial both in and out of a fitness setting. This should be on the top of your list. Whether you're looking to lift three times your body weight, spend all day working on your feet, sit in chair at your desk for hours, or want to prevent falling on uneven or slippery surfaces. This exercise will do subtle but wonderful things. It strengthens the hip extensors, the low back and abdominals, as well as, stretching the hip flexors. In the long run, this movement can help you progress and improve in a number of different exercises. The almighty hip hinge for example, which so many exercises depend on(Deadlifts, RDLs, Kettle Bell Swings, etc.), demands excellent stability and control throughout the hips, low back and core. If you're just starting out, or have suffered from low back pain, definitely throw these in your program. For those already working out regularly; throw them in at the end of a session or on a light/accessory day for maintenance.
Note: When I refer to your core in this post, or any future ones, I'm not just talking about abs. I mean the core of your entire body. Basically, below your chest to your waist and below your shoulder blades to your bum.
Make it easier:
Try a prone hip extension
Make it harder:
Try a bird dog