Toe Touch and Active Straight Leg Raise Corrective Progression
How to get the toe touch and active straight leg raise pattern to stick?
Frequently, it is relatively straightforward to restore a person's toe touch or active straight leg raise pattern, but the problem becomes keeping it. You can get the pattern normalized in a session only to find that it returned back to where it was the next day.
By using the principles of anticipatory core engagement and progressing through simple postures to more complex patterns can "keep" that toe touch or ASLR much longer. By squeezing the ball, you cause reflexive local (transverse abdominus) core engagement in anticipation of movement. The lack of reflexive local core engagement is usually one of the reasons a person loses the toe touch pattern. After low back pain, the local core timing is delayed and the hamstrings have increased tone in a compensatory attempt to stabilize the pelvis/low back.
Once we get into the sprinter's stretch position, we are using the ground contact through our hands to create that anticipatory local core contraction. Once in the standing position, we will use a towel squeeze as well as the perturbation of having the heels up, toes up, and staggered stance to accomplish this again.
So give this progression a try and let me know what you find!
90-90 Posterior Chain Elongation
Start by putting the ball between your knees, and you're going to be squeezing that ball together (this causes reflex core engagement) while you straighten the knees out, bringing the heels toward the ceiling and the toes toward the nose . . . squeezing that ball as you extend the legs up, trying to get the bottoms of the feet pushing them toward the ceiling. Bring the heels to the ceiling, and toes toward the nose. Repeat this 5 times for 2 sets.
Core Engaged Curl Ups
With this posterior chain exercise, you're going to start by putting the ball between the knees. You are going to squeeze that in together (for reflexive local core engagement), and then you're going to straighten out the knees, bringing the heels up toward the ceiling, toes toward the nose and bring the arms up. And you are going to crunch up, but reaching the fingertips toward the ceiling. So you want to think about reaching straight up with the arms, crunching up with the head, and elongating the back of the legs, getting those feet up toward the ceiling, toes toward nose. Perform 2 sets of 5 repetitions.
For sprinter's stretch, we're going to have everything in a line. So you're going to have that front heel down, the knee is going to be right behind the front foot there, and then the back foot is in a line. Our hands are going to go on the inside of the up knee. And then you're going to straighten that back leg out, trying to drop the heel down. We're going to gradually get try to get that heel down. And then come back forward, dropping that down, pushing into the ground. Straighten that back knee. Gradually getting that back heel down farther and farther with each repetition. Repeat this 5 times on each side.
Toe Touch Progression
For the toe touch progression you're going to start with the balls of your feet up on the board with your heels down on the ground. Your feet are going to be completely together and we're going to put a towel roll between our knees. We're going to reach up toward the ceiling, really getting a good stretch there . . . big deep diaphragmatic or belly breath there and then folding down reaching down toward our toes, squeezing the knees together as we start to feel some tension. Then at the bottom take a big deep breath. The most important part of this exercise is actually the breath at the top of the exercise as this sets the pelvis in the proper position and relaxes the outer core and prime movers that are acting as stabilizers (e.g. the hamstrings). If you can't reach your toes, you're going to squeeze and bend the knees a little bit . . . just as much as you need to to get down to your toes. In this position, you're going to do three repetitions, with a breath at the top and the bottom.
Then you're going to go to the heels up position where your toes are going to be on the ground, your feet are together, your heels are up on the board, and you're going to repeat the same process with 3 repetitions. Then we're going to go into the split stance position.. One foot's going to be in front of the other, and you're going to make sure your feet are together. So the balls of your feet are up on one side and you're going to reach toward the back foot. Deep breath at the bottom, and then reach up toward the ceiling, nice deep breath, bending the knees if you need to. And you're going to repeat this three times on this side, and then you're going to switch feet and repeat it on the opposite side.