Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS
Part of our Build A Better Body Series
By now you must be thinking, another article in the Build a Better Body Series? Didn’t we already work from head to toe? What else could we be missing?
Well, nothing really. Except for one exercise that ties everything together. After all, who has time to perform seven different exercises to target each individual area? Now in fitness and in life there really are no shortcuts, but if you are pinched for time, here is the perfect touch up exercise for working your deep anterior neck flexors, scapular stabilizers, abdominals, and hip muscles. This exercise is also the only one in the Build a Better Body Series that targets the multifidus muscle, which is the only muscle located in the back that stabilizes the spine. So even if you do perform all of the other stabilizing exercises, you will still want to add this one to your repertoire.
So why didn't we start with this exercise, and save everyone the hassle of learning so many exercises? Because if you didn’t start with learning how to activate each of these exercises with the basic single muscle activation exercises presented in earlier articles, you would be less likely to now have the motor and multi-tasking skills to put it all together at once in this exercise.
This exercise is the four point stabilization exercise with opposite arm and leg movements. It’s a great exercise to quickly work all of the muscles we need to be strong and stable throughout our day in just 2 minutes.
Four Point Stabilization Exercise
A. Start Position
1) Get down on the floor on all fours, with your hands aligned directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips, creating 90 degree angles at your shoulders and hips.
2) Flatten your upper back region (thoracic spine) by pretending there is a hook at the front of your chest pulling your upper back down towards the floor. Your upper back should form a horizontal straight line throughout this exercise.
3) Perform a chin tuck by pulling the scruff of your neck up toward the ceiling. Your neck should form a horizontal line with your back.
4) Add an abdominal brace. Your low back should maintain a slight lordotic curve throughout the exercise.
5) Pull your shoulder blades down and back, without changing the position of your head, neck, and spine.
B. Upper Extremity Lift
1) In the position described above, slowly raise one arm without losing the scapula retract position; this means you will not fully raise your arm to 180 degrees; instead your goal is to stabilize your body so that even though your arm moves, nothing else moves, including making sure you do not arch your back or lose your chin tuck position.
2) Repeat with the opposite arm.
3) Perform 15x on each side. Once this exercise becomes too easy, graduate yourself to Part C.
C. Lower Extremity Lift
1) In the position obtained in Part A, slide one knee out to raise your leg behind you, then slowly and smoothly slide the knee back into the start position. Your goal is to not shift your weight to your other knee still resting on the floor, or twist your pelvis as you lift your leg (which is why you want to slide you knee out, versus lifting at your pelvis to raise your leg off the floor).
2) Repeat with the other leg, while maintaining your ab brace, flat upper back position, and chin tuck.
3) You will want to check your spine position between each rep. Repeat 15x on each leg. Once this exercise becomes too easy, graduate yourself to Part D.
D. Alternating Opposite Upper and Lower Extremity Lift (The Whole Shebang)
1) In this exercise you will combining the arm and leg movements by coordinating the lifts with the opposite limb, i.e. when you lift the right arm, you will raise the left leg. Then repeat on the other side. Remember the goal of the exercise is still to be completely stable through your spine and hips, maintaining all of the points listed under Part A.
2) Check your head, neck, and spine position between reps. Repeat 15-20x. Perform this exercise every morning, and you will feel taller the rest of the day!:)
Read the Entire Build A Better Body Series
Part I Hips: Laying the Foundation
Part II: Myth Busting Abs
Part III: Stabilizing the Scapula: The Secret to Strong Shoulders
Strengthening Stabilizing the Neck
Part V: The Big Picture
Part VI: Have a Ball
Part VII: Advanced Exercise Ball Routine
You can now Build A Better Body at MotionWorks by joining one of our Build A Better Body fitness classes!