Fewer than 10 days to go in March MATness and we’re going to keep today’s cue short and sweet. For Hip Twist, there is an incredibly simple, neary universally accessible imagery cue. It’s so obvious, I’m sure you can guess it. But here’s the deal, sometimes the most obvious and simple images are the ones that most loudly resonate with our clients.
So throw your client a bone and strip this exercise down to it’s basic movement. Set your client up with the proper arm position, posture and leg starting position, then just let them go for it with a relatable movement image – windshield wipers.
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Scissors. Yeah, we’ve all heard “scissor your legs” before; there’s even an exercise in Joe Pilates’ repertoire called “Scissors.” But what I’m going to lay out with this cue is going to take it to the next level.
Typically, when we call on a client to “scissor” their legs, the interpretation is to move straight legs back and forth, crossing in the middle. This isn’t wrong, per se, but it’s not the whole story. Think about your pair of scissors. Yes, you’ve got the long sharp blades, straight as can be, opening and closing, just as you want the legs to do, but what else is happening? Let’s consider a couple of things: where the movement initiates and why it’s so powerful and the friction as the scissors blades come together.
We’ll start with the latter as it’s a quicker conversation. The friction of the blades as they come together is something we want to emulate. We want the leg movement and rod-straight positioning to work for us. If we move the legs with the intention of cutting an imaginary piece of paper, we will pass the legs much closer together. In order to do this with control, we find that we need to recruit the inner thighs and pelvic floor to create stability and precision during this movement. With just this adjustment, we’ve augmented this exercise from pure flexion and extension through the hips to intentionally include the inner thigh and pelvic floor. BONUS.
Alright, on to the bigger revelation. Thinking about your pair of scissors – where does the movement initiate and how does this relate to the blades? Consider a single side of the scissors – the movement initiates with pressure on the opposite, shorter side of the blade intersection. To apply this to our bodies, lay an open pair of scissors on an image of the musculoskeletal system, which system does this mirror? The oblique slings!
What happens to our movement if we focus on initiating the movement at the top of the oblique slings instead of just the legs? It gains in precision and coordination. When the control is initiated from the short side of the lever (the torso being the short side, the leg being the long), the muscles of the slings can work together to create a better quality movement.
Does this mean we are moving through the trunk? NO! Scissors is still a hip disassociation exercise and the actual movement is out of the hip socket and through the leg. BUT the control and movement initiation across the slings is where many of the exercise’s benefits exist. As we are walking, running, and moving through our lives, our legs are doing an awful lot of the overt movement, but it’s the muscular slings working to hold us together and upright and in coordination.
I usually try to invoke images to simplify movements for clients, but in this case, understanding the initiation of the movement by way of the scissors image can give us incredible insight into how doing this exercise properly can bring awareness to how we move through our daily lives.
So, rotation. Exercises that utilize rotation in a seated position – Mermaid, Spine Twist, Saw – are great exercises to engage not only the waistline, but the entire oblique chain while at the same time increasing spinal mobility and improving posture. With such desirable and beneficial potential, it’d be nice to know we’re getting the most out of it.
This breathing cue is the KEY to getting maximum rotation. Begin by having the client take a deep inhale in the starting position. As they move into the rotation, the client should exhale fully, ending the breath as they reach the furthest rotated state they can manage. Ask him or her to take a very shallow inhale here and forcefully exhale the air – expelling every last teensy bit of air from the lungs. This will create the space for just a smidge more rotation. Then inhale to unwind back to the starting position.
Once the client has nailed the breathing, reinforce the movement with this visual: imagine that the spine, and the entire trunk, is a wet towel. Now, as you rotate, you are wringing out the last bit of water from the towel. That last breath out is the last drop of water from the towel.