Helping a client edit out movement above the hips in Side Kick is really hard to cue without taking away some of the challenge. For instance, I often stand just behind a client’s hips to help the client from rolling back on the bottom hip and losing the “stacked hips,” but I am really give the client a bit of a crutch when I do that, aren’t I? Sure it gives direct feedback when they are headed back too far, but it also takes away the need for that specific body awareness of their own.
To remedy this, and give clients a better chance of succeeding with this exercise on their own, cue them to “let it go.” Encourage the client to let the body swing in its natural rhythm as he swings the leg forward and back. This allows the client to become aware of the movements the body wants to make during this exercise. After just a few swings, rein it in. Ask him to edit out that upper body movement and isolate the leg swing. With the awareness of what movement we are asking him to edit out, the client can be more successful at actually doing it.
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To maximize the awesome lateral flexion benefits we talked about in the last post, it is really key to isolate lateral flexion. This means that as we go up and over to create our rainbow or our U-shape, our spines should not make any movement into the sagittal plane. In other words, we need to edit out all of the flexion and extension of our spine in order to create space in our vertebra and give our bodies the greatest possible range in lateral flexion.
To do this, I have forever found this cue to be helpful. It is one of the earliest cues I can remember from my own instructors: window panes. Imagine you are sandwiched between two window panes. One pane lining up with the back of your body and one at the front. You can only move side to side or up and down. Any forward or backward movement will push you into the panes. Imagine squishing your face against the front pane if you move into flexion and smacking your head against the back pane if you create extension through the spine.
This cue can also be helpful for lateral movements without lateral flexion: Star, Sidelift, and keeping the torso still during Sidelying and Sidekick Series.
One way to make a basic exercise a little more interesting and to give it additional benefits is to add in a little choreography. One of the most common examples of this is pointing and flexing the foot during exercises where the client is asked to isolate the movement of a straight leg in the hip joint – bridging variations, sidekick series, leg pull and others.
The key with pointing and flexing is timing the choreography to get extra length from the hamstrings and calf muscles. This means pointing as the leg moves towards the body and flexing as it moves back to its starting position. With this timing, the client is flexing the ankle when the hamstring is at its longest, most stretched position – creating a little more length and a little more stretch.
A way to give clients a visual cue for this choreography is to imagine the foot is a paintbrush. As the brush moves up the wall, the bristles of the brush are pointed down. As the brush moves back down the wall, the bristles are flexed up.
Get extra length out of the hip joint by encouraging clients to reeeach for the wall with their paintbrushes.
Hip disassociation – it’s a phrase that comes up frequently during side-lying work. The group of movements that fit into this category isolates leg movement from the hip joint and below. The goal is to minimize or eliminate movement in the rest of the body (the spine and it’s supports) during this type of exercise. But that’s really hard! The benefits are nearly endless, including making massive strides with core control.
Here’s a cue to help out with hip disassociation: imagine that the hip joint is a door hinge and the femur is the door. Everything from the hip joint up is attached to the hypothetical door frame and is therefor immobile. And for the movement – cue a swinging door. The imagery not only helps with hip disassociation, but also aids in keeping the client’s leg alignment fixed at parallel to the floor throughout the exercise as they attempt to remain true to the basic construction of the door and hinge.
Add tempo or intention to these movements by cueing the client to slam the door!