Functional Movement is Negatively Associated with Weight Status and Positively Associated with Physical Activity in British Primary School Children
Posted by Kyle Barrow
“My hamstrings are sooo tight. I’ll never be able to touch my toes.”
“I haven’t been able to touch my toes in years. I have bad hips.”
As health and fitness professionals, we hear it all the time. Our athletes and clients haven’t touched their toes in years and immediately assume it’s due to poor tissue quality or muscle length.
It’s a classic example of focusing on parts instead of patterns, hardware instead of software.
The reason many people can’t touch their toes has nothing to do with the flexibility of their hamstring and everything to do with the sequence of their movement toward the ground. Sound like a simple fix? It really is.
Oftentimes when lecturing for FMS or on the Perform Better circuit, Gray and Lee will bring someone on stage who can’t touch their toes and teach them to do so in a matter of minutes (check out the video above at the 58:38 mark to see Gray do this at the end of his talk at Google). We call this the Toe Touch Progression.
There is no stretching or soft tissue mobilization involved. The goal is to demonstrate how movement can change much quicker than we think.
Here's how the Toe Touch Progression works:
In the video above, Gray began the intervention at 1:01:00. His volunteers were touching their toes less than three minutes later. How were we able to correct this so quickly? Because we attacked a software problem, not a hardware problem.
If all you're thinking of is anatomy when you encounter dysfunction, there's a good chance you're overlooking the root cause.
We can see issues with toe touch patterns in many populations, from sedentary people to extremely active athletes. It indicates that they are more dependent on their legs for stabilization than their core. We don’t want that.
When I take away stiffness, I have an oportunty to inject a new pattern. Stiffness is like training wheels.
When you break through a pattern you have a small window of opportunity. Take advantage of it. If we reinsert that deadlifting pattern on a clean toe touch you’ll quickly realize that you don’t need to do that toe touch progression as much. The need will diminish because now you’re causing a reset.
We don’t want to see people doing corrective strategies for a long period of time. The minute that we breakthrough we try to upload new information that requires technique, mobility, stability, dynamic stabilization, appropriate breathing, etc.
The toe touch progression works because you challenge a pattern. Both sedentary people and highly trained athletes often use their global muscles or prime movers as stabilizers. Local muscles/stabilizers aren’t doing their job. When the stabilizers aren't working appropriately, you try to use out lats, gluts and hamstrings to hold you up. It’s not about stretching or strengthening, it’s about changing the pattern.