How to Improve your Toe Touch and your Deadlift Without Stretching

In a previous post, we mentioned that optimal fundamental mobility (like the standing toe touch,etc.) is a precursor to hip drive and proper execution of several functional and high level movements including the deadlift and other Crossfit and Olympic movements. In this post we'll address how to improve your standing toe touch and thus your foundation as an athlete. First off, if there is limitation in your toe touch, the deficiency may be multifactorial. However, there are a couple of basic exercises that may prove beneficial in restoring this range of motion. The first two exercises are completed in supine (approximately 5-15 reps each side). Proper diaphragmatic breathing and full range of motion are paramount. Exhale during the exertion and move slowly and in a controlled manner, hold temporarily at end range.

Step 1 Pre-Test your Standing Toe Touch (don't warm up), if unable to comfortably touch your toes than make an imaginary or real spot on your shins for post test

Step 2 "The corrective exercises"/Reset
Exercise 1-Single Leg Hooked Bridge:
Pull one knee firmly to chest and hold as if not letting a playing card slide out between your thigh and chest, then lift buttocks off of table upwards, keeping foot flat and knee close to chest; only lift butt as far as you can continue to keep knee to chest (card in place)
Exercise 2-Active leg lowering

With one leg resting against table for support with a knee straight, brace core with hands firmly pressing into floor and actively lower other leg to foam roller (or any object), then raise again;  keep both knees straight throughout the motion and ensure normal breath control

Step 3: Re-Integrate
Squat down with heels slightly raised on book, barbell plate or 2x4,etc. Grab unto a stool or trash can and lift hips up (and back) and straighten your knees while holding unto stool. If unable to lock out knees than pick a taller object to hold unto instead of stool. Straighten back and rise (pic3). Squat back down and put hands back on stool,etc to repeat. Repeat 10 times. 

Step 4: Post-Test your Standing Toe Touch. Better? Let us know in the comments!

Step 5: Retrain- The Deadlift
This will also make sure you can still touch your toes and move better in over 20 minutes from when you Post-Tested (although steps 1-4 may need to be repeated until you always 'own it'). It is vital to let the body know its new range of motion and tension that you have. The Retraining Step improves 'motor memory adherence' just like practicing a new language or technique improves retention of that skill.

Maintain contact with PVC (or broomstick) at back of head, spine in between shoulder blades and buttocks (sacrum). Bend forward, hinging at hips ensuring the PVC maintains contact with all three points throughout, especially the buttocks.  Start with only a small amount of bend in the knees. Imagine their is a wall about a foot behind you and you only want your buttocks to touch it (practice ~1 foot away from wall!).  

Ensuring better movement allows for better performance and strength. Get better with the standing toe touch and watch your deadlift max, running pace, and Crossfit durability improve with it.

Contributed by Dr. Jake McCrowell, PT, DPT, CMTPT


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