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Episode 102: Quickly Improve Your Abdominal Strength

Video Highlights

- The foot and hip connection.
- The neurological reason why joint mobility improves strength.
- How to apply this information to your workout.

Hi everybody, Dr. Cobb of Z-Health Performance.  Today we are going to talk about how improving foot mobility can improve your ability to do a side plank.

If you remember in past videos we talked about this whole idea that the nervous system does three things. It receives input from the body. It takes that information, interprets it in the brain and then decides what to do with it and then it creates an output; hopefully good motor control and good motion.

Just think about this. We need good sensation coming in, we need good decision-making, and then we need good activity as a result. One of the most basic points that we talk about in Z-Health is that you’re constantly getting input from all the joints in your body.

This is incredibly important to recognize because at our base level we talk about doing precise joint mobility work because every single joint in your body has the potential to send either good quality signals to your brain or low quality signals to your brain.

What we want to ensure is that you’re getting good input from every joint. Now, when you get good input from every joint, it can create enormous changes in strength in places that you might not expect. One of the exercises that we see people struggle with a lot is what’s called a side plank.

What we are going to show you today is how mobilizing joints in your foot can actually influence the muscle strength in your hips, and in your core.

We are going to go ahead and actually start off with a little bit of a plank test so join me on the floor.

All right guys so we’re down on the floor. If you’re not familiar with side planks; pretty simple idea. We are actually going to extend the body unless this is too hard for you. Have your elbow basically underneath your shoulder. I like to have the palm down or the side of your hand you’re karate chopping the floor.

The whole idea about a side plank is lifting yourself up and becoming a board, all right? I’m going to be the nice, straight plank. What I want you to do is try this on your right side. I want you to hold it for 15 seconds, get an idea of how hard this is for you. Relax, and then you are going to spin around and you’re going to test this on the other side.

Once again we are getting set up. I’m going to raise up. If this is too hard for you, you can do it with your knees bent and you’re trying to get an idea of how high you can lift the hips, how easily, how much tension you’re feeling here. In other words, you’re doing a strength test from your right side to your left side.

Now here’s the important part. I want you to decide right now which side felt weaker. Was it your right side; was it your left side? In my particular case my left side felt a little bit weaker than my right.

We are going to focus on mobilizing my left foot. Now in order to do this, we are going to stand back up. We are going to need a couple of things. You need a place to hold on and you need something soft to put your foot on.

All right guys what we are going to do is we are going to mobilize some joints on the outside of our foot. What I’m going to do is I’m going to kneel down. I’m going to show you the points that you’re looking for.

On my left foot here I want you to find your outside ankle bone, slide just underneath it and slightly toward your toes and you should feel kind of a hole there. If you find that hole, when we do this foot mobilization this is where I want you to feel the stretch.

The exercise that we are going to do is called an outside toe pull and we are going to try and feel the stretch right there in that spot. What we need to do, we need to have someplace to stand and hold on. This is not a balance exercise so it’s very important that you’re holding on.

I’m going to face the wall or whatever I’m using to hold on, a chair. The next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to take my bolster or pad or pillow or cat, or whatever you can get to hold still back here.

You’re going to put your foot on it with your toes curled under; then your ankle is going to drop to the outside of your body. Again, toes are curled under; ankle drops to the outside of the body. Now I’m going to get nice and tall and I’m going to take my left, my knee, and I’m going to move it to the outside of my body a tiny bit. I’m rotating my knee out.

If I do all of that correctly I should start to feel a little stretch in that spot that you were just touching. Once you feel that stretch you are just going to do about a three inch knee bend with the front leg and you are just trying to mobilize, feel a really, really minor stretch in that spot.

It should not feel like a hamstring stretch or anything like that. It’s mild and comfortable. You’ve just done about five repetitions. What we are going to do now, is we go back to the floor.

Get your stuff out of the way and what I want you to do is you are going to go back. You are going to repeat the plank on the weak side and I want you to see how it feels now. I am going to go ahead and go down, get set up and when I’m ready lift up. For me, I don’t know about you, it feels a ton more comfortable.

One of the reasons this works is the hip musculature, the muscles of your core, need good information from your feet because when we are working the nerve endings in your feet are telling the rest of the body what’s going on and what to do.

This is why this is such an important and cool easy exercise that you can focus on that should dramatically improve your ability to do planks and any kind of abdominal core work which everyone seems to be really interested in these days.

If you are doing stuff like this in the gym make sure that in your warm-ups and often in between your sets, think about your feet. Get your shoes off, learn how to do some good foot mobility, apply it. You should see some amazing results.

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