Last week, I wrote about Supine (on you back) and Prone (on you belly) exercises. That was the first block on the Robertson Training System arrow.
Today, we explore quadruped exercises meaning they are done on your hands and knees. This is the second block on the arrow.
Table Top position or pose. Start on your hands and knee, shoulder width apart, back flat. Be sure to stack your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips directly over your knees. Tega from SocialHermit.me demonstrates this position very well in the picture on right. This will become the position you return to in between your movements. Try to distribute your weight evenly between all 4 points of contact. It should feel comfortable. If you feel some tightness, just notice it. Have someone take a picture of you in this position. Are you aligned? Are you balanced left and right? Are you at the center of front and back? Readjust your position until you are in a similar position as Tega in the picture.
Cat and Camel is one of the exercises I started doing in physiotherapy and was pleasantly surprised when my yoga teacher had us doing that pose in one of our yoga class. I always feel better when I do this on a regular basis. Why is this movement important? According to Live Healthy the Cat and Camel is a “gentle exercise that stretches and strengthens the muscles that stabilize the spine, including the back extensors and abdominals. When performed daily, the exercise can help improve the function of the back and decrease many irritating ailments.” Be sure to use your breath when performing the movement. Inhale and lift your lower rib cage, exhale and lower your chest towards the floor. Relax your neck.
Backwards quadruped weight shift. Starting from the basic table top position, shift your hips back without pushing back with your arms. Initiate he movement from your hips. Hold. Return to starting position. Do this for several repetitions. The video describes 2 ways of completing the movements. One is biased towards flexion and the second one is biased towards extension. Both are equally important.
Forward quadruped weight shift. In the basic table top position, move your left hand forward approx 20-30 cm, then move your right hand forward to it’s parallel to your left. Your hands should be slightly in front of you. Shift your body forward towards your hands. This should allow your shoulders to stack on top of your wrists in the end position. It it doesn’t, change your hand position. Hold. Return to starting position. Repeat this movement for several repetitions.
Diagonal weight shift. Start in your table top or starting position with our hands shoulder width apart and your knee hip distance apart. Shift your weight back diagonally onto your right hip, then onto your left arm putting as much weight as you can on the right hip and left arm as you can. Come back to neutral position. Repeat the motion on the other side, shifting your weight on your left hip and your right arm. Come back to neutral and repeat this movement several times
Un weight one. Adding a dowel or broom stick on your back will provide your with instant feedback if you are keeping your core strong while completing these exercises. This is where the fun begins. If you maintain stability in your core, the dowel will stay in place. If there is some movment, the dowel will shift a little. When too much movement occurs, the dowels falls off. That simple. The goal of the exercise if to eventually keep the dowel in place.
In our starting position we have all 4 points of contact on the floor. Even when completing the exercises above, all 4 points of contact remained on the floor, which provides stability. Un weight one point of contact will reduce the stability and will engage your core muscles to take over the task of stabilizing and keeping the broom stick in place. Starting from the stable table top position with your shoulders and hips stacked, lift your left hand off the ground, just enough to slide a sheet of paper under your hand. A very small movement. How does that feel? What is happening in your body? What’s happening with the dowel? Hold your hand off the ground for a count of 10 then place it back on the floor. Repeat the same thing with the right hand. How does that feel? Does lifting your right hand feel easier then than lifting your left? Now try it with your left knee, then your right knee. Is it easier to lift the arms or the legs? Just note how you feel. There is no right or wrong, just a starting point.
Once this feels comfortable and you can un-weight one contact point at a time for a count of 10, while managing to keep the broom stick on your back, you are ready to progress to lifting and extending one limb at a time. This is called Quadruped with one limb extension. This is the foundation for the bird dog exercise that we often see in many gyms and physiotherapy clinics.
One limb extensions with the broom stick on your back is fun the first few times that you try it. Starting from the basic table top position your hands shoulder width apart, shoulders directly over your wrists, you knee hip distance apart, with your hips stacked over your knees, your neck relaxed, extend your left arm forward. Hold for a count of 5-10, return to the starting position. Repeat with the right arm, then left leg then right leg. Minimize movement in the rest of your body. Too much movement will result in the broom stick falling off. The movement should come from the limb you are extending. That movement should be easy and feel light. Don’t worry how high you can get the movement. Just work on full extension of the limb while maintaining stability in the rest of the body. It should look easy and effortless but your core should be engaging. Turning your thumb up while you extend your arm forward, engages your lats, which is a good thing.
Bird Dog, also known as opposite arm and leg extension. While we walk, we bring opposite arm and leg forward at the same time. Right leg, left arm then left leg, right arm. That’s why you hold the cane in the opposite your weak or sore leg. Remember to engage your core, maintain stability in your from your shoulders to your hips and the only movement comes from the limbs you are moving. The moving limbs should move with ease. Thumb up to engage your lats. Complete several reps on one side, coming back to the starting position in between repetitions. Try it on the other side.
Variations and progression will challenge you as your progress. Gray Cooks Edge of Ability concept is important to note when completing core exercises. Work in the green zone.
Variation 1. Complete 10 reps on one side without touching your points of contact on the ground. It’s harder than it looks if you are trying to maintain good form throughout the exercise.
Variation 2: Same side arm and leg extension. Right leg extends back with Right arm extending forward.
Variation 3: Add a crunch, get on your toes
Variation 4: Add twists and bands
While there are many variations that I haven’t mentioned, it’s important to note that proper form should always be the basis of every exercise you do. That does not mean you cannot challenge yourself, it just means that if your form is no longer there, stop the exercise and rest or move on to the next one. Continuing to exercise past the point of proper form can lead to dysfunctions or injury.
Have fun and let me know your favorite variation of the Bird Dog.