Half-Kneeling - One of Core Training’s Best Kept Secrets

By Dr. Mark Cheng

When most people hear the word "core" in relation to fitness training, the usual imagery that pops to mind involves crunches, planks, or stability balls. Let's make it even more, as Sherlock Holmes would say... "elementary".

During the natural developmental process that human beings have evolved to go through, movement progresses in a relatively specific order. As newborns, we learn to turn our heads, then roll back & forth between our backs & bellies, then crawl, then kneel, then stand, then walk. These stages are a kind of neuromuscular barometer, in a manner of speaking. When we lose the ability to move in any of those developmental stages, there's a problem. 

The tricky part, however, is recognizing that problem for what it is instead of what we think it is. 

Core ability is often evidenced with how well we control the movement of our limbs in coordination with the reflexive stability of our midsections. So if there's a problem with either the trunk or the limb, occasionally the best approach to remedying that issue comes by dealing with the other. For example, if an athlete is dealing with chronic lower back (trunk) pain following workouts with squat-related exercises, there's a distinct possibility that there's a movement-related dysfunction related to overusing the quads (muscles in the front of the thighs) during higher reps.

So the most productive means of arresting that pain process might well be to train the lower half of the body to be stable while the upper body is mobile. Notice that I said "stable" and not "stiff". There's a world of difference between the two! As mentioned in the previous installment of my Rehab Prehab series, the "Four Knots" where the limbs tie into the torso need to be tied in a manner that allows for the limbs to be mobile enough to be painlessly functional and stable enough to resist dislocation and challenge under exertion.

The half-kneeling posture and the exercise progressions that come out of it can be some of the most beneficial when it comes to addressing dysfunctions that are predominant on one-side. The precision required for the set-up of the posture is of primary importance. As world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook has said countless times, taking the time and care to learn and earn all of the points of the half-kneeling posture is crucial. How you start determines the success of your finish!

Even with weight loss related training, as expert Alwyn Cosgrove has shown, that for individuals where half-kneeling is the posture or movement pattern where their abilities are grossly asymmetrical, using the half-kneeling posture on the side of greatest challenge as a recovery superset can yield incredible metabolic results.

For those who are joining this Rehab Prehab series at this point & might have missed the previous installments, please go back & review the first two vidclips. If you're trying to get into the half-kneeling posture and having to muscle your way into it, you might be gunning the gas pedal against the parking brake. Spend a bit of time doing a search & release mission on your quads with a roller, and THEN re-try the half-kneeling posture. 

If you're wobbly, that's good! Your nervous system is learning what it needs to learn to grant you stability. If you're sweating, that's even better! You may become aware of more tension in the lower quad just above the knee when you attempt this. That's not a bad thing. However, if you're in pain, needless to say, get thee to a doctor. 

Read part three of this series on unlocking the shoulder!


Dr. Mark Cheng, L.Ac., Ph.D., Sr SFG Instructor, FMS faculty, TRX Sports Med, & Tai Cheng creator.

Dr. Cheng is a speaker/lecturer on optimum human performance & orthopedic medicine through the lenses of Pavel Tsatsouline's kettlebell training methods, FMS Functional Movement patterning, TRX Sports Medicine rehabilitative & strength training, traditional martial arts/combative systems, & Chinese manual medicine.

Website: http://drmarkcheng.com/

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