Stand with your feet together, keeping your legs straight and knees locked. Gently bend forward and touch your toes. Can you do it?
Many people can’t touch their toes, but don’t be quick to assume it’s because you have tight hamstrings and need to stretch more to increase flexibility in the muscles. Not being able to touch your toes can actually suggest that there is a bigger problem in one or more of the body’s muscles, as it relates to your mobility and stability.
Performing a simple toe touch test will determine the reason behind an inability to touch your toes and help you work out how you can rectify the problem.
The Standing Toe Touch Test
Everything in the body is connected, meaning if something is wrong in one area, the body will overcompensate in another. For example, lack of mobility in the hips (which can cause inability to touch your toes), will cause the body to rely more heavily on movement from the lower back. Performing the standing toe touch test can help determine what area is likely to be stopping you from achieving optimum flexibility.
The standing toe touch test seen in the first part of the chart above, can help focus in on a particular problematic side of the body. Start by attempting to touch both toes at the same time – if this can’t be achieved, try testing each leg at a time to see whether one side is more deficient than the other.
The Sitting Toe Touch Test
The second part of the flow chart gets you to try the same exercise but while sitting down on the ground. It’s this test that can determine whether the problem is likely to be with your stability or mobility. So sit down on the ground with legs in front, knees and feet together. Slowly bend forward to touch your toes. Are you able to reach further?
Mobility Or Stability?
If you performed the sitting test and weren’t able to reach further than the standing test, then you are looking at a mobility issue located in the lower back, pelvis, hips, or hamstring tightness. With lack of mobility, you are more likely to develop injury in the back due to overcompensation and less active use of the butt muscles.
If you’re able to reach further by touching your toes in a sitting position, then stability may be the problem. By sitting on the ground, you increase your stability, and the nervous system allows more movement throughout the body because it feels more stable to do so.
Exercise For Increasing Mobility: The Squat
If you’ve identified your problem as mobility, then doing an exercise that targets mobility throughout the body can help immensely in achieving the toe touch test. One of the best exercises you can do is the squat because it increases mobility in the hips and help with muscle imbalance.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
- Move your toes so that they’re pointing slightly outwards – around 5 to 20 degrees.
- Stack your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles.
- Keep your shoulders back and your spine in a neutral position to stop pressure on the lower back.
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you, palms down.
- Move your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend.
- While the butt starts to stick out, make sure the chest and shoulders stay upright, and the back stays straight. Keep the head facing forward with eyes straight ahead, for a neutral spine.
- Try lowering down so that your butt is below the level of your knees for best mobility.
- Gently return to standing position and repeat for 10-20 reps.
Exercise For Increasing Stability: The Plank
If stability is your problem, then performing planks can help to strengthen the core and promote good stability throughout the body.
- Start face-down on the floor, resting on your forearms and knees.
- Step your feet out so that they are slightly apart and come into the plank position.
- Make sure your body is straight, parallel to the floor, and your bum is tucked in.
- Pull your abs in and hold the position for as long as you can.
- Try to aim for 20-30 seconds and build up to a minute.
- Repeat 3 times.
Featured photo credit: iStock via health.harvard.edu
|||^||Breaking Muscle: Can’t Touch Your Toes? Find And Fix The Root Of The Problem|