The front support to downward dog is a useful mobility and strength exercise that can fit inside a warm-up, cool down or even a primary workout.
Inspired by yoga, it is often mistakenly regarded as a simple stretch; however, when performed correctly and rhythmically, it will improve hip joint and shoulder mobility, as well as build shoulder strength in two positions.
The slow controlled nature of the movement provides an excellent foundation from which to build high levels of static postural strength/endurance; it also helps to develop deep breathing patterns that can help to improve oxygen uptake, manage stress, and improve recovery.
Begin by getting into a push-up position – also known as front support. The shoulders should be over the hands, the core engaged, and the shoulders set.
Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, slowly push the hips up to bring the arms into an overhead position. This is known as an inverted position. The arms should be straight. If your hamstrings are tight, allow the knees to bend a little to let the hips to go high. Hold this position as you take a deep breath in.
As you exhale, return to the front support position. That is one full front support to downward dog. Repeat for time or reps.
In terms of mobility/flexibility, this exercise can help to improve hamstring flexibility and hip mobility. Prolonged sedentary positions can often result in hamstring shortness or tightness, which can restrict hip movement. Addressing this regularly will avoid that simple activity like bending, stepping and squatting become restricted and that they may lead to pain and injury.
For many people, hamstring tightness may prevent the legs from straightening during this movement – in this case, bend the knees to allow the hips to mobilize. With practice and patience, the hamstrings will begin to lengthen, enabling you to straighten the legs.
From a strength perspective, this is an overlooked exercise. The shoulder moves through two positions during this exercise. To hold these positions efficiently, there must be excellent mobility and stability of the shoulder joint, as well as proper control of the shoulder blade. Optimal control of the shoulder blade muscles in overhead positions is a common observation in modern lifestyles – and mostly due to lack of strength and poor posture. This exercise can re-train control of shoulder stability and power and can have a significant benefit during other loaded shoulder exercises, e.g. free weights.
Finally, from a stability point of view, both the push-up and inverted positions require reasonable control of the core muscles to preserve body alignment. If the core muscles are weak, then the back may arch in the push-up position, or the shoulders may try to do more work by pushing the hips up. As technique improves, you will notice better coordination of core stability, shoulder strength and hip mobility, which will allow you to control the movement in a better way.
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