One of the more common movement pattern limitations is the Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR). In the Functional Movement Screen, this particular screen reflects the ability to raise one leg while keeping the other steady. This requires a combination of active flexibility of the hamstrings and calves and hip mobility along with the ability to maintain pelvic and core stability. In the majority of the everyday athletes I have screened, this movement pattern has been restricted.
That’s nice. Thanks for sharing…
Where this is particularly relevant for the circus athlete may or may not be obvious. I’m sure you can imagine all sorts of instances where your circus art of choice may call for you to position yourself with one leg forward and the other back, all the while keeping yourself steady. (And probably smiling and pointing your toes).
The thing is, when you (or anyone) have difficulty with this movement pattern, then never fear: your body will compensate. Popular less-than-ideal compensations include releasing core engagement and/or arching through the lower back (often with some degree of twisting).
These sorts of compensations result in (and more often simply exacerbate) poor alignment. Just like with a car, poor alignment leads to uneven wear, energy leaks and possibly injury.
And now, the non-sarcastic version of “Never fear!”
There’s something you can do. Here’s a fairly straightforward exercise you can do as part of your pre-training warm-up:
It’s also possible to do this without a band, though in the beginning, using a band is often a better choice until you’ve built up more stability.
Either way, before lifting your leg, exhale fully through pursed lips to set your ribs down and engage your core musculature. Then raise your leg and loop the band around it. [Bonus: you get to practice active and engaged shoulders in this position.]
Raise the opposite leg to meet the first one. When lowering the leg, if you feel your lower back wanting to arch away from the floor, stop there. Only lower the leg as far as you can while maintaining core control.
Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps as part of your warm up every time you train.