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Stance Progressions

This is a guest post from our Director of Fitness, Garga Caserta

Change your set-up position to improve your core strength, balance, and mobility.

Most fitness enthusiasts, now-a-days, know about the benefits of moving away from machines and using more free weights during their weight lifting routines. What most "gym rats" don't know yet is that by changing your stance from standing to kneeling, or sitting to half-kneeling, or many other variations - you may actually challenge your balance, core strength, and flexibility far more than you would by always just sitting or standing. This post will help you understand how to use different stances to help you achieve your core building goals.
Stance Variations:

Different exercise stances are based on our own motor development:

  • Supine - this stance is the starting point, any human can simply lay down on their back, which makes it the least core challenging one during any free weight exercise.

  • Sitting - moving from a supine position to sitting can already improve core activation. More involvement from the spine, shoulder and scapula stabilizers is required, while hip and legs are out of the equation. However; when sitting with hips flexed at 90 degrees, lower back muscles are slightly stretched making it more difficult to perform over head movements (ie. seated OH Press).

  • Kneeling - similar to sitting, but now hip stabilizers are required to work. This new requirement causes a upwards chain of increased stabilizer activation, which makes this stance more core challenging than sitting.

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1.0 - Half-Kneeling KB Press
Half-Kneeling - my favorite exercise stance; the half-kneeling position requires one knee to be down while the other is up with the front foot flat on the ground (see picture 1.0). This stance challenges your balance because of the linear alignment and little width between ground contact areas. Also, those with tight hip-flexor will be challenge by the hip separation and may develop better hip mobility . The lumbar spine is effectively stabilized by the glutes and trunk stabilizers if you "kneel tall", which allows for thoracic spine mobility development. This is the super-star of stances, making it the go-to position for rotary stability and power development exercises such as cable chops and lifts, and MED Ball throwing variations.

Split - also challenging on balance; the split stance can vary in difficulty by barely having the knee off the floor, which requires a great amount of leg strength and endurance, or standing tall with one foot in front of the other, in line or at a narrow stance.

Standing - ...

Standing on 1 Leg - the hip girdle, and the muscles surrounding it, work very differently when 1 foot is in contact with the floor when compared to both feet down. By centering the body weight on one leg, an increase in hip stabilizer activation occur, as well as gluteus, hamstring, and adductor participation when producing movement. It may be very beneficial for anyone suffering from chronic knee or hip pain, as most cases are caused by lack of stability in these joints.
Now take a look at your program and integrate stance variations to your exercises. This simple change may lead to far more effective training sessions, especially for those who struggle to learn complex movements. These positions allow you to focus on an area of the movement while the rest is stabilized, then progress to the next stance once the previous one is mastered. Also, the self limiting nature of some stances may keep you safe from building strength over dysfunction, which can lead to chronic overuse injuries.

If you would like to learn more about advance training techniques, please email me at gtctraining@gmail.com

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