Standing Crane, Strong Breeze

Sorry for the delay, everyone. I have been waiting to post this technique along with pictures, but it has been suggested that video would be a better. I will update this post with a link to the video when it’s ready. In the meantime, I see no reason to delay posting this any further, and the instructions are pretty thorough (if I do say so).

Today’s technique is called Standing Crane, Strong Breeze. It is a simple band exercise you can perform with a partner to help build stability in the lower body. It can help you strengthen the supporting musculature around the ankle, knee, and hip, and help improve how they respond to keep you from falling on your face.

I suppose I should preface this by explaining what’s so great about training the single leg stance. It’s not just a matter of having good balance, but of being free and comfortable with a body position that we find ourselves in all the time, not just in athletics but in our daily lives. Climbing a flight of stairs, for instance, is really just an alternating series of single leg stances. In martial arts, you find yourself in this stance all the time: chambering or checking kicks, defending single-leg takedowns, and throwing knees.

The hallmarks of a good single leg stance are a well-extended base hip (the one you’re standing on), a tall spine, and a centered position over the base foot with the hips level. The raised knee should be kept as high as possible without compromising your position. If you experience undue discomfort in this position you may require a bit of mobility work first.

Here is a good two-for-one mobility drill that I swear by for the ankles and hip flexors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZYo1gLFv_c

If you experience pain during any movement, it’s probably best to avoid it. Get a professional answer for your pain, and see what you can do about it.

Well, that’s enough chatter. Get to work!

Standing Crane, Strong Breeze

Purpose

  • Improve reactive stability in the single-leg stance (ankles, knees, hips)

 

Prerequisites

  • The ability to maintain good posture in a basic single-leg stance for 30 seconds with minimal effort.

Equipment

  • Bands or tubing; an actual strong breeze if you’re awesome.

Additional Requirements

  • A partner who will challenge you appropriately, and not just try to make you face plant

Technique

It would be preferable to perform this drill barefoot, provided you are exercising somewhere free of used syringes and jagged stones, but shoes with thin and flexible soles are acceptable, so long as you can feel the floor.

Stand in a single leg stance with the hip of your grounded leg well extended and your opposite knee raised as high as possible without rounding your lower back or tilting your hips. Try to make yourself as tall as possible; this will help properly engage your core. Have your partner loop a band around your waist and stand a few feet in front of you, holding either end.

Try to keep your hands close to your body, so you are not relying on your arms to correct your balance; you will not always have that luxury. For example, if you have assumed a single-leg stance to chamber a kick, you must still keep your guard high to avoid being force-fed a platter of knuckle sandwiches. You don’t want to spoil your appetite, do you?

Now that you’re in position, relax and breathe.

Attempt to maintain your upright posture as your partner applies resistance by gently pulling the band from random directions. It is important that your partner applies only enough resistance to make this challenging, and allows you time to recover your stance and posture if you lose position.

Perform for up to 30 seconds (pick a time that is relevant to your ability and goals), and then repeat on the opposite leg. Rest for 60-90 seconds, and repeat for multiple sets (2-3 is probably fine, but definitely build up to more if your goals require). If one side is noticeably better than the other, hit it double-time for two sets on the good side and four sets on the bad side, or do one set to three if this is too difficult.

Progression

Remember to keep quality in mind. It’s not simply about resisting the band and staying still, but also maintaining good hip extension, a tall upper body, and alignment over the planted foot. Do not progress to the next level until you are able to do these things with your partner applying a reasonable amount of resistance.

You can also increase the difficulty by using stronger bands, or having your partner work harder, but be reasonable. You don’t want to get to the point where your partner is having a hard time applying appropriate resistance because the band is too stiff, or you are leaning back really far to keep from falling over. This exercise is meant to improve reactive stability and proprioception, not strength. Think about increasing the stability challenge or removing vision from the equation. But again, I must stress that you should not attempt a particular level without mastering the levels before it.

The table below provides an example of how to progress this technique.

Standing Crane, Strong Breeze – Level Adjustments

1

Stable surface, eyes open

2

Standing on folded towel, eyes open

3

Standing on balance board, eyes open

4

Stable surface, eyes closed

5

Standing on folded towel, eyes closed

6

Standing on balance board, eyes closed

If you are a total badass with this technique, or simply want to show off your progress for our tiny corner of the internet, send a video demonstrating your awesomeness to manualofprimalmovement@gmail.com, and I just might post them. That’d be cool.

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