This is how you touch your toes: With your legs straight and feet together, you are folding your body from the hips and pushing your bum backwards, keeping your back straight and reaching your hands down to your toes. Sounds easy right?
Surprisingly, not everyone can do this.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes - why proper form is important when touching your toes
When people say they can’t touch their toes, most of the time, they blame this on having tight hamstrings, tight hips, or a bad back. They have been stretching out these muscles and increasing their flexibility, but for some reason they still can't touch your toes?
The reason behind this is improper form. Instead of hinging at the hip, they hinge from the lower back, rounding their back restricting movement. When we bend from the lower back, our brain is telling our body that this is a bad position for our lower back and, as a result, our hamstrings tighten up. A lot of coaches would say that if you can’t touch your toes, you shouldn’t be performing deadlifts before you can achieve this basic movement.
One quick method you can use to correct form and increase your range of motion is Reactive Neuromuscular Training.
What is Reactive Neuromuscular Training?
Reactive Neuromuscular Training, or RNT, is the use of an external resistance to neurologically turn on an automatic response. When using improper form, the brain is telling our muscles to tighten up and restrict our movement because it knows that this form is bad and could lead to injury. In simpler terms, RNT is a method used in order to trick the brain into allowing our body to push us into the correct position.
The method used here will help trick your brain into letting your hamstrings stretch further without tightening prematurely. It also helps improve hinge pattern, which in turn, improves your deadlifts and swings.
Here is 6 easy steps to touch your toes with minimal equipment:
The equipment that you will need are a large pillow (2 small pillows), and a step (a book works perfectly)
Step 1: Put the pillow(s) in between your legs, above your knees.
Step 2: Place your toes onto the step
Step 3: Standing tall and arms straight overhead, squeeze the pillow between your thighs. Keep this squeeze constant, hinge at the hip and reach down towards your toes, still keeping your arms straight.
Step 4: While in this hinged position, slowly bend your knees until you can touch your toes. Repeat this process 10 times.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 with your heels raised on the step this time. Again, repeat the process 10 times.
Step 6: Attempt to touch your toes!
Flexibility vs. Mobility
And there you have it, 6 easy steps to trick your brain into letting you touch your toes. This method lengthens your hamstrings but does NOT strengthen them. Make sure to not do any intense exercise after this method in order to prevent any injuries.
Learning how to strengthen your muscles at their end range is known as mobility, in comparison to flexibility. Think of the example that doing the splits on the floor is flexibility (you are passively stretching into that position thanks to gravity and the floor) vs. being able to lift up your leg up to your ear with jus the strength of your leg muscles, and no lifting assistance from your hands, that is mobility.
If you want to improve your mobility FFS Gyms are have launched an Online Gym, with Movement & Mobility, Relative Strength, and Work Capacity classes. This month the focus is working on handstands and pistol squats, so check them out!
Make sure to not do any intense exercise after this method in order to prevent any injuries.
Find out More
Get the FFS experience from the comfort and safety of your own home. Our online classes are delivered through Zoom so your trainer can give you real-time feedback.
As with all FFS classes, these sessions will be progressively overloaded throughout the month.
We offer a number of plans, from Try 2 Classes for €15 to monthly plans. Find out more at https://www.ffs.ie/ffs-online/
- Cook, G., 2010. Movement: Functional movement systems: Screening, assessment, corrective strategies. On Target Publications.
- Loutsch, R.A., Baker, R.T., May, J.M. and Nasypany, A.M., 2015. Reactive neuromuscular training results in immediate and long term improvements in measures of hamstring flexibility: A case report. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(3), p.371.