Got Core Stability

The Rectus Abdominis aka.. the abs, is the most well-known muscle of the core. It’s the muscle that gets a lot of attention when training for core stability. But it’s the Rectus Femoris  .. a quadricep muscle and hip flexer that can make or break your ability to stabilize your core.

Before you do another plank or curl, consider this…. tight hip flexors pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt. When the pelvis is pulled out of neutral alignment… core stability in movement is compromised. A six-pack does you no good here.

An anterior pelvic tilt limits internal rotation of the leg and sets off a chain reaction of movement dysfunction and instability. Research confirms …when the foot strikes the ground, the ability to use ground force is altered, there is less ability to extend the leg back and compensation in stride length occurs… both in walking and in running.

Tight hip flexors that create force production problems also create core stability problems.

Fixing the pelvis so that the hips bones are level will get you out of an anterior pelvic tilt… this is a postural fault that many of us have because of all the sitting we do. The key to leveling the pelvis is unlocking the tight muscles to the front… thereby balancing the front to back musculature.

If you fix the pelvis …. level the hip bones… everything will start to work as designed. Core stability will be at it’s greatest potential. THIS SHOULD BE DONE BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE GYM….. it’s that important.

Screen the Hip Flexors.
Check to see if you have limited internal rotation ….position one leg in front of you… rotate only the leg…keep the hips still.

Rotate the whole leg toward your midline (middle of your body) and in the opposite direction away from midline (away from your body). Each direction should be about equal.

HINT:  45 degrees in each direction is ideal.

Work the Problem.

Lack of internal rotation is common… the hip muscle responsible for internal rotation in hip flexion is the rectus femoris. Standing Firm uses resisted rotation to unlock the rectus femoris but it can also be done with correct body positioning and isometric force. Position the leg in front of your body… the diagonal isometric you need to apply is internal rotation (toward midline). Feel the quadricep muscle engage, hold for 6 seconds, release and do it again, repeat for a 3rd set. Retest.

When you unlock the restriction of internal rotation, the leg will rotate like a hot knife through butter. The pelvis will level out… you will have more power and core stability.

Missing in Action


The most popular exercise of all time, hands down… the squat. But could your muscles be missing the torque action needed for a powerful squat. A Study confirms the glute Glute medius squatmuscle is divided into three parts… each part specializing in a particular action.

This fan shaped muscle creates amazing power with the muscle fiber direction following the curve of the hip bone. The muscle fiber angled back promotes external rotation (shown in purple) and the fiber toward the front promotes internal rotation (shown in green). A powerful squat needs both internal and external rotation.

It’s not obvious to know if you are missing muscle action. The fibers that contribute to internal and external rotation are in the same muscle… so if the internal rotation fibers are not contributing, the body will go around the missing action and use whatever muscle it can. This sounds like a great idea… problem is, it creates imbalances plus less than optimal performance.

So how do you know if you’re missing muscle action… fortunately the body will give you clues… muscle tightness is a clue! Stretching can bring the missing action back but sometimes it takes more than a simple stretch.

A bigger problem is neuromuscular tightness…. involving sensory issues and muscular issues. The reason for the tightness is twofold..the muscle fiber has lost the ability to:

1. detect muscle length (a sensory issue…neuro)                                                                 2. the muscle fiber is weak (a muscular issue…muscular).

The solution…. hit the muscle with both length and force. In other words; stretch the muscle fiber and apply a counterforce i.e., isometrics.

Locating the missing fiber action in the gluteus medius…mobility zone symmetry

When pinpointing tight fiber in the glute med… the stance is shoulder width with rotation occurring at the hip. An equal amount of internal to external rotation is the goal.

A  45 degree “Mobility Zone” is perfect to get the job done… but if you fall short, symmetry in rotation is better than big but uneven range.

Once you know what direction (internal or external) you lack motion in…. that’s the direction of the stretch and the force. Again shoulder width stance… work your way into internal rotation… create isometric counterforce against the muscle.Squat and Mobility Zone

A rotational plate is often used with resistance bands to supply the diagonal force. Rotating further into internal or external rotation provides fiber length… addressing the sensory issues.

If you don’t have the equipment..simply understanding the process will help you set up the counterforce and subsequent rotational stretching. Retest your rotational range of motion… you’ll be amazed at the result.. active, balanced rotational strength. Your torque force is ready for action.

Rotation makes for stronger kettle bell swings

Rotation is in everything you do. … take kettle bell swings for instance. As you swing the weight between your legs, the gluteus maximus absorbs the weight by lengthening the muscle fibers and by rotating the femur, providing internal rotation (toward midline) to load the glutes eccentrically.

Photo of a weightlifter doing some repetitions with a kettlebell

Photo of a weightlifter doing some repetitions with a kettlebell

The action actually starts at the feet, with the kinetic chain… the arch flattens and the femur rotates toward midline, loading the diagonally-oriented muscle fiber in the glutes, located close to the tailbone.

As the weight swings upward the chain “re girds” itself and moves from internal rotation to external rotation with the same powerful glute muscle… at the top of the swing external rotation is provided by the glute fiber oriented higher on the hip.

The interplay that creates internal and external rotation is commonly known as torque force. But if the muscle fiber that provides rotation is tight, the body will adjust in order to load the weight. Tight muscle fiber doesn’t load with movement.

I think you can see where I’m going… tight muscle fiber does more than limit range, directional fiber tightness can throw off form and lead to injury.

It’s important to have symmetry of internal to external rotation for movement loading and unloading to be safe and powerful. Bonus…. symmetry in joint rotation also creates hip stability…. and on the sexy side… stability improves speed and agility.   rotational symmentry Mobility Zone                     

Checking the ability of the femur to rotate properly through internal and external rotation is pretty simple. The mobility zone for rotation in the hip joint is approximately 45 degrees in each direction.

NOTE: The position of the body changes which hip muscles provide the rotation. For the gluteus maximus the hip position is the hinge or “good morning” position.

Assume the position… keep the hips still (ie not rotating) and see if you can rotate the leg 45 degrees in each direction.

If you’re tight in one direction …. work it out with stretching…..and be sure to strengthen the diagonal fibers with resistance bands.

The Difference between Core Stability and Hip Stability

By Donna Snow

The pelvis is the center of stability in the body… a starting block for movement.

Core stability…is about holding your spine upright and controlling rotational motion of the pelvis.

Hip stability… is about moving your leg freely and driving off of a stable pelvis.

The abdominal muscles, namely the obliques work to resist motion of the pelvis. But the main reason you lose stability is not the fault of the abdominals… it’s the fault of the hips… weakness in glute muscle fiber alters the position of the pelvis and create instability.

Weakness in the diagonal glute muscle fiber creates instability in movement.

The glute muscles fan across the surface of the pelvis creating stability for leg movement. Weakness in the glute muscles is common because of the fiber direction… think of a fan with all angles meeting at the same point. The dominant muscle fibers are closer to vertical and most gym equipment favors vertical force like gravity. The diagonal fibers in the glute muscle are often overlooked and underworked…. setting up an imbalance in the muscle.

An imbalance in the glute muscle fiber creates an uneven pull on the pelvis… in other words, instability.

Do you have glute muscle imbalances that create instability? It’s easy to check and see. A simple rotation test will identify weak/inhibited glute muscle. If there is tightness in one direction… the muscle fibers that produce that motion are inhibited and need addressed.

Muscle tightness is a sign of imbalance and creates instability… rotation identifies the problem.

Work in the mobility zone to strengthen across all the fibers of the glute musculature. The mobility zone is rotational motion that spans from approximately 45 degrees of internal rotation to 45 degrees of external rotation.

Each hip position has a mobility zone of internal and external rotation. Changing position of the hip changes which hip muscle you’re working. When your stance is shoulder width like a squat the glute med is activated… when you hinge forward at the hips like a deadlift the glute max is activated.

A balanced glute muscle has an equal amount of internal and external rotational motion.

Once you improve the mobility of the powerful hip muscles the transfer to strong, stable movement will be amazing.

The Ultimate Glute Machine

By Donna Snow

If you look around a typical gym it’s obvious that we’re good at developing strength. Power on the other hand remains elusive. Power requires more than strength.

Power involves strength plus speed.

In other words… strength needs to transfer to movement… forcefully and quickly. But don’t worry, you’ve got the equipment. The amazing ability of your glutes is the key to this very issue… perfectly designed to produce force and speed.

Let’s take a closer look at how the glutes make it possible to transfer strength into power. It all starts with the center of your body… the pelvis. Think of the pelvis as the starting blocks for a sprinter. The pelvis… like starting blocks… allow the glutes to produce force quickly by creating a stable starting point.

The pelvis gives you the ability to produce force quickly.

The glutes are muscles that fan across the surface of the pelvis creating a wide attachment of diagonal muscle fibers. The diagonal muscle fibers allow for the creation of torque. Torque force from the glutes plus stability from the pelvis transfers to powerful movement.

The glutes give you the ability to produce torque force.

Two exercises that are considered strength moves… the squat and the deadlift.. can also be power exercises when torque from the glutes is involved.

The Squat. Equipment and exercises for a squat favor strength development of the quads. Because of the dominant quad muscles…the diagonal glute fibers can shut down and become inhibited. When the diagonal fiber of the glute med is inhibited… you lose both stability and power.

Attention needs to be paid to strengthening of the diagonal fibers of the glute med. Strengthening diagonal muscle fiber requires a diagonal force. Working in the mobility zone with StandingFirm will activate the torque producing diagonal fibers.

The Deadlift. The deadlift gets torque from a different glute muscle. The gluteus maximus. The glut max works the same way as the glute med…. creating powerful torque with it’s diagonal fibers …. the difference is the glute max functions when the hips are in extension. Work in the mobility zone with the hip hinged to activate the diagonal fibers of the glute max.

Rotation in the mobility zone should be used every time you do these exercises…
1. as an activation exercise for the diagonal fibers of the glute med and glute max
2. as a maintenance exercise to keep the power engine of your body working properly.

When most equipment in the gym is linear it’s easy to forget that torque is what translates the strength gains into power gains on the field. Fortunately STANDINGFIRM® addresses the need for rotation with the glute muscles. Don’t leave rotational mobility out of your workout if you’re after both strength and power.

The Mobility Zone

By Donna Snow

Don’t do it. Trying to go deeper in a squat when you don’t have adequate hip mobility can really mess up your knees and/or low back.

The body will always find a way to move in the direction you are trying to go. The problem is not getting there… but how you get there.

Take for example lowering into a squat… if the hips are tight, the ball and socket joint can’t rotate properly… the next available place to find motion is at the knees. When you see the knees caving in… it could be due to the lack of rotational mobility of the hip muscles.

Compensation for lack of hip rotational mobility is easy to spot:

  • Do you widen your stance to get lower
  • Do you turn your feet out to get lower
  • Does the arch of your foot collapse when you lower into a squat
  • Does your back arch when you lower into your squat
  • Does your torso fall forward as you squat

These are tell tale signs of lack of rotation in the Mobility Zone. The Mobility Zone is the 45 degrees of internal and 45 degrees of external rotation that your leg should be able to produce. Think of it as “working the corners”… getting the full range of motion from the hip joint.

The Mobility Zone is 45 degrees of internal rotation and 45 degrees of external rotation.

The common mistake made in gyms is thinking that lack of external rotation is the problem. The real problem could be the opposite…  lack of internal rotation. The tightness that you feel in your hips is actually the muscle going into “protection mode” because of weakness in internal rotation.

Strengthening the inhibited muscle fiber that creates internal rotation requires spiral diagonal motion. It’s a little tricky to set up in open chain, but give it a try… angle your leg diagonally and rotate the leg inward (pigeon-toed)… now follow that path of diagonal motion with a resistance band.

spiral diagonal muscle activation

Loading resistance from the bottom-up with a rotational plate works the hip muscles in a much easier and simpler way.  Quickly place the resistance on the plate and rotate from the hip. Spiral diagonal resistance is built in as you step on the plate and rotate 45 degrees.


Once the strength of the diagonally-oriented muscle fiber that creates internal rotation is restored.. the entire glute muscle will work as designed… providing full motion in both external and internal rotation.

Ground-based rotational resistance will get the full spectrum of the glute muscle activated and hip joint working properly for all the functional exercises you do in the gym.

Mobility Training No Longer a Speciality Market

Mobility Standing FirmBy Donna Snow

Mobility training is the new kid on the block… once the domain of Physical Therapists … mobility is going mainstream with help of the fitness industry.

Mobility back in the day was considered something older folk needed… certainly not something that fit people lacked. Fast forward to today’s Cross-fit boxes (gyms) and the impact they’ve had on facilities around the country. The high intensity workouts with Olympic-style elements create a natural entry for mobility work. Cross-fit and the influence of charismatic teachers like Kelly Starrett have popularized mobility… going beyond the old notions of stretching and even flexibility.

Mobility training today brings immediate results we can feel and see. Different than the traditional stretching of the past, mobility training is about activating inhibited muscle so we can move into deep squat positions and maintain perfect alignment. It’s active and sexy where stretching was well….. boring.

So how does mobility work fit in with your workout?
The new mobility exercises are cool in their own way… because the range you achieve is also creating active strength. Functional mobility is really a new range of strength… in other words, bigger, better, stronger movement.

Working mobility with function activates all the muscles that have “turned off” during the day…. from sitting at a desk to the drive from work… engaging the deep muscle needed to perform deep squats and heavy deadlifts with rock-solid stability and maximum torque.

Best practices in functional mobility…
Functional Movement Screens designed by Gray Cook have become the standard in identifying mobility problems. Performing basic movement patterns, the screens identify missing range of motion. The lack of range relates to specific muscles that need addressed with mobility work. 

Fusionetics is another system that looks at your biomechanics (how your body moves) and puts together the ideal program for getting back to and/or staying in peak condition. Dr. Mike Clark is responsible for this program popular with pro athletes.

The mobility work that Starrett espouses uses resistance (self-applied or with bands) against a lengthened muscle. This technique utilizes eccentric force to build greater mobility …. something research has deemed to be more effective than stretching alone.

STANDINGFIRM® pairs mobility work together with functional exercises. Hip Screens identify tight muscle fiber in the glutes, hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors. Using resistance bands and a weighted rotational plate, the system lengthens tight muscles in the hip while you perform functional exercises to improve hip mobility.

The future of mobility training looks good.

Mobility training is not a fad… in fact, look for it to be a major player on the fitness scene. The good news is the industry is getting smarter and functional fitness just got a new best friend.

External Hip Rotation Makes or Breaks Your Squat

By Donna Snow

External hip rotation is your best bet to activating the glute muscles for a deeper, more stable squat. But in addition to being critical in squatting, external rotation is also critical to rotational sports like baseball and even in propelling you forward when you walk. In other words, rotation or lack of it affects all movement.

But back to the squat… the reason it’s hard to get our hips to externally rotate is because we’re so tight… mostly from sitting too much.The muscles that act on the hip joint, the glutes in particular tighten up and can’t work at 100%. But as Christian Anto of Elitefts points out, external rotation is not simply angling your feet out.

Even a good understanding of “screwing your feet into the ground” can be impossible to do if the diagonal glute fiber is inhibited. Inhibited (tight) muscle fiber can’t contract and restricts rotation.

If you want to check if your hip joint can even rotate properly… simply draw a chalk line with 45 degree angle on each side. You should be able to keep your hips or pelvis still and freely rotate the leg (knee and foot in line with leg) to the 45 degree line in both directions.

Chances are you are tight in internal rotation (counterclockwise) or rotation toward the mid-line of the body. Most people are. If you correct this problem the glutes will fire at full power.

If you’re interested in a device to improve hip mobility STANDINGFIRM® is the way to go. Taking the “screw cue” literally, the weighted rotational plate and resistance bands lengthen and load the tight glute fiber to release and activate it.

The rotational resistance supplies an isometric contraction to jumpstart the inhibited glute fibers. You’ll notice a difference immediately because the rotational range of motion will open up.

When inhibited muscle fiber is activated with targeted stretching or with targeted rotational loading the range of motion will increase and you will be able to deep squat with perfect form.

Angles.. Key to Athletic Success in Sports and in the Gym

By Donna Snow

Angles…. every sport has them. Learn how to master the use of angles and you’ll have the key to athletic success.

You only need to watch a football game and see a defender in pursuit of a ball carrier to realize the “angle of pursuit” can make the difference between a tackle or a touchdown. Hockey, a sport ruled by angles, is another example.  Passing the puck to a wing takes skill and judgement in order to send the puck at just the right angle to reach a forward moving player.

In a fast paced game you might not notice the angles. The same can be said about a typical workout in the gym… angles are rarely considered but exist in every thing you do.

In the gym vertical force is king. Vertical force is governed by gravity and is easy to set up with “free weights” like dumbbells. Bodyweight exercises also rely on gravity to supply force to the muscles.

To work the the angles you need a diagonal force.  That’s when equipment like resistance bands comes in handy. Resistance bands aren’t subject to gravity… instead work by stretching and following the path of motion… even when it’s a diagonal.

Consider a traditional squat, the weighted bar supplies the force…. dictated by gravity. Gravity will pull straight down to strengthen the vertically-oriented muscle fiber.  But can you see the angles?  Muscle fiber that is off-center from the vertical line needs a force that comes in at an angle.  That’s where torques come into play.

angles in the gym

The muscle fiber that is diagonally oriented not only stabilizes but also adds to the overall strength and mobility of the joint.  Working the angles prepares the body for the forces of the game and life.  When you hit the angles directly with resistance you reach muscle fiber that gravity misses.

Standing Firm® is a piece of equipment that creates diagonal force… making it easy to set-up angles that reach every direction force comes across the body.

Add diagonals to your workout and discover what you’ve been missing in your pursuit of fitness.


Chronic Hamstring Tightness Resolved with Simple Exercise Tweak

By Donna Snow

Chronic hamstring tightness plagues anyone who sits for hours.  The hip muscles adapt to a shortened resting position which requires more work to lengthen than traditional stretching can resolve. BUT…by adding a simple isometric contraction to your stretch, you can reboot the muscle fiber and restore the hips to their natural, balanced resting length.

Chronic tightness results from deep fiber in the belly of the muscle losing the ability to contract.  When the deep fiber doesn’t contract it can’t send the necessary sensory information to the brain.  In other words… the message to lengthen and contract never gets to the brain.

So the question is… How do you reach the deep muscle fiber?

Co-contraction is the answer.  The stretch has to go through two different layers of muscle fiber to release the sensory information.  In order for the exercise to co-contract (the alpha and gamma motor neurons in the muscle fiber) a stretch plus force must be applied.

Lengthening + Loading

Stretching plus an isometric muscle contraction reaches the deeper fibers and releases a sensory signal from the muscle spindles to the brain.

That’s why chronic muscle tightness is a neuromuscular issue… it requires both the nervous system with sensory information and the muscular system with applied force.

Isometric force is applied by resisting movement while remaining in the same position.. putting your hands together and pressing them inward is an example of an isometric force. Isometric contractions can be added to traditional stretches .

  • Assume the position to stretch the hamstrings
  • Reach your chest toward your outstretched leg
  • Create an isometric contraction in the hamstring by pulling the toes forward and tightening the hamstring muscle
  • Release and stretch again

Standing Firm® uses neuromuscular science to resolve hamstring tightness. The patented system adds both rotational length and torque force to restore the hip muscle’s natural contractile ability.

To co-contract the deep muscle of the hip with Standing Firm®, utilize the rotational plate to “preload” the muscle.

  • Preloading co-contracts the deep muscle fiber of the hamstring muscle which sends a signal to the brain to reset the muscle length.

When you combine isometrics with stretching the result is… improved balance in the hip for greater stability and improved loading in the muscle for greater strength.