Here’s a way to test to see if your friend’s core is working properly:
Have your friend lie prone on the floor (face down). She can rest her head on her hands. Watching carefully, tell your friend to lift a leg toward the ceiling. Don’t tell her how to do this. Just say, “lift your right leg up off the floor.” Notice carefully how she does this. Have her keep repeating this motion until you’ve assessed all other body parts in this experiment. It helps to have more than one set of eyes.
Now here are some questions:
1. Did the leg go up and stay straight or did she bend her knee?
2. Did her butt go up in the air first?
3. Did she move her knee out to the side or up toward the torso first?
4. Which muscles fired first? The correct order is: glutes (butt), hamstrings (back of thigh), opposite lower back, same side lower back, opposite side upper back, same side upper back, and lastly, the neck. It’s okay if the hamstrings fired first followed by the butt (glutes), but not if the glutes never fire at all.
How can you tell if a muscle is firing? You’ll see it tighten and bunch up or move the body part it was intended to move.
Of course, it makes sense that the glutes should fire first because they are the hip extenders. And moving the leg up off the floor in this position is extending the hip joint (not flexing it).
The worst possible scenario (most pathological) is firing the neck muscles first. Move the head up off the floor to lift the leg? It doesn’t make sense logically or physiologically, but people do it. I worked with an 11 y.o. girl who did this. And it’s a red flag that the core is not working properly.
No matter the outcome of this test, cue your friend to engage her abdominals by scooping them up and in and then lift the leg and see if there’s a difference. Then cue your friend to engage the pelvic floor (tiny Kegel) and try again. Did that make a difference?
Try this out with all your friends and yourself, too, and report back. 🙂