Move of the Week: Lying Heel Press
The lying heel press serves two important purposes. It strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, and lower-back muscles, and it also lengthens the hip flexors.
Hip flexors attach from the lower back (lumbar vertebrae) to the front of the thigh. They are responsible for flexing the hip. To flex your hip, bring your knee toward your chest.
Think about how often we flex our hips throughout the day. Every time we sit down at our desk or drive a car, we are flexing our hips for extended periods of time.
These lifestyle habits can lead to tight hip flexors. Any movement or exercise that lengthens or extends the hips will counterbalance the overdominant flexion movements found in society today. If you know you are prone to tight hip flexors, add this movement into your routine.
By strengthening the glutes and hamstrings, we can reduce the amount of load placed on the lower back (which tends to get overworked when the hip flexors are too tight, and the backs of the legs are too weak). Muscular imbalance easily leads to strain or injury.
Lie face down on the floor with your hands overlapping just under your chin.
Gently press your pubic bone toward the mat. This action will eliminate any overarching through the lower back and assist your lower abs to engage.
Bend your right knee until your foot is facing the ceiling.
Flex your foot to help activate hamstring and glute recruitment.
Inhale to prepare. Exhale as you press your foot toward the ceiling. Inhale as you lower it down.
Repeat up to 12 times on each side. Eventually you can try to press both feet at the same time.
To avoid the tightening of your neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles, concentrate on keeping this area of your body relaxed and soft.
Keep your foot parallel to the ceiling in order to get a deep a connection to your hamstrings and glutes. To help your glutes engage, squeeze them together as tightly as possible.
This movement is meant to be slow and controlled. Stay focused on squeezing the back of the legs and stretching the front of the legs. It is a wonderful exercise for aligning your pelvis.
Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.