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Why Gait Is SO Important To Your Fitness Goals

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, Knees Over Toes Course, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

We often talk about the 7 movement patterns we should be programming into our training but I keep seeing more and more people leave out one of the most important movements. That is locomotion (trust me, if you are thinking of “yea I do carries”, you are going to be surprised by today’s post).

functional strength

Out of the 3000 plus mammals on this planet, humans are the only ones that consistently walk upright. It is an innate human movement pattern that I just see left out of programming or I will hear and see people say they are programming it by placing loaded carries into their workouts and that is where a lot gets left on the table. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with loaded carries but the more you start to understand the movement pattern of locomotion, the more you will appreciate that not everyone is gong to be appropriate for loaded carries. Hopefully you will start to ask if you are you thriving or just surviving the exercises. 

loaded carries

Not everyone that does loaded carries does them well!

I get it, not many people are talking about the programming and breaking down of gait. There is a ton of talk on hinging, squatting, pushing and for forth but very little talk on locomotion. If you don’t know what a good movement is suppose to look like you don’t know where is could go wrong. That is why it’s always important to screen, if you don’t look for it, you don’t know a problem exists. 

Now, don’t bother screening if it’s not going to change anything you do, screens are really meant to guide you. They most importantly tell you want not do. They tell you when you might need to refer out to the appropriate progressional and then they tell you what you need to be focusing on. 

For today I am going to give you two examples of screens I tend look at when I am looking at one’s gait. Obviously I always watch people walk but for todays blog I am going to look at single leg stance and pelvic control.

gait gait

While such a screen may look easy, many people I evaluate struggle with this and tells me a lot about their gait pattern.

At first you might think, that looks too easy, everyone can do that. You would be surprised though. I can’ tell you how many people have walked into my clinic appearing just fine and then I cask them to perform a single limb stance test and they almost fall over. 

Single leg stance is need for gait, we have periods of double limbs and single limb support so we do need the ability to balance on leg. If someone struggles with this screen, I will be focus on more foundational  movement vs loading them up and asking them to perform an exercise like loaded carries. 

Single Leg Stance Screen: 

You don’t need a PhD or to be a therapist to look at gait with more of a critical eye. Simply stand on one leg, can you keep yourself from leaning, rotating, or falling over? Can you hold the posture and position for 30 seconds? If so, you have good baseline balance and stability. Chances are, for many of you or your clients, you will find this to be surprisingly challenging.

Once you have some information about your balance, we can look at how to make you better with some simple Ultimate Sandbag exercises. Even if you have great balance the following exercise ideas will take your training to another level. I am referring to the step-up. I know Ultimate Sandbag exercises like step-ups don’t sound super “cool” but when we put more meaning behind it your mind will change!

No, not that horrible cardio class version, but a very focused strength, stability, and postural exercise. That is, when done right.

When people think of functional fitness, they think of what we really call ADL (activities of daily living). That was my job, not to get people to lift a certain amount, but to get them back to doing high level of ADL. I think of Ultimate Sandbag exercises in the same light.

Stepping up to something is actually a very fundamental part of this. In fact, a stepping test is used for stroke patients and correlated very high to balance and improving ADL.

Now, most of you probably don’t have such an impairment, so how does the step-up help you?

Frontal Plane Stability: Most people are weakest in the frontal plane (side to side) action. That means they reduce their strength, have more likelihood to experience injury, and aren’t efficient with their movement. Typically you will see frontal plane stability issues in individuals with gait and balance dysfunction. 

Foot/Lower Leg Strength: With the popularity of barefoot training I am always surprised when people don’t use exercises that actually force their feet to work. Grabbing the ground with the foot (heck, doing this barefoot is even better), helps us create force from the ground up and we can see issues in the foot and lower leg. This is important as it can impact the knee, hip, low back, and even your shoulder.

Single leg stance or abalone is an important quality that makes up locomotion and can be a way you can start to program the movement pattern. 

Bird Dog Screen: 

The bird dog screen is not only a screen but a powerful exercises as well. A body weight bird dog screen can identify if an individual is lacking pelvic control and core stability. 

Often  times people think bodyweight is where you start people but in actuality it can be very challenging for people as they have no clue what they are suppose to be doing or any idea where their body is in time and space. Often times people need  more feedback especially ones that have more impairment with movement. So we can also take something like a dead bug bird dog and work on pelvic console and core stability, more qualities that make up locomotion but provide appropriate feedback so that individual understands how to create that control and stiffness that is needed.

Now there are many qualities that make up locomotion I just wanted to give you a few simple ways you can started to program this movement pattern into your training. Fontal plane strength and stability along with pelvic control and core stability are a great beginning point. 

You can check out all my screens and find out more on this movement in my Gait course HERE and don’t miss ALL our online education is 30% off this week with code “memorial” HERE