Touching your toes without bending your knees is a fundamental movement pattern. When I ask patients and athletes to do this at our PT clinic I often hear “I haven’t been able to do that in years!” or “I’ve never been able to touch my toes!” Though this may be true it may not be for the reasons you think.
Most people think that not being able to touch their toes means they have tight hamstrings or a stiff low back and though this may be the case, these problems may be more a symptom than a cause. What we are looking for with a toe touch is a posterior weight shift in the hips. That means your hips need to shift backward as you bend forward. If you can’t do this your body recognizes the fact that if you bend forward you will fall over so it sends a message to the muscles in the hamstrings and lower back to “put on the brakes” and tighten up preventing you from bending all the way forward.
You can picture how big a problem this can be if you’re in the backyard gardening, bending forward, and your back and hamstrings are constantly trying to pull you out of that forward bend position. In athletics that posterior weight shift is critical for proper form and to generate power for maximal performance.
A simple exercise to work on this is a wall sit back. Stand about 6 inches from a wall facing away from it. Bend forward to touch your toes and as you do sit back until your rear end just touches the wall. As you get better at the posterior weight shift you will be able to move out further from the wall.
At Complete Game we use the toe touch as part of our screening assessment with patients and it is also part of our wellness screens for those who come to us to avoid injury in the first place. Here is our demonstration of the toe touch screen.
We are here to help! For more info on our wellness screens or other services contact us at 978-710-7204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.