Toe Pulls. What are they? Who knows, but they sure seem to be helpful. Seriously though, toe pulls, one of the Z-Health high payoff dynamic mobility drills, have recently been added to the Ambition Athletics group training general warm up but also to several of those for personal training clients. This drill seems to help many people in many different ways. From improving shoulder mobility (believe it) to better hip movement and toe touches. For some more insight into what Z-Health actually is and why these things work click here.
This summer I worked with a college football player. He informed me that he had suffered from shin splints since high school. One cause of shin splints can be overuse or simply doing too much too soon. We took it pretty easy as far as accumulating a lot of distance throughout the week via agility and sprint drills but sure enough the shin splits returned during the middle of the summer. This athlete is now back at school and in full football camp mode but currently with no shin splints. The only thing that we changed in his program was the addition of slightly more barefoot time and toe pulls. Did one or both of these things help? I’m not entirely sure. Are toe pulls magic? Maybe. What I can say is that for a small investment in time and very little effort this drill can potentially have a great return.
I can personally say that each time I do toe pulls, especially on the left side where I have some hip internal rotation deficit (HIRD), I feel a release and better mobility through that hip. I can also say that this was not always the case. Many of the Z-Health drills take practice. They are to be learned and done with precision, which certainly isn’t the case with much of the mindless and dare I say useless, stretching that the average gym-goer does as a warm up. Here is a quote from the Z-Health, R Phase Cert Notebook:
“As an example, when you are doing middle toe pulls, your target is the 2nd or middle cuneiform joints of the foot. If you do the toe pulls, while ignoring all the details and feel the stretch down in your toes as opposed to the target area, you will NOT get the same benefits from the exercise. While this is a simple concept, many trainers overlook it!”
Inside = Navicular Neural Connection = Psoas
Middle = Cuneiform Neural Connection = Hip Flexor (Rectus Femoris)
Outside = Cuboid Neural Connection = Gluteus Medius
“Tension on the foot is directed by leg angle behind the body. Some clients will need to have the leg farther back – others will need it closer to the stance foot.”
This is an example of a middle toe pull position. Once you can find your target area, while staying tall, perform 3 small knee bends with the stance leg to increase the stretch of the target area. Then switch to the outside and inside positions by simply shifting your foot across and away from the mid-line respectively and again perform 3 short knee bends. Again this is not easy to do right off the bat but can be done with practice and some coaching. Perhaps I will post a how to video in the near future. For further insight as to how this works check the video below.
– Mike Baltren