How To Safely Build Hip/Leg Strength Even With An Injury

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In this post I cover how you can use a traditional yoga horse stance as a way to safely build strength and stability for the lower body.

This is especially important because in jiu-jitsu you can quite often be banged up physically. You don’t want your supplementary work to cause any more unnecessary damage, but rather it should build you up.

If you’re recovering from a lower body injury to your knee or hip, dynamic movement such as traditional squats (even the bodyweight variety) can leave room for irritation of those joints depending on the severity of your injury.

Safe Exercise for Injury

Isometric strength holds such as the horse stance are a safe and effective way to build strength and stability throughout the body. By not moving we are building even more tension that will help to “hold” your “damaged” areas in a more structurally sound position.

If you’re recovering from an injury or want to minimize risk of future injury, isometrics movements such as this are a safe and effective way to work an area without pounding the joints with extra movement. It’s movement that causes injury most of the time, while holding a stable isometric position has minimal to no risk of injury!

Stillness and Strength

Stillness and isometric strength go hand in hand. Moving brings in the variables of MOMENTUM and ACCELERATION (aka POWER). This is where injury occurs. With stillness and tension it’s literally impossible. You’re creating armor for your joints and actually developing MORE FORCE than you could while performing a dynamic movement. It also brings great circulation to the area.

Circulation and Bloodflow

As a warmup, the horse stance is truly a warming exercise as it increases circulation and neural drive for the body as a result of targeting the core and lower half so intensely. Especially if dynamic movements like squats tweak your body as I mentioned above, this is as best of an alternative you can find.

Also, an overlooked part of this pose is that with increased circulation comes more oxygen. Circulation brings oxygen to the tissues, which as a result helps heal and strengthen areas. Oxygen is a miraculous healing agent, and when coupled with proper breathing, we can supercharge our body’s uptake and usage of this valuable resource.

Proper Breathing for This Posture

As I’ve covered in this video, you should practice the “breathe light to breathe right” sequence while performing this exercise.

The cues are as follows:

  • As you breath through nose on inhale belly pushes outwards
  • On the exhalation through the nose, the belly comes back in towards the spine
  • Focus on making every breath smaller than the last
  • At the bottom of each exhale focus on making the pause between the exhale and your next inhalation even longer.
  • We’re building CO2 tolerance by taking smaller breaths and holding the exhale longer

Cues for the Horse Stance

  • Wide base, well beyond shoulder width
  • Keep feet roughly straight but no more than 30 to 45 degrees of turn out
  • Drop weight, driving knees out, keep an erect stance
  • Simultaneously push into the ground while pulling spine upwards
  • As I show in the video play with different hand placements but always focus on keeping them engaged and strong in order to create more full body tension!

Final Considerations on the Horse Stance

I sincerely hope you embrace the odd looks you’ll get from people when performing this exercise, because it will inevitably happen. But remember, anyone who ever does anything of note in their lives at one point or another did things that looked crazy to the untrained eye.

I normally joke that whatever you see others doing in a gym setting you should do the opposite. This movement would definitely fit into that category. So train differently so you can perform and move in an optimal fashion.

Until next time, stay mobile friends!

I cover more performance training tidbits with my ebook “The Foundations of Movement Autonomy, Vitality, and Performance” that will help you prepare, recover, and perform better on the mats!


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