Over/unders combine flexion, extension, rotation, abduction, and adduction at the ankle, knee, and hip joints while also promoting postural integrity and a neutral spine. Done with a quick tempo, they also get the heart pumping. Today’s Natural Movement workout utilizes these drills and adds some advanced skills to make them even more useful and challenging. I’ve also added a quick, explosive strength and conditioning element to work on power and coordination under fatigue.
I first learned the benefits of over/unders from Jim Radcliffe, long-time Strength and Conditioning Director for the University of Oregon football team, which is famed for working at a quick tempo during games. Coach Radcliffe utilizes the drills as part of his active warm up before football practice. Radcliffe likes to work at a quick tempo to get the team warmed up and practice at game speed. He uses over/under drills to thoroughly mobilize his athletes while also getting them warm.
Moving on a balance beam requires focus and coordination.
Before You Begin
Here are some tips for the advanced movements that are used in the workout.
- Step-Overs: Raise the knee straight up towards your chest as you step over the hurdle (rather than just opening up the hip and swinging it around the hurdle). This will give you a good sense of your active hip mobility and also keep your center of mass more directly over the 2 x 4 you’re standing on.
- Stepping Under: When going under the hurdles on the way back, try to incorporate some rotation in your foot, knee, and hip to maintain better balance and generate more athleticism than simply stepping sideways. Notice how much this rotational movement and ability to drive forward accelerates your motion under an obstacle. Imagine that you’re trying to clear the obstacle and immediately start running after coming out of your squat (with chest facing forward and shoulders square). This should help you find the rotational element of moving from a lateral to a forward-facing position.
- Crawls: Get really long on the board, keep your head above the rest of your body (to better clear the obstacle with confidence and grace), and trust the strength in your feet (flex them powerfully into the board) so that you’re not overcompensating in your upper body and trying to make the crawl a moving push up.
- Jumping: If you’re doing the jumps, you’ve probably already practiced some of my earlier workouts and are feeling more confident landing in a split stance position. The PVC is gold for jumping, as you won’t get hurt by hitting it, and it also won’t trip you up too badly if you clip it going over.
Advanced Movement Drills for Hip Mobility, Balance, and Power
The workout proceeds in order from A1, B, A2, B, A3, B. This is one round. The goal is to do 3-5 rounds of the entire sequence. The variety of moves combined with the constant small conditioning hits make this a more difficult workout, as balance and precision on the beam can begin to deteriorate under fatigue. Please take as much rest as you need to perform the movements well.
- A 2 x 4 (mine is 12 ft. long)
- 3 hurdles of different height (I have used PVC cut to length with a hacksaw and L-joints to make the 90 degree angles)
- Sandbag, medicine ball, or other weighted object you can throw without causing damage
- Step over each of the PVC hurdles while not losing balance, working your way down the board.
- Work on going under two of the hurdles while stepping over the shortest one coming back.
- Try to work on different configurations of stepping over/under each time you complete this part, alternatively leading with left/right legs.
- Clean sandbag (or alternative object) and throw it forward.
- Repeat 2 times.
- Clean/shoulder the sandbag, carry it back to starting point, and set it down.
- Step over the low hurdle, squat down to crawl position, and crawl under both of the higher hurdles.
- Stand at the end of the board, rotate, and drop down to crawl back before standing and stepping over the final hurdle.
- Repeat Part B
- Jump over the three hurdles from a split stance to a split stance landing. Again, try to alternate the lead/back legs to build symmetry in your jumping.
- Repeat Part B
Challenge Your Coordination
This is a great workout that incorporates a wide variety of skills in a short period of time with minimal equipment. Commit to doing some of these multi-skill exercises on your humble 2 x 4, and you’ll be amazed at your coordination when you test yourself outside of the gym.
More Balance Training from Mark:
- Set the Foundations: Include Balance Drills in Your Workout
- Power, Precision, and Balance: A Triple-Threat Kettlebell Workout
- Lateral Training for Athleticism and Injury Prevention
- New on Breaking Muscle Right Now
Photos courtesy of Mark Bixby.