If you’re like most of us humans, you’re going to spend a pretty large amount of time using your legs to get from Point A to Point B. They’re quite good at that, if you teach them to be.
As others have mentioned before, there’s not really a reason to have a major leg injury, barring traumatic impact. If you hurt your leg doing day-to-day or sport-specific activities, that’s a clear sign that you haven’t spent enough time teaching your legs how to work like legs.
Let’s dig in a bit and learn how to get those legs back on track.
What Are Legs For?
I want to avoid the whole idea of movement patterns entirely. More and more motor control research shows that there is no real “pattern” of movement. There’s no “lunge” program stored in the brain. Every time we move, it’s unique; your own special squat snowflake.
Let’s zoom out a bit from the outdated pattern approach, and ask the more general question: What are legs for? By and large, they’re there to move us (with or without loads) in three dimensions across varied terrain. They have to handle a huge burden of mobility if we want them to be up to speed. Your toes need to be able to flex and extend, spread and squeeze. Your ankles need to flex and extend, turn in and out, and rotate. Knees are made to bend and straighten, as well as manage a bit of torque. And hips are capable of huge ranges of motion.
When you add these variables together, we have a complex adaptive system that thrives on variety (just like the rest of your body). Now before we spin off into overcomplicating things, we can say that most of our movements are there to manage the ever-present force of gravity.
Get Down (and up) With Your Bad Self
If you’ve been around the block, you’ve likely heard about the infamous test looking at mortality and the ability to sit and stand unassisted.1 Essentially, the subjects showed a 21% increase in mortality from all causes for each additional point of support they needed.
A word of caution in the name of scientific literacy: this does not mean that being able to get up and down without hands will make you immortal. Or even—counterintuitively—live longer. What it means is that folks who maintain the ability to get up and down unassisted probably do a whole lot of other healthy things as well. Let’s not get carried away here.
However, immortality pipe dreams aside, we can use a variety of get ups to prepare our legs to handle more loads with more ease. Most of us are familiar with the Turkish get up. It covers a lot of bases, but it’s far from the only way to make your way up and down from the floor. In natural movement, we use several progressions to build better legs. These can be included as part of a dynamic warm up or used as a training stimulus all on their own. The following video will give you some food for thought:
More on the benefits of movement variety:
1. de Brito, Leonardo Barbosa Barreto, Djalma Rabelo Ricardo, Denise Sardinha Mendes Soares de Araújo, Plínio Santos Ramos, Jonathan Myers, and Claudio Gil Soares de Araújo. “Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality.” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (2012): 2047487312471759.