02 Jan Developmental Kinesiology Exercises
This article will use a global approach, via Developmental Kinesiology, to train muscles through purposeful movements. Some of you may know this as “Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization,” (DNS). DNS is originated by Pavel Kolar, who was known as one of the best student of the legend Vlademir Janda. The basis of DNS is on developmental kinesiology; that in early childhood your movement pattern is automatic, predictable, and genetically formed as the nervous system matures.
This article will give you a global approach to exercising taking advantage of the pre-programmed postures we possess, in order to improve the quality of movement patterns. Often times we get stuck in this flexed based posture (because the tonic muscles overpower the phasic). We hope this series will address strengthening the phasic (weak) muscles and stretching the tonic (tight) muscles.
If one muscle is dysfunctional, then the whole stabilizing function is disturbed. These exercises will make sure you don’t have a weak link in the kinetic chain and that there is no compromise in the stabilizing system.
“Every Developmental Position is an Exercise Position” –Pavel Kolar
Supine 90/90 position (4.5 month old)
The core muscles are meant to activate prior to purposeful movement in order to establish a stable base. If there is no stable base prior to movement, there will be compensatory mechanisms that typically involve overloaded superficial muscle groups. This can then cause poor movement with improper balance leading to excessive loading of spinal joints, discs, and muscles.
Here is a baby roll focusing on control via the deep core muscles.
First I hold this position statically in 90 degrees of hip and knee flexion, mimicking a 4.5-month-old child. I stabilize in the sagittal plane while keeping my abs contracted. You may do this with or without a ball. The ball is used as a resistance cue making it easier to recruit your core.
Next, I challenge myself in the transverse plane through rotation from side to side, facilitating oblique muscle chain activation.
The second example is a progression using a Theraband to add resistance to challenge the core further.
The third clip uses a D1 and D2 pattern while maintaining a supine 90/90 position.
Note: A chin tuck should be maintained for the entirety of this developmental kinesiology exercise. If you want to challenge your deep neck muscles further, you may hover your head an inch off the ground.
If you want a more comprehensive approach to improving your back pain, check out this article.
High oblique sitting (7.5-month-old)
Oblique sitting corresponds to children who are 7.5 months of age, when the shoulder girdle is strong enough to support this position. Low oblique sitting is when the ipsilateral elbow is on the floor. In this clip my palm is touching the floor with an extended elbow, which is known as high oblique sitting- one of the most commonly performed developmental kinesiology exercises.
This will improve hip external rotation mobility on the contralateral limb while simultaneously addressing ipsilateral hip abduction, scapular stability, and core strength. An additional load can be added via a kettlebell as shown here. This will increase demand of the ipsilateral hip, core, and shoulder to elevate.
Begin this exercise with minimal load while keeping your ipsilateral knee in contact with the floor.
One progression is to elevate your knee off the floor.
You can progress this further by lifting the contralateral limb off the ground and essentially performing a weighted side plank. This will increase the demand on the hip abductors and core musculature.
Note: Make sure to keep the shoulder girdle engaged the entire time by making sure the scapula is pushed out/protracted when elevating.
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Supine to low oblique sit
The body functions as a single unit rather than in segments during any complex movement such as those encountered in sports training and athletic performance. These complex movements require both local and global coordination of the various muscle groups necessary for multi-joint coordination of movement. In the event where stability, mobility and/or balance of these muscle groups becomes compromised, the ability to transfer force efficiently through the trunk to the extremities is often times reduced. Hence, core stabilization has become the key of any training and conditioning program.
Here is an exercise that takes parts from several previous posts. This exercise works ipsilateral shoulder stability, hip abduction, core strength, and contralateral hip abduction strength in open chain.
Note: Make sure to keep the chin tucked and elevated throughout this exercise. This will improve cervical spine stability in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes!
Often times I have seen an individual’s neck musculature be the main limiting factor in this exercise. If this occurs to you don’t be concerned. It simply demonstrates the weak link in the kinetic chain. This is one of my favorite developmental kinesiology movements.
Rotator Cuff strengthening and Rotational Oblique Sit
Once you achieve low oblique sitting, there are a few variations you can add:
The first variation targets both shoulders: one in closed chain contacting the floor, the other in open chain pulling against the resistance band. You may add an additional movement with the arm facing the ceiling such as shoulder external rotation or shoulder flexion as you elevate up.
The next exercise is much more difficult than it appears!
In the low oblique sitting position, reach out first by using your arms and continue to reach further and further away from you. The right humerus is fixed and the glenoid fossa is rotating over the head of the humerus. The left humerus is in open chain and is rotating over a fixed glenoid fossa.
A progression you can make to increase demand of the hip (abductors and external rotators), shoulder girdle, and core musculature is to lift the leg up (as shown here with left leg elevation). Just like the aforementioned exercise, continue to reach and rotate further and further away from you.
“When rehabilitating a rotator cuff impingement of a baseball pitcher, one should not just focus on merely stretching or mobilizing a tight glenohumeral capsule/joint and strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, but one may need to ask the question of “why” the rotator cuff is being impinged. Analysis of the movement pattern (e.g arm elevation or the throwing mechanics) must be performed, in order to determine whether the core stability is adequate and/or if a “weak link” in the kinetic chain is present. Such weak links may include poor scapular dynamic stability, impaired lower extremity mobility, stability and/or proprioception, and poor trunk mobility or stability.”1,2
Check out our exercise library for more exercises!
Bear Crawl (14 month old)
The bear crawl corresponds to a 14-month-old child. Typically this is manifested with 3 points of contact with the floor. However, in this video the bear crawl is progressed to 2 points of contact.
The bear crawl is an excellent exercise to challenge dynamic core stability. When we say core stability, we are talking about the ability to control the torso, which dictates spinal movement. We want to limit the spine from moving excessively during any movement whether it’s flexion, extension, or rotation. Too much spinal movement under heavy loads can result in compensation! Compensation can lead to tissue overuse and injury. Building a stable core is a fundamental prerequisite to lifting heavier weight safely and effectively.
Here we demonstrate how to appropriately progress into a 2-point contact bear crawl.
Begin with 4 points of contact (both hands and feet) with slight knee elevation.
Elevate your arm while maintaining a neutral spine, and then elevate your leg while maintaining a neutral spine. Next, begin to elevate one arm and the contralateral leg; if this is a challenge for you, begin here and perform this exercise in an isometric manner. Once you achieve the isometric hold, you may begin to crawl.
The bear crawl, part of the developmental kinesiology, is also a great exercise because it helps with body awareness. Proprioception (knowing where your joints are in space) is considered another sense of the body, just like smell and taste! Having a good sense of body awareness is key in helping maintain proper form during lifts and exercises. If you are not aware if you are maintaining a neutral spine, you may place a weighted ball on the lumbar spine region as a cue to prevent excessive rotation at the trunk. Make sure you don’t compensate with lumbar lordosis to keep the ball on your back!
Note: Form here is not perfect either! The knees elevate and the trunk rotates slightly during the crawl!
Here is the last exercise of this Developmental Kinesiology Series. Just like the rest of the exercises, this exercise can be used as an assessment or as an intervention to identify and address impairments within the kinetic chain.
This exercise is all-encompassing and will address bilateral scapular, hip, and core stability. It is a particularly beneficial exercise because the line of pull will induce a D2 resistance on the shoulder.
If you would like to make this exercise more anti-rotational on the core, you can elevate only one arm instead of both as it’s shown in the clip.
The idea behind the neuromuscular approach that Janda spoke of is to “train the brain” to maintain control, provide joint stability, and ingrain ideal quality of movement.
Remember: if one muscle is dysfunctional, then the whole stabilizing function is disturbed. These exercises will make sure you don’t have a weak link in the kinetic chain and that there are no compromises in the stabilizing system. Let us know what you think about this series, and if there are any future series you would like us to address.
- Kibler WB. Biomechanical Analysis of the shoulder during tennis. 1995.
- Kibler WB. The role of the scapular in athletic shoulder function. 1998.
- Frank C., Kobesova A., Kolar P. DYNAMIC NEUROMUSCULAR STABILIZATION & SPORTS REHABILITATION. 2013.