stork exercise variations the prehab guys

Stork Exercise Variations For Gluteus Medius Activation

The stork exercise (also referred to as the captain morgan exercise), is one of our all-time favorites for gluteus medius activation and neural priming prior to exercise. Not only is it already in a functional weight-bearing position, but you can ramp up as much activation as you want by pushing harder and harder into the wall. Follow along in this article as we show you stork exercise variations for gluteus medius activation, as well as other wall-supported hip exercises!

 

How To Properly Execute The Stork Exercise

There are a couple of keys to properly executing the stork exercise:

  • The stance leg (leg on the ground) is the one doing almost all of the work

 

  • Drive your foot into the ground and squeeze your glutes to push into the wall

 

  • Think of your hips as a tetter-totter. You’ll want to drive your hip that is on the wall up and into the wall as well. This will cause your hip on your stance leg to be relatively lower than the one in the wall.

 

In terms of programming, the stork exercise is excellent as a glute activation warm up prior to getting into my more dynamic exercises like jumping. Aim for 2-3 sets of 30-45s holds. That’s all you need! Shown below are a couple of our favorite variations to the exercise, from easiest to most advanced. Give them a shot!

READ: MUSCLE ACTIVATION EXERCISES PRIOR TO TRAINING

muscle activation prior to training prehab guys

 

The Stork Exercise a.k.a The Captain Morgan

This stork exercise is one of our favorites for improving hip stability. The Glute Med wall lean will mimic the single-leg stance required for functional movements such as walking, ambulating on stairs, or running. When the Gluteus Medius is weak it can lead to injuries such as IT band syndrome, medial knee pain, trochanteric bursitis, low back pain, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis. (Ireland et al. 2003, Robinson et al. 2007, Cichonowski et al. 2007).

For this exercise, start with your feet about hip-width apart. With your knee closest to the wall elevate and push your knee into the wall so that your hip is not touching the wall. Avoid leaning over towards your stance limb, this is tricky because at the same time you want to avoid leaning too far towards the wall allowing your shoulder to touch the wall. Basically, allow your trunk to remain in the neutral position you would be in if you were to stand. The further you walk out your stance leg, the more difficult this exercise will get. Although you are also strengthening the leg that is pushing up against the wall, the stance limb is the one doing most of the work and it should fatigue first! Go ahead and try this out, it is much more difficult than it looks!

 

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The Hip [P]Rehab Program is a physical therapist developed, step-by-step program that teaches you how to optimize your hip health. This 3-phase program will expose you to various hip and lower body strengthening and stabilization exercises supported by science. This program will bulletproof your hips for anything life throws at you! Learn more HERE! 

 

Stork with a Swissball

The stork exercise, if done properly, is one of the best gluteus medius exercises out there. You will feel it instantly! Adding a dynamic component, as shown in the video above, can even further progress this exercise. Here’s how to properly perform a stork: use as small of a swissball as possible.

Place the swissball against the wall and place your distal thigh/knee against it, not your hip. Do not lean your entire bodyweight into the wall. Let your pelvis drop by rolling the swissball down. Then, contract and fire your glutes on your stance leg on the ground, driving your pelvis up and rolling the swissball towards the sky.

The motion that should be occurring should be your pelvis rocking side to side in the frontal plane…“shake those hips!” Hold for an isometric contraction for a few seconds before repeating. The stronger/more you fire your glutes, the harder the exercise becomes…so don’t go easy on yourself! Let us know how it feels!

 

Storks for Runners

Once you can properly perform the stork, try implementing a little bit of sport specific movement into the exercise! Here, I’m trying my best to replicate the biomechanics at the hip for a runner. The glutes are our primary controller of frontal plane motion in running. During loading response (when you strike the ground), your glutes need to eccentrically control your femur moving into flexion. As you progress over your foot, it requires the glutes to concentrically move the femur into extension. Just have fun with movement!

LISTEN: RUNNERS KNEE WITH [P]REHAB

runners knee the prehab guys stork exercise

 

Single Leg Calf Raise – Captain Morgan

Sample Running [P]Rehab Program Exercise Video

  • HOW: Get set-up into a football Heisman position using a wall and a swiss ball between your knee and the wall. While maintaining this position and pressure into the ball against the wall, lift up on your toes with the leg that is on the ground. As you do this, lean into the wall and push into the ball as hard as you can with your other leg. Return to starting position and repeat.

 

  • FEEL: You will feel your calf, thigh, and butt muscles working on the leg that is in contact with the ground. You will also feel your hip and butt muscles on the side that is pushing against the ball against the wall.

 

  • COMPENSATION: Do not drop the ball, do not lean away from the wall or lean back, try to not let your knee bend on the side that is performing the heel raise. 

 

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running prehab program the prehab guys stork exercise

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Looking For More Wall Supported Hip Exercises?

Let us take you through some more excellent wall supported hip exercises!

Standing Hip Abduction – Wall Supported

Stand with a wall in front of you. Place your hands on the wall about shoulder height and slightly lean into it. Begin with your feet together. Shift your weight to one side as you kick one leg out straight to the side. Repeat on the other side for the prescribed amount of reps. You should feel your hip muscles working. Don’t lean too far forward. Kick your leg straight to the side, not forwards or backward.

 

Standing 3 Way Hip

Having the band at your ankles makes this exercise more challenging versus having the band above your knees, due to the increase in moment arm of the hip. This simply means that the band is further away from the hips by being placed at the ankles versus the knees, so the hip muscles must work harder to complete the specific movements in this exercise.

 

Make Sure You Are Performing Sidesteps The Right Way!

 

Lateral Load and Lift

Sample Hip [P]Rehab Program Exercise

Start one hand against a wall. Push into the wall with your hip, knee, and ankle. This is your starting position. Slowly bend your hip, knee, and ankle to “load” your leg. Then, explosively push away into the wall. You should feel the side of your hip working hard to push into the wall. Adjust how far away from the wall you stand to make sure it feels natural.

 

Standing Clam – Open Stance

Get a band set-up around and above your knees, then get a ball set-up between one knee and the wall while holding a squat position with the side further away from the wall in an open stance position. While maintaining pressure into the ball against the wall so that it doesn’t drop, perform a clam exercise by rotating the hip/knee out on the side that is not touching the ball. Go as far as you can, hold for a moment, then slowly come back in and repeat.

You will feel the outside of your hip muscles and butt muscles working on both sides, you may also feel your thigh muscles working too. Do not let the ball drop, do not arch your back, maintain a good squat position. 

 

Standing Clam – Wall Supported

Get a band set-up around and above your knees, then get a ball set-up between one knee and the wall while holding a squat position. While maintaining pressure into the ball against the wall so that it doesn’t drop, perform a clam exercise by rotating the hip/knee out on the side that is not touching the ball. Go as far as you can, hold for a moment, then slowly come back in and repeat.

You will feel the outside of your hip muscles and butt muscles working on both sides, you may also feel your thigh muscles working too. Do not let the ball drop, do not arch your back, maintain a good squat position.

 

Closing Thoughts

The stork exercise is an excellent way to prime your hips prior to more functional movements. Mix it up and add in variations as you become more comfortable with this movement. Be intentional with your muscle contractions and really focus on that glute activation! As you first start this exercise, it is often beneficial to focus on prolonged contractions to gain the mind-body connection, thus enhancing the ability for that muscle to contract more readily with functional activities.

 

Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

8 Comments
  • Maggie
    Posted at 09:57h, 30 May Reply

    Have a question about the stork with a swissball and how the foot is externally rotated? Would that cause some adduction during the swing phase in running and promote valgus of the knee?

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 16:28h, 08 June Reply

      I don’t think we meant to exernally rotate the foot during the exercise! But in general if the “external rotation” at the foot is due to arch collapse, it could definitely affect the knee up the change and cause percieved valgus in running. Hope that helps!

  • Kaitlyn Shultz
    Posted at 06:45h, 27 June Reply

    Love this, thanks for posting these! It has helped me with a current patient and many more to come.

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 13:55h, 27 June Reply

      Awesome!! Happy to hear that it has helped you and your patients kaitlyn, thats our goal!!

  • John
    Posted at 11:25h, 30 November Reply

    Hi, I just wanted to clarify something in your instructions, “With your knee closest to the wall elevate and push your knee into the wall so that your hip is NOT touching the wall.”

    Essentially, should the knee towards the wall be performing horizontal abduction into the wall while the stance leg is driving force into that leg? As you move further from the wall, the “wall knee” needs to increase its abduction to reach the wall and the moment arm of the stance leg is increased, thereby increasing demand on the stance leg?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 17:01h, 07 December Reply

      Yes! So drive into the wall ONLY using the stance leg. naturally, your up leg will have to push harder to counterbalance. But the exercise is really for the STANCE leg. Try it out!

  • Kathleen M Riegel
    Posted at 05:14h, 25 April Reply

    This gluteus medius wall lean is great exercise for my situation – both my glute medius’ s were not activating due to weakness and then injury.

    If I do the wall lean before lateral straight leg raises – the pain in one knee going down basement stairs (my “test”) literally disappears.

    If I forget the wall lean, the “stair test” still is positive for knee pain descending.

    Any clue why this is so important/effective vs just doing the lateral straight leg raises? What does it work other than the medius?

    Thanks!

    Kathy

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 08:52h, 12 May Reply

      Hi kathleen,

      It would bee a variety of reasons, but I would guess the fact that the wall lean is closed chain is a huge factor. You are activating not just the glute med, but a TON of other muscles in your leg. in addition, there is a stability component required with that exercise that doesn’t occur with the lateral leg raise, which may carry over into functional tasks better. Hope that helps!

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