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 the 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 of 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 move your stance leg away from the wall, 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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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!

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runners knee the prehab audio experience

 

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, and maintain a good squat position. 

 

Don’t Make These Mistakes With Your Banded Glute Exercises

 

Standing Clam – Wall Supported

Sample Hip [P]rehab Program Exercise Video

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, and maintain a good squat position.

 

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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.

 

Take Ownership Of Your Hip Health

Hip Prehab Program the prehab guys bridge exercises

To go from stepping to sitting we can thank the 27 muscles that cross the hip joint for their work. After thanking them, we should also thank your core, knees, feet, and really the rest of your movement system as they work together on a team to create movement. Perhaps, the best way to thank them is by giving them what they desire: strength and power!

 

About The Author

Michael Lau, PT, DPT, CSCS

[P]rehab Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer

As a licensed physical therapist with a strong background in strength and conditioning, Michael likes to blend the realms of strength training and rehabilitation to provide prehab, or preventative rehabilitation, to his patients. A common human behavior is to address problems after they become an issue and far often too late, which is a reactionary approach. He believes the key to improved health care is education and awareness. This proactive approach-prehab-can reduce the risk of injuries and pain in the first place. He is a huge proponent of movement education and pain science. Clinically, he has a special interest in ACLR rehab and return to sport for the lower extremity athlete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

About the author : Michael Lau PT, DPT, CSCS

8 Comments

  1. Maggie May 30, 2018 at 9:57 am

    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 June 8, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      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!

  2. Kaitlyn Shultz June 27, 2018 at 6:45 am

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

    • Michael Lau June 27, 2018 at 1:55 pm

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

  3. John November 30, 2018 at 11:25 am

    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 December 7, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      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!

  4. Kathleen M Riegel April 25, 2019 at 5:14 am

    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 May 12, 2019 at 8:52 am

      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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