The stork 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!
There are a couple keys to properly executing the stork exercise:
- The stance leg (leg on the ground) is the one doing all 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 drive your hip on the wall up and into the wall. This will cause your hips on your stance leg to be relatively lower than the one in the wall.
In terms of programming, use it as a glute activation warm up prior to getting into my more dynamic exercises like jumping (READ: Plyometric Jump Training Progressions). I usually go 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!
The Stork Exercise a.k.a The Captain Morgan
This stork exercise is one of my Favorites for improving hip stability (READ: Improve Your Hip Stability With Prehab) The Glute Medius 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 fascititis. (Ireland et al. 2003, Robinson et al. 2007, Cichonowski et al. 2007).
For this exercise first 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 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 that should fatigue first! Go ahead and try this out, it is much more difficult than it looks!
Stork with a Swissball
The stork exercise, if done properly, is one of the best GLUTE 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. Heres 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 GLUTS 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
We’re big advocates of the stork exercise, or Captain Morgan, exercise for GLUTE PRIMING. 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!