What is hovering and holding? As you might suspect, it’s when you take an exercise, stop it at some point, and see if you can hold it there. This is most effective when doing a compound exercise like a bird dog, bridge, or push-up. (see graphics below)
Why do this?
Simple answer: Because your body responds well to this sort of thing.
First, I’ll give you the complicated answer, then a few examples, then a few hovering and holding exercises you can do.
Complicated answer: In order to function efficiently and injury free, our muscles need to be able to do three types of contractions (concentric, eccentric, and isometric) in many different positions. On top of that, our nervous system works with muscles in different ways depending on what you are doing. There are different roles for each muscle, like being an agonist, antagosist, synergist, neutralizer, or stabilizer.
Real Life Example: Let’s say you have lifted your groceries out of your trunk and are carrying them into your house. Your biceps are working hard to keep the bags in your arms because biceps flex (bend) your elbow so you can hang on. The muscles in your chest and shoulders are kicking in to help stabilize your arm, elbow joint and shoulder joint. The muscles in your arm, most notably your biceps and triceps, are in isometric contraction. That means they are working hard but not moving. They are holding.
Example during an exercise program: Let’s say you are asked to stand up and bend one knee so that you have to balance on one foot. No one has given you any specific instruction, and you do it rather casually. After several seconds you lose your balance. BUT if you are told to stand tall, spine extended, shoulders back, chin back, abdominal muscles engaged, it’s a different story. You find that you can stay balanced much longer.
Why? Because by standing tall you are giving your muscles and nerves a chance to work together to keep you there. The main muscles that help you do this are being helped by a bunch of others. It’s actually called “structural efficiency” when that happens. Not only does it help you with the hold, but it also trains your body to be safe and injury free.
Without further adieux, let me give you a few exercises (holds and hovers) that will help you keep your body working together in the way it is meant to.
Bird Dog Two Ways
Get on your 4’s. Extend your right arm out to the front, and your left leg to the back. Keep both parallel to the ground. Stay there! Breathe! Count to 10! Then switch and do the other arm and leg. Notice that this works better if you activate your abdominals, don’t round your back, and keep your spine neutral. Voila!
The other way: Get on your 4’s. Lift your right hand slightly off the floor, and your left knee slightly off the floor. Hover there, hold for 10 seconds, and breathe. Then do the other hand and knee the same way. Keep this efficient, as above.
Bridge Two Ways
Lay on your back, feet on the floor. Arms crossed over your chest. Lift your pelvis up into a bridge. Hold there, breathe, and count to 10. If the muscles on the back of your thigh (hamstrings) cramp up, take a break, and try this again but make sure you are squeezing your butt to keep your hips up.
The other way: Lay on your back, feet on the floor, arms crossed over your chest. Lift your pelvis up into a bridge. Then extend one leg so that it is straight and in line with the thigh of the bent leg. Hover it and hold it there for a count of 10, then do the other leg. Again, if your hamstrings cramp up, take a break and use your butt muscle more for this hold.
Push-Up (not shown)
Get in push up position, arms extended. You can be on the floor, hands on a bench or chair, or even a wall, depending on your strength. Go down into the lowest position you can and hold there for 10 seconds. Breathe. Check your alignment and form, aka, your “structural efficiency”. That means keep your body straight, abdominals engaged, back not rounded or arched.
Any of these can be difficult! You may need to work up to the 10 seconds, and that’s OK.
Feel free to think up other ways that you can use this concept when you are exercising. It’s a very time efficient way to get many of your muscles working together.
Keep moving, holding, and hovering,
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