We all know the action for a grand battement or développé to the front is at the hip. The hip flexors, the quadriceps and iliopsoas muscles, are the prime movers for this movement. If you’d like to reread a post on how to get higher extensions, click here
There is a real challenge to the lower backs of students who don’t have the mobility at the hips to keep the spine aligned. Let’s watch the clip below.
Did you notice the lower back rounding as she lifted the leg forward? That’s where the lumbar spine is taking over for the hips, trying to get that leg up higher. If this habit is allowed to continue over time, that lumbar spine, which should be providing stability for this movement is going to become vulnerable. If you have a student who says their lower back is aching after doing a lot of battements, you should suspect this pattern.
To help this student I would work on their hip mobility. Remember mobility and stability include motor control. Just because someone looks flexible and can do the splits, for example, doesn’t mean they will execute an extension or battement correctly.
Try this quick test. Have them lie on their back, both legs extended and then lift one leg up towards the ceiling.
You are checking where they can take the leg without influencing the spine. They should keep the normal small curve in the lower back and NOT press their low back into the ground.
Watch for the leg that should stay resting on the ground and make sure the knee isn’t starting to bend slightly and left. This can be very subtle (unlike the bottom picture where it is pretty clear that the left knee is starting to bend.
You do not have to have the foot flexed as you lift it up as I have shown in this picture. A relaxed foot is fine, but the knee should not bend.
See how high they can lift their leg without compromising any other joints. If it is below 90 degrees when alignment shifts you can focus on increasing the flexibility of the hip extensors (hamstrings) and hip flexors (quads and iliopsoas). I say it that way because if the knee bends on the lower leg they could be lacking flexibility to the hip flexors. If the moving knee bends too quickly, hamstrings could be lacking flexibility.
If they can easily do the movement with both legs staying straight and the spine staying in neutral – the challenge might be in the ability of the abdominals to stabilize the movement of the leg and/or a sequencing or motor control challenge.
If you want to learn more about how to assess mobility and stability, please check out my online course, Mobility and Stability Training: Foundations of Functional Movement.
To your success!