Lets get it straight, these are hard work and cause many reasonable athletes many difficulties. Make sure you use the right progression (laid out below).
There’s no shame in buggering these up at first, but let’s just try and know why so we can stay safe and keep getting better. Common ways you people mess 'em up:
YOU GOT NO BALANCE – A pretty tricky exercise this one if you have poor balance! A simple fix: use something to hold onto while you’re getting the hang of it. Just try to ensure it doesn’t effect the mechanics of the move. The better you get, the less you’ll need to hold on.
YOU KICK THE FLOOR…(so, you just can’t do it… yet) – This is half the point of this one. It takes a decent amount of strength and control to be able to come back up without tapping or kicking the floor with the back foot. If you can’t do it, you’re either making one of the mistakes below, or you’re just not strong enough, YET. Keep going, you’ll be mighty chuffed when you master it. I’ve had many clients who have taken months to achieve this on one leg, and even longer on the other. That’s because it’s damn hard to do from the floor, (not because I’m a bad trainer, so I like to think!).
YOU CRASH DOWN – if you didn’t initiate the decent though the Hip Flexor, if you have no balance, or if you just lose focus and mess up, you may land too heavily. This is obviously no good, especially if you don’t have enough padding to land on.
To fix – Concentrate better; hold onto something if you need to; make sure you keep your weight forward and bum back on the way down; focus on hovering just off the mat before you touch it; and make sure you fully understand the mechanics… your front knee should stay pretty much in place, try to move at the hip and let the body hinge forwards.
YOU GOT NO TIMING – You should feel like you initiate the drive up with a lean forward, a reach from the hands, and all importantly by pushing your bum back and STAMPING DOWN through the front heal. It sounds a lot, but it’s not once you’ve processed it. If you get the mechanics wrong, you’ll have no where near the strength you should have.
YOUR KNEE AND HIP SLIDE FORWARD AS YOU INITIATE THE DRIVE UP – This often happens when people have a fundamental lack of understanding of what should be going on. Read the above very carefully and practice s l o w l y and mindfully. Use a high mat until you master the timing.
YOUR KNEE CAVES IN – This is a very common problem with most compound leg strength moves, particularly squats. The fix is not simple. Not always anyway. If your knee caves and instead of staying in line with your hip and foot, it will make you weaker and put you at risk of injury.
The fix: The first part is the motor control. Make sure you’re aware of the problem, and consciously try and keep the knee out, particularly through the most difficult part of the move… usually the drive up.
The second part is to find the route of the problem. This often means you need to strengthen your Glutes in a whole load of ways, but also might mean getting an expert to check your mechanics.
YOU ROUND YOUR SPINE CONSISTENTLY – Ideally we want to do this with a ‘neutral spine’, with the lean forwards coming from a slight hinging at the hips. If we round the spine, we may struggle to get as much movement from the hips as we do with straighter spine. Use this exercise to practice keeping your spine still and moving from your hips.
That being said, unlike a loaded exercise (with a weight), as long as you have no back trouble, you don’t need to be as strict with these. Strive for ‘straight’ back, but don’t stress it if you round a bit while learning.