Stupid Micro-bend!

We’ve all been there, right? You’re doing a split or straddling up and you either have to bend your knees or there’s the faintest of a micro-bend in your legs. Your brain lets out a Grrrrrr, not again!!!

And no matter how much you concentrate on your leg intention or pointing your toes from your quads that stupid micro-bend still creeps in.

I feel you. I love the photo above Carey took of me (many moons ago), but that micro-bend, agh it kills me. (Now it’s the only thing you can look at when you look at that photo, I know, me too!)

How can you go about fixing those micro-bends? 

Some of it is you will have to consciously think about your legs and what they are doing, but some of it is you also need to train the muscles that help lift and extend your leg. Once those muscles are strong enough for the action it will become a little less of a conscience thought process to ensure your legs are straight.

First, as a strength coach, I am always going to say that gaining all-around strength will really help you with your circus goals, so please be doing some of that. But I also think there is a time and place for additional strengthening exercises, very specific for the goals you are trying to attain and if getting rid of that stupid micro-bend is one of them, try these exercises below.

Micro-bend Zappers

The main muscles that keeps your legs straight and that micro-bend at bay is your quad, your upper thigh muscle, most specifically your rectus femoris. The reason that it’s so hard to get rid of that micro bend is that the rectus femoris is responsible for straightening your knee and for flexing your hip, meaning bringing your leg close to your body. This quad muscle is doing two jobs at once and both jobs are demanding a lot from that muscle. This is called active insufficiency. Because of this dueling demand, the muscle gets tired, gives up and voila, stupid micro-bend.

So try these next few exercises to strengthen your core and around your hip and knee joints for zapping that micro-bend.

Short Arc and Long Arc Quad Exercise

What you’ll need: Foam roller and a hard, elevated surface that you can sit on that is the height of your knees or taller. If the surface is too low and your knees are more elevated than your hips, this exercise will be much harder-nothing wrong with that, just an FYI and a great way to progress the long arc exercise.

  • For the Short Arc exercise sit tall against a wall, this will ensure that you don’t cheat by leaning back and have other muscles try to do the work.
  • For the Long Arch exercise, sit tall on a chair or bench with your knees just forward of the edge.
  • Contract your core by drawing your pelvic floor up and in and exhale knit your ribs together.
  • Exhale, contract (squeeze) your quad muscle so that your leg(s) straighten(s) and hold for two seconds.
  • Inhale return to starting position.
  • Short arc quad exercise with the foam roller you can do one or both legs at a time, but the long arc exercise should be performed one leg at a time.
  • Suggested reps and sets: 2-3 sets of 10 reps

Hip Flexor Strengthener

What you’ll need: a yoga block (potentially), a wall and a yoga mat or some other surface that provides a little cushion to your knee that’s still on the floor.

  • Come into half kneeling your arms length away from the wall. Place your palms flat on the wall and have a yoga block close by.
  • Make sure your shoulder is stacked over your hip which is stacked over your back knee. 
  • Contract back glute to ensure you maintain your tall posture and you don’t end up forward leaning into some hip flexion. This will be seen because your face will be closer to the wall and you head and shoulders will no longer be stacked over your hip and knee.
  • With your front leg, stack your knee over your ankle.
  • Exhale and press hands firmly into the wall and try to slide them down the wall, but don’t let them actually go anywhere.
  • Keeping your back glute contracted, contract your core by lifting up of your pelvic floor and knitting your ribs together (AKA ribcage depression).
  • Keep that all contracted!
  • Exhale FLOAT your front foot up off the floor lifting that knee up towards your chest. Hold for two seconds before you lower the leg back down.
  • If your foot can lift several inches off the floor, slide that yoga block at the appropriate height between your foot and the floor and lift your knee and foot up off the block.
  • Suggested reps and sets: 2-3 sets of 10 reps

Standing Single Leg Lift Off

What you’ll need: a surface to lift your leg off from. You want this surface to be just a little lower than you can actually lift your leg up. The sweet spot for height is about 2 inches lower than you can actively lift your leg.

  • Stand facing your surface and place your foot on top of it. Point your toes.
  • Make sure your hips are square to your elevated surface and your standing leg is not turned out.
  • Contract your core with that pelvic floor lift and exhale to depress your ribs together and down and radiate that contraction through your whole body. I often tell people imagine your are a volcano and that tension is irrupting everywhere–even all the way out to your fists where you are trying to contain it.
  • Contract your glute and quad of your standing leg and keep them contracted throughout the whole exercise. This helps keep the pelvis from tipping under and your leg straight-AKA keeps you from cheating. If your leg were to bend and your pelvis to tip under it looks like your lifting higher, but it’s not longer really being done by the muscles you want to be training here.
  • Exhale, FLOAT your leg up and off the surface, hold for two seconds. Inhale return the foot slowly to the surface.
  • Suggested reps and sets: 2-3 sets of 10 reps

As always, happy training. And if you have any questions or need assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us. If you want a more individualized training program we can work with you on that as well.

Happy training, Theresa