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  • Writer's pictureThe Med Gym

Smart Core Training Week 10 - The Kneeling Chop and Lift

Thanks for coming back for week 10 of our series on Smart Core Training! We’re nearing the end of the series, and so we’re beginning to get into some more challenging and slightly more uncommon core exercises. Hopefully, these will be exercises that you are able to work up to doing, even if you’re not ready for them yet.

In this week’s video, I take some time (quite a lot of time actually – 7 minutes and 38 seconds!) overviewing the tall-kneeling and half-kneeling chop and lift exercises.

While there’s a lot more that can be said about these exercises, I’ll try to keep this post somewhat short and to the point. And what is that point, you might ask?

Well, overall, the point is that the tall and half-kneeling chop and lift patterns have the combined effect of being both excellent shoulder exercises, and excellent core stability exercises. In fact, the kneeling chop and lift exercises are really the combination of two tried and true rehabilitation methods that have been around for years.

Upper Extremity PNF Patterns

The first of these methods has to do with the upper extremity diagonal movement that is combined in the chop and lift pattern. Without getting into too much detail, the diagonal movement of the arms in the chop and lift exercises goes way back to 1956, where the concepts of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) were first described.

Now, I don’t want to get too deep into PNF here, but suffice it to say that the concepts of PNF include the diagonal and spiral, across body movement of the upper extremity that we see in the chop and lift. These patterns have proven to be effective techniques in the rehabilitation of upper extremity dysfunction.

The benefit of these diagonal patterns is that they incorporate integrated movement of the upper extremities that mimics normal human movement. In other words, it is a much more functional way of strengthening the arms and shoulders than just performing isolated muscle strengthening.

That’s all that I’ll say for now about these diagonal patterns, but if you’re hungry for more, then grab a coffee, and go here to read more!

For now, all you need to know is that the chop and lift movements that I’ll show you in the video below can be excellent ways to strengthen your shoulders and upper body in a functional manner!

Kneeling “Transitional” Postures

The second method that is included in today’s exercises, is another one that has been a part of rehabilitation and retraining the body for better movement for years. That is the concept of neuro-developmental movement patterns.

The idea is that human movement is developed during childhood through specific developmental stages and patterns. The lower level stages are some of the ones that we’ve already covered in this core training series. These are things like bridging, quadruped (i.e. kneeling on all fours, as in the bird dog), planking, and rolling.

The highest-level postures that we develop are standing postures and movements. However, in between the low-level postures and the high-level postures are what are known as “transitional postures.”

Transitional postures are kneeling postures, such as tall and half-kneeling, that I demonstrate as part of today’s exercises. The key with transitional postures is that they help our neuromuscular system learn to recruit and utilize the smaller stabilizing muscles of the hips and core. These kneeling postures have the benefit of increasing the challenge on these more central stabilizers because they narrow the base of support and remove the ability to utilize the lower legs and feet to provide extra stability.

Tall kneeling requires you to stabilize more in an anterior-posterior direction against forces that try to push you forward or backward, and half kneeling requires you to stabilize against lateral forces that try to knock you side to side.

So, as you can see, the tall and half kneeling chop and lift exercises offer many challenges to the body, but also many benefits. They allow us to combine the training of core stability, balance and hip stability, and shoulder strength, all into one exercise!

Lastly, the great benefit of these exercises is that they offer a much more reactive stability challenge to the core. That means that you are training the core muscles to react to outside forces and utilize fine motor control to stabilize around the spine. I can’t overstate how crucial it is to be able to reactively stabilize the core with fine motor control in order to keep the spine healthy over the long run!

Quite often, it’s the outside forces from lifting things, or shifting weight quickly, or being pushed in a certain direction that can lead to back pain. If the core is not able to quickly stabilize and support the spine against these forces, then the spine takes the brunt of them, and can break down over time.

So, now that you know many of the benefits of the kneeling chop and lift exercises, take a look at the video below to learn how to do them!

To summarize the kneeling chop and lift exercises:

What are they?

The kneeling chop and lift patterns are excellent integrative core exercises that promote reactive stability of the torso against forces created by upper extremity movement. They have the benefit of promoting stability around spine, while also incorporating shoulder strengthening within the diagonal PNF patterns included in the chop and lift.

How much?

The kneeling chop and lift exercises are usually not ones that you can overdo, so generally starting slow but working up to higher amounts is encouraged. I usually like to start out with 1 or 2 sets of 8-10 reps, and work towards 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps on each side.

How often?

For the most part, more frequent practice is better with these exercises. Again, we’re really seeking to train more reactive stability and fine motor control of the core and hips, and not just pure strength. Because of that, these exercises can and should be done at least multiple times per week for someone who has need of them.

If you have stability challenges, or a need for more motor control around the spine, performing the kneeling chop and lift patterns multiple times per week (or every day!) can be of great benefit.


That’s it for the kneeling chop and lift today, but I’ll be back next week with week 11 of Smart Core Training!

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