The first part of the developmental movement series that I use after developing a certain amount of core control on your back, is one you most likely learned somewhere between the ages of one to three months.
The reason I choose it as a method for holding your head up, over learning to hold your head up on your back, is that in today’s forward leaning society this movement is surprisingly difficult for a lot of adults to do.
Laying on your back and lifting the head is also encouraging of the posture many of us already find ourselves in on a regular basis. I’ve yet to find an instance where an adult couldn’t hold their head up well from their back, but of course for some reason you couldn’t, it would be wise to seek some help with a professional before moving into a drill like this. This drill will prove too challenging, if you couldn’t first hold your head up in flexion.
If you have the forward head posture from the posture chapter then this movement will feel very difficult, when it really should be quite natural, and that’s exactly why I’m encouraging it’s usage.
You have afterall been able to do it almost your entire life, so it’s strange when people lose this ability in later years. It could be the postural strain of desk work, or an injury that leads to a reduction of ability, but all the more reason to check out how well you do with it, and train it if necessary.
Like many of the basic developmental patterns the key to this movement is that you don’t strain while doing it.
If you lift your head and notice that you have to hold your breath in order to do so, you’re straining.
I find it beneficial to practice lifting your head, practicing a good deep breath (remember in and out) and then relaxing, completing multiple reps over long duration strains.
It’s a great diagnostic tool as a result. If you have an incredibly difficult time executing something as simple as lifting your head from the floor this could be a sign that you need some kind of manual therapy or the assistance of that good coach we were talking about. The starting position is also the prone position or the facedown position.
It’s a very simple movement really, mimicking what an infant might do in a crib. The finish position is just lifting the head off the floor and looking up at the baseboards in front of you.
Some additional things to consider when doing this movement:
- You shouldn’t feel strain in your low back (in some instances it might make sense to clench your buttcheeks a little bit before lifting your head)
- Your feet shouldn’t come off the ground
- You shouldn’t feel a ton of strain in your neck
If you get any alarm bells like that, please talk to someone.
If you can lift your head up and masterfully breathe each time for six to ten repetitions then it might be worthwhile to take the next diagnostic test.
Completing the periscope with head rotation.
Babies start testing their boundaries and looking around from the stomach position, so it makes sense still that moving your head from the finish position should still be relatively easy.
Lift the head, pause, inhale, exhale.
Turn the head in one direction, pause, inhale, exhale.
Turn the head in the other direction, pause, inhale, exhale and move to the other side.
Take the time to be mindful of any limitations from side to side. The level of effort should be similar for a similar range of motion. If you have a distinctive inability to look left, this is worth noting and seeking additional help with.
If you can do six to ten alternating repetitions of this, then you may only need to revisit periscope periodically.
If it’s challenging, then I suggest using the appropriately challenging variation in your warm ups to strengthen a lot of the muscles that assist with controlling the head.
I place special emphasis on this exercise for people who display a forward head posture or a heavy posterior pelvic tilt.
If that’s you, don’t be surprised if you find this simple exercise very challenging and very worthwhile.