by Thomas Kurz
In this article I will discuss good and bad exercises because there is much nonsense circulating about this topic and because just recently someone asked me a question on this. So, here is the question, and then my answer (the question is in italics).
I have been discussing with different martial artists and others the `good’ and `bad’ exercises. One that came up was the knee over toe in a forward stance (or lunge position). Many years ago I remember training in Shotokan karate, and we always used to have the knee over the toe. Later this was changed so the knee was in line with the ankles. Later again I attended various aerobic classes to be told by the instructors not to bend the knee over the toes as it would, in the long term, damage the knees.
I was wondering is this another myth or not?
If true how does this reflect on Hindu squats, which I find help my knee strength? Is there any research available on this subject? I have looked through a lot of texts and on the Internet and can’t find anything on this.
I have also recently been incorporating a neck bridge into a short workout after my dynamic stretches in the morning. I have found only some wrestlers advocating them, and there seems little other information on the subject. Do you have an opinion, or could you direct me to some research?
Thanks in advance.
P.S. I have also plucked up the courage to give your books/videos to my instructor. I am waiting to hear what he thinks (as currently warm-ups include static stretching and little dynamic stretching), but he knows that your method works as I am probably the most flexible in the classes I attend!
There is no exercise that is universally good or bad. Every exercise can be bad for somebody at some time. Here is what I wrote in the article “Rules of Thumb for Conditioning”:
“Pain, feeling of joint instability, or other abnormal sensations during or after exercise are signs that either you are doing it wrong or you are doing too much. Whether an exercise is good for you or not depends on your preparations and in some cases on peculiarities of your body. If you feel good during and after the exercise then it is most likely good for you and won’t hurt you. Make sure you do not do more than your body can tolerate.”
I do not pay much attention to general “prohibitions” on certain exercises. “Knees over the toes” do not cause me any problems—not in squats, not in lunges, and not in karate stances. I guess in poorly trained individuals the knee over toes may put more stress on the quads and on the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) than they can take. Making general proclamations that such a position is bad because the least fit may be harmed by it is stupid. You know it, as you yourself wrote that Hindu squats help your knee strength.
I am not aware of any research on neck bridging, but if it were bad for the neck then all wrestlers of styles that utilize such bridging in ground fighting (e.g., Greco-Roman, freestyle, and sambo) would be suffering from neck problems—but most of them do not. Wrestlers not only do neck bridges until they kiss the mat but also carry weights on their chests or hips in these bridges. I do neck bridges as a part of my stretching and whenever my neck tenses up from overdoing some exercises, such as headsprings. Back neck bridges with face on the mat and front neck bridges with chin touching the chest relax my neck nicely.
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum