If you've ever seen someone do a kick through, you may have mistaken the exercise for a breakdancing move.
Kick throughs — which are basically bear planks that involve pivoting on one foot and kicking the other foot out to the side — may look like a snazzy dance step, but they're actually a fierce, full-body movement that challenges you from head to toe.
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Not only do kick throughs smoke your shoulders and build core strength, but they also improve mobility, balance and coordination.
Here, Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS, founder of the Movement Vault, shares how kick throughs can kickstart your weekly workouts, plus offers tips on common mistakes to avoid when doing this advanced exercise.
How to Do the Kick Through Exercise
- Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips.
- Press your hands down into the ground while spreading apart your shoulder blades as far as possible.
- Press your toes and feet down into the ground while lifting your knees a few inches off the floor. This is the starting position.
- Engage your core muscles by pulling the bottom of your rib cage together and drawing your bellybutton in.
- Continue to press into the ground with your left arm, while pivoting on the ball of your right foot.
- Kick your left leg underneath and to the right side as you rotate your entire midsection to the right. Drop your left hip as low as you're able.
- Reverse the above steps to return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Watch the Full Tutorial Here
Don’t have the necessary mobility to perform kick throughs? Start out with a smaller range of motion (think: smaller kicks to each side).
And never push yourself past your body’s limits. “If you try to move past your mobility restrictions, you are most likely going to be stressing out your shoulder and or hip joints, leading to joint wear and tear, and eventual potential injury,” Wickham says.
4 Reasons to Do Kick Throughs Every Day
1. Improve Mobility
"Kick throughs demand quite a bit of mobility, specifically in your shoulder and hips," Wickham says. That's because they involve rotational movement (i.e., twisting one or more joints), and many (if not most) people don't perform this type of movement pattern often enough, he says.
This lack of rotational movement in daily life can lead to weakness and stability issues in your joints, which not only decrease your gym performance, but can also leave you more prone to injuries, Wickham says. Think of it this way: When your body isn't used to moving in a certain way, even the slightest twist can cause you to throw out your back.
Fortunately, incorporating kick throughs can help keep your joints limber and mobile (read: healthy) and prevent those injuries down the line.
2. Strengthen Your Shoulders
"Kick throughs also work your entire shoulder complex, including your glenohumeral joint (your shoulder ball-and-socket joint) as well as your scapulothoracic shoulder joint (which enables your shoulder blade to move on top of your rib cage)," Wickham says. "For good shoulder mobility, you need to have both of these joints moving optimally."
Kick throughs also engage your rhomboid, serratus anterior, pectoralis and posterior rotator cuff muscles, Wickham says. All these muscles must activate during the exercise due to the rotational component. By doing this, "kick throughs will help you improve your overall shoulder mobility and stability," he says.
3. Boost Your Balance and Coordination
"When performing kick throughs, you are moving in a reciprocal movement pattern, meaning you are pivoting on your opposite arm and opposite leg," Wickham says. And this pattern — along with the twisting motion — requires a lot of balance and coordination.
"You are also moving multiple joints in different areas of your body at the same time, such as your shoulders, spine, hips and even feet and ankles," Wickham says. Synchronizing your muscles in this way demands a great deal of coordination.
If balance and coordination are challenging for you, you can always modify kick throughs to fit your current skill level.
For example, try scaling back your range of motion and only rotate your body a small amount, Wickham says. As you grow more comfortable with balance and coordination, you can slowly increase your rotation.
4. Build Core Strength
Kick throughs are a very effective exercise for developing core strength. Here's why: "Because kick throughs have a strong emphasis on rotation, when performing the movement correctly, there is a large demand placed on your core muscles," Wickham says.
That means doing kick throughs daily can help you build a strong and mobile midsection. Having a sturdy core is crucial since it performs several important functions: It protects your low back and keeps your trunk stable while you move other body parts, Wickham says.
Most Common Kick Through Mistakes
To reap these benefits, you must perform kick throughs properly. When done incorrectly, you not only render the move less effective, but you also increase your risk of potential injury. Here are the most common mistakes to avoid:
1. Lifting Your Hips Too High
"When your hips are too high in the air in the starting position, you will not be able to rotate and kick through optimally," Wickham says. "Instead, your midsection should be about parallel to the ground in the starting position, which will help you keep your hips down."
2. Not Maintaining Shoulder Depression
"When you don't maintain active shoulder depression while rotating in the kick through, your shoulder will pop up and forward," Wickham says. "Active shoulder depression happens when you press your entire shoulder complex downward (including your glenohumeral and scapulothoracic shoulders joints)." This helps keep your shoulder joint stable.
To depress your shoulders, actively press them down toward your armpits. Think of it as the opposite of performing a shoulder shrug, Wickham says.
Conversely, when you fail to maintain shoulder depression, this "puts your shoulder in a poor position and stresses out your tendons and ligaments, which could lead to pain and injury," Wickham says.