If we intend to harness all the benefits of our movements in the most efficient manner, we best approach the situation with intention and intelligence. That is why exercises like these are personal favorites. We are going beyond simply trying to create stronger muscles, but focusing on creating SMARTER muscles. We do this by mastering the intricate command of the smaller, often overlooked or under utilized fine motor muscles.
We know high level, peak performing athletes master skills to the point of being able to execute in flawless manners with speed and precision. Although raw talent can’t be denied, much of this is achieved through repetition. The reason repetition is effective is that it capitalizes on the brains ability to adapt or the concept of neuroplasticity. A shining display of the use it or lose it principle, we can literally create new connections or synapses in the brain when we repetitively challenge ourselves in making an unfamiliar, awkward, uncomfortable task second nature.
We light up areas of the brain involved in one specific movement or another, creating and strengthening new pathways within the brain and all the way down to the neuromuscular junction of the target muscle. This is absolutely essential is striving to maintain a healthy, net positive brain, especially in the face of aging, cognitive decline, or any form of neurodegeneration; Alzheimer’s dementia included.
We have seen many a patient struggle with this particular exercise. It seems so simple, but when asked to perform the task we see people stare at the lower extremity often performing, spastic incorrect movements, or none at all (often with the mouth or facial muscles contorting as the efforts increase; don’t knock it until you try it). Personally I struggle to pull this off on the left foot in comparison to the right. It is only with deconstructing the movement, concentration and repetition that I can begin to successfully and smoothly (ok, maybe not so smoothly) execute the task with the left foot.
The other aspect of this that can be beneficial is in someone with a weak arch of the foot, often diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, or an over-pronator with flat feet. One of the issues that can contribute to conditions mentioned above can be a lack of support or stability in the longitudinal arch due to weak intrinsic muscles of the foot. One of the ways to create more strength and stability in the arch is by focusing on achieving optimal control and activation of the flexor hallicus brevis (FHB). Through the application of toe yoga and isometric flexion exercises of the FHB (both demonstrated in the video above), one can harness the ability to take advantage of one of the key players involved in optimal gait, strength and stability of the foot.
You’ll also be creating a STRONGER brain and SMARTER muscles in the process. A win-win.