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Let's talk about the captain's chair exercise

Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:20 pm
by ApolytonGP
This is actually my most "suck" exercise. Here's what I do. On "legs" days, I use the captain's chair for hip flexor exercise. I do 2 sets of 11 straight-legged, single-leg, leg lifts. IOW, I do 10 light Smith squats* (which are enjoyable). Then I get on the SUCK rig and do 11 L leg, leg lifts. While still on the apparatus, I do 11 R leg, leg lifts. Then 10 more Smith squats, which are enjoybale. then back to the suck machine for another 22 leg lifts (11 of each).

I try hard not to swing, but to "pull" the leg up. I point the toe. I do a one count at the top.

I don't rest my back against the pad. Lately, I let the rear leg extend back a little (opening the angle, feels like it isolates the target hip flexor more rather than using rest of body as a lever). I have a bad shoulder, so actually work a bit on pushing up with a little bit of a shrug in the shoulder, so am not griding into my shoulder from the weight of just being on there.

I feel it somewhat in quads and stomach and arms (from being on there) as well as hip flexor. I must be the only person in the world, who is trying to isolate the hip flexor and keep the abs out of it! :green:

Actually, as I write this up for you, wonder I should alternate L/R each rep, rather than the 11/11. I definitely feel it worse on the second set of 11, since the abs become tired (even though I am working on isolating to the hip flexor).


Anyhow...what do you all think of this apparatus, what I'm doing etc. Interested in other people's thoughts and I will prmoise not to get defensive.

*It's almost a warmup...but I gotta watch my knees, have issues with leg press or squat if go heavy there. Anyhow...that's not the point.

Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2010 5:12 pm
by ApolytonGP
Actually the abs/hip flexor overlap is an argument for doing 3 whole body days rather than 6 days with lower/upper splits.

Or I guess, I could move abs to be with legs rather than arms.


Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:09 pm
by frogbyte
Don't hip flexors get enough work during planks?

Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:59 am
by KPj
Hip flexors don't get worked (directly) in planks. Think of hip flexion as lifting the knees up/moving the hips back or down.

The more time goes on the more importance I place on direct hip flexor training. However, it's one of the most butchered things you see being done. Most have an imbalance 'within' the hip flexors and can flex fine up to 90 degrees then the lower back rounds due to weakness in the psoas muscle (and overactive TFL and/or RF). Therefore, I place a lot of emphasis on training the psoas or, training hip flexion above 90 degrees (knees above hips). I've found that most people can't flex their hips past 90degrees without rounding the lower back (just like most can't squat below parallel without rounding - goes hand in hand, really).

I think for most, direct hip flexor training below 90 degrees just feeds the imbalance. If you don't have this problem though, then i'm all for it. One way to check is to pull your knee to your chest whilst standing. Make sure your lower back is neutral (not rounded). Then, let the knee 'drop' but try and hold it where it was. What typically happens is, the knee drops right down to 90degrees (or below), the back will round and chest rolls forward or, you get a cramping sensation in the front of the hip, or, a combination of all of these - which is a sign that TFL is going nuts trying to compensate. If someone can't hold the position for ~15 seconds then I make it a priority.


Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:50 pm
by ApolytonGP
A lot to think about in your post. You prompted me to go look at the pictures for the different hip flexor and quadricpe muscles and it is complicated. This whole thing is a process for me. A few months ago, I would not have realized that there were really different muslces withing the quad and hf. Definitely still don't have it all nailed down, but the discussion helps.

I did the experiment you talked about (and I got done lifting legs, including hf, about 2 hours ago). I think I'm not quite as bad as the average person. Definitely don't drop to 90. More like a drop to 135. (I can hold it at about 160, where I pull it to chest, but then I'm rounding.)

I wonder if the work on the RF would actually be oddly enough a benefit for me. The thing is I had pattelar arthritis (undersurface cartilage worn off in a spot to bare bone). Had surgery, but it is not really fixed, they just clean up the edges, but it's still missing cartilage. Supposedly increaseing the strength of the quads is helpful in recovery. However, most quad exercises, engage the patella at about 90 degrees. So doing straight leg, leg lifts with the RF getting overactive might actually be good for me. I have a hard time going heavy on leg extension, squats, leg press.

Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:55 pm
by ApolytonGP
Today, I tried alternating L/R each rep. It takes a bit more coordination and doesn't really exhaust the muscle quite as fast as doing 11 and 11 each side. However, it does feel sorta better balanced in terms of each sie. As my abs and traps feel very tired otherwise on the entire R (after L) set.

Posted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:37 am
by KPj
A think you would benefit from sourcing a good physio and have them look over you and tell you what's going on. If you do, put some time into it, though, as good one's are hard to find.

The thing is the problems with your knee will not be the fault of the knee it will be caused by dysfunction somewhere else, most often the hips and/or ankles. I would go as far as to say strengthening the quads/RF won't do anything and might make it worse if that's all you're focusing on. Depends on the problem but, really it sounds like you're shooting in the dark anyway.

The site of pain is normally quite far from the source of the problem. A good physio will look beyond the site of injury and find the source.


Posted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:29 pm
by frogbyte
I tried that - 135 is about as high as it'll go, and I can hold it right there without my arms. I can't go any higher, not because of "flexibility" it seems, but because of my muscle and flab is blocking the way. I've been doing hip flexor stretches every lower body day for about a year though - I wish I'd tried that before I started doing them.

Posted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:48 pm
by KPj
It's not a flexibility test... It's a test/hold/exercise to check/work the psoas (the only hip flexor to work above 90 degrees of flexion).

I'm very dubious about the 135 claims, to be honest. Maybe try it with your back against the wall and one hand in at the lower back. The back should be in a good natural posture (chest up), upper back and ass against wall, natural arc in lower back. Back position should stay like that....


Posted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:09 pm
by ApolytonGP
More like 90 when against the wall and trying for no back change.

Posted: Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:24 pm
by frogbyte
I don't really notice any difference standing up against a wall - although I have to move my heel maybe 2-3 inches away from the wall or I'll fall forward when I lift my leg up (regardless of whether it's being lifted by hip flexors or by arms.) It's certainly not easy though after 10 seconds or so - I'm fairly sore right now after that.

Posted: Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:58 pm
by taifun
Hip flexors are one of the few muscles I rely on a machine for, because it's easy to add resistance using a multi-hip machine . I guess I could use ankle weights, but my gym doesn't have a supply, and I don't really want to buy a set just for this.

Any suggestions on how to add resistance to the captain's chair exercise (or for other uses for ankle weights, so I'd have an excuse to get a set)?

Posted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:44 am
by ApolytonGP
Multi-hip rocks, but we lack one.

I used to do an exercise that gave me a good hip flexor workout: Would stand on one foot, other foot holding a dumbell (try 25-40) on top of the crook of the toes. Then, lift the leg (allowing knee to bend). Most of the exercise hits the hip flexor, although there is some quad engagement for stability and anterior tibialis to hold the weight on. Even the non-working leg, gets a little bit of ankle stability.

However, I had to give this up because even though my quad was NOT exhausted, the heavier weights whil holding the leg up at 90 flexion, started engaging my kneecap at the "bone on bone" tender spot that I have. If you don't have that issue, you could just try the exercise...I got away with it for a long time...but as the weight started getting to 35s, knee was an issue.

Now I do straight leg, single leg leg lifts on the captain's chair. Try for a "pull" and to feel the exercise a few inches below the angle of your groin (I think that is hip flexor engaging rather than the quad (which you feel more towards knee).

Posted: Sat Mar 06, 2010 1:03 pm
by frogbyte
Just do a weighted sit-up?

Posted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 4:51 am
by KPj
The guy in that multi hip machine clip actually has the same lower back compensation I was mentioning once the hips reach 90 degrees....

Also... So THAT'S what those machines are for!