How to perfect the happy penguin move

mobility running form running injuries Apr 16, 2021
woman about to run having done the happy penguin move

If you’re suffering from lower back or hip pain, sciatica nerve pain or have piriformis problems, the Happy Penguin move is ideal to incorporate into your daily mobilisation routine.

This simple move isn’t just good for pain relief, it helps to down regulate the nervous system, and is a great hip mobilisation exercise that increases flexibility and creates more space between your joints and connective tissues.  Plus, it’s a brilliant base exercise that will allow you to work with your body, not against it, and progress into other exercises such as the Turkish Get Up.

The Happy Penguin basically teaches your body to work as a unified system and get accustomed to contralateral movements, which is good for rhythm and timing on runs. Without this, you could be more susceptible to injury. For example, I see it often in triathletes where one leg stops working in sync with the other leg. Or they will be shortened with tension on their stance leg.

The Happy Penguin will teach you to let go and run with length and space. It will also teach you to stack your body and bones correctly to run with better alignment, posture and form.

Cross communication and contralateral movements are so important, which is why I recommend doing the Happy Penguin at least once a day.

How to do the Happy Penguin

  1. Lie on a matt or towel, on your back with arms stretched out at 45 degrees from your body, palms facing up.
  2. Your legs and feet should be stretched out and relaxed in front of you.
  3. Relax and flatten your shoulder blades down into the ground.
  4. Then, push one hand down into the ground (remember palms facing up) and as you do this, gently rotate towards the other hand.
  5. Avoid using your feet or hamstrings to help you rotate.
  6. As you rotate to the one side, you want to stack your body with your vertebrae onto your hip, and onto your leg.
  7. Make sure your entire body moves as a connected system, one way, and then the other. Don’t just move your hips, you want a shoulder to hip connection every time you move.
  8. Complete 10-20 reps, with one full rep being once to the left and then to the right.

Once you’ve been doing The Happy Penguin for a while, you’ll start to reset and rotate your pelvis bone, your hips will flatten out and you’ll get more range of motion in the area. This will also help you with other mobilisation exercises such as my happy hips sequence

WATCH how to perfect the Happy Penguin move here:

 ALSO READ: My Funky Feet blog where I touch on how the Happy Penguin can help to improve movement and flexibility in your feet.

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