Movement Skill: Balancing Tripod Transitions
Today I am going to introduce you to a balance movement skill that I love, the tripod transition. The tripod transition is an adaptable and practical full body movement that will challenge all fitness levels.
The tripod transition:
- Challenges proprioception
- Strengthens the core
- Develops shoulder stability
- Improves balance
- Increases mobility and flexibility in the hips and lower body
Practically, it is a transition used:
- As a progression when lowering the body before jumping, climbing or stepping down from a surface or obstacle
- To step and stand up onto (or over) a surface (fence, log, rock, wall, tree branch, bench)
- To step off a surface after climbing or crawling on it
- As a movement-prep exercise for vaulting
How to perform tripod transitions
1. Mobility and dynamic warm-up prep
Always perform a proper mobility and dynamic warm-up prior to your workout. This warm-up does not need to be painstakingly long; ten minutes will suffice. Movement prep will unlock tight muscles such as hips so your body can move more efficiently during your workout.
- Address problem areas (muscles that are tight or sore) by practicing myofascial release techniques with a combination of tools such as:
- Dynamically stretch and activate muscles needed for your workout by performing movement specific drills such as:
- Shoulder/lat release
- Foot-hand (bear) crawls
- Ground transitions
2. Perform the tripod transition exercise
Now that you are properly warmed up, it is time to perform the tripod transition. For a visual, watch the videos at the end of this article.
- Become mindful of the exercise you are about to perform. Mental focus is essential for movement efficiency.
- Find a safe surface to perform the exercise. If you have never executed a tripod transition before, make sure the surface is flat and stable. A yoga mat, solid floor and grass field are suitable surfaces.
- Get into a deep full squat position. Be sure your chest is up, spine is aligned and abs are pulled in. The balls of your feet (midfoot) should be resting on the surface underneath the body. Breathing should be slow and controlled.
- Fully extend the left arm and pronate the left hand (face left palm toward the ground).
- Shift bodyweight to the left side and with arm still extended, place palm flat onto surface. This will be your main point of support.
- Support bodyweight with this arm and slightly shift center of gravity backward while slowly lifting the left foot off the surface.
- Fully extend the left leg in front of your body. Pause for a few seconds.
- Continue to breathe calmly.
- During step #7, extend your right arm out in front of your body to counterbalance. At this point in the exercise, the right foot remains in contact with the surface below. Maintain stability and balance throughout the movement.
- Shift bodyweight forward while pushing and applying weight to left hand.
- Tuck the left leg and knee in and fully extend the leg behind you. Pause for a few seconds. As you do this, counterbalance with your upper body and extend your right arm out in front of your body. The right food should keep contact with the surface below.
- Bend the left knee and place the left foot onto the surface underneath you, shifting and balancing bodyweight again onto both feet.
- Assume a deep full squat. Keep your chest up and arms relaxed.
- Take a few deep and controlled breaths.
- After a short rest, repeat steps #3-14 with the other side of your body. This means the right hand is on the surface and the left leg is extending forward and backward with the left arm acting as a counterbalance in front of you.
Note: If your posture becomes sloppy, scale your speed back a couple notches or return to a more stable surface. Reminders:
- We are striving for efficiency in movement.
- Moving too fast may compromise efficiency.
3. Challenge yourself by changing the context
Once you have mastered the balancing tripod transition skill on a flat and stable surface, the next progression is to change the context of the exercise. It’s now time to get creative and have fun. Think of ways that you can increase the volume, intensity and complexity of the tripod transition.
Examples of how you can change the context:
- Execute this exercise on different types of surfaces: experiment with both soft and firm floors. Try grass, dirt, sand, wood, concrete and stone.
- Use a less stable and thinner surface such as a 2×4 board (see the video below).
- Try performing tripods on an elevated surface such as a raised 2×4 board, curb, bench, wall or railing.
- Slow down your speed.
- Hold a weighted object (dumbbell, sandbag, rock, kettle bell, water jug or pet 🙂 ) while performing the exercise.
- Practice different holds, grips and carries while holding object.
- Increase the number of repetitions.
- Perform tripods in the dark.
- Practice tripods inside and outdoors.
- Experiment with tripods in both a calm, quiet environment and in a busy, loud environment.
- Close your eyes during the exercise.
Video 1: Tripod transitions on 2×4 board
In this video, I am practicing balancing tripod transitions on a 2×4 board, which is a progression from a flat surface.
- I have included a balancing split-squat with pivot in between each set of tripod transitions.
- If you are new to tripods, slow down the tempo and pause (hold the deep squat position) longer before switching sides.
Video 2: Tripod transitions on 2×4 board with a sandbag
In this video, I am practicing balancing tripod transitions on a 2×4 board while holding a sandbag. The sandbag changes the context of the exercise by adding a dynamic resistance/weight, thus increasing the demands on the body, especially the core.
Don’t give up; practice often
This sounds like a simple exercise, but for many, it is quite demanding: both physically and mentally. If you find yourself struggling with your balance, do not become discouraged.
- Practice until you feel efficient and comfortable with the movement.
- If you begin to fatigue, take a break, rest and try again either that day or leave it for another session.
- After a few weeks of adding movement skill exercises like balancing tripod transitions to your workout routine, your core and body will become a lot stronger. You will possess more flexibility, mobility and stability and will move more efficiently.
- Practice as much as you can, continue to progress in a safe and effective way and never compromise efficiency or safety. This consistency will help you achieve amazing results and will open the door for progression in all areas of your training.
What are you waiting for?
Start today. Practice the tripod transition movement skill exercise and let me know what you think. Good luck! 🙂
Talk to me: what do you think of the balancing tripod transition exercise?
When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.