The Waiter's Bow

The sit and reach test stinks. Why? Well, it does not allow one to discriminate between hip and lumbar spine flexion. It tells you NOTHING. The initial testing position puts the hip/torso in 90 degrees of flexion to start; that is an end-range hip flexion position for many. For most, this is only a tortuous test of lumbar flexion. Ever had the pleasure of making a wrestling room full of 9th grade boys try to sit up against the wall while keeping their knees extended?

I prefer to use the Waiter's Bow as a assessment tool, and as a warm up or cool down exercise. My goal is to create hip extensor mobility in the context of the neutral spine. The Waiter's Bow is a weight-bearing, AROM test of flexibility that allows you to discriminate hip flexion from lumbar spine flexion. The Waiter's Bow is, in my book, a basic movement comprehension skill everyone should learn. It lays a foundation for advanced training skills and the neutral-spine body awareness that is critical for back health over time. Who needs to stoop when you can either squat, bow or some combination thereof ? It ain't rocket science; just movement basics.

The Waiter's Bow

  • Start with feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips
  • Keep knees stable but slightly unlocked
  • “Hinge” forward at the hips, lowering a neutral spine torso
  • Lower only as far a hip flexibility will allow
  • Return to standing, leading with the hips, not the spine
  • Keep chin tucked, torso tall and scapulae slightly retracted


Sean said…
What does AROM stand for?
Tracy Fober said…
Active Range of Motion vs. Passive Range of Motion (PROM)
Anonymous said…
Sit and Reach? hah. Do they use that in therapy? I agree, useless test. The waiters bow is great and essential for work on SLDL and Glute/ham hip extensions. I have found it hard to teach this one to many people. They simple can't "feel" the difference in moving at the hip or moving at the lumbar spine. Good stuff Tracy! Very good material for our upcoming lesson.
Keith Sutorius said…

Paul Chek would put 2 strips of medical tape vertically on the persons back.
That way if the back bends the tape pulls on the skin.

He uses this technique to teach clients to keep their lumbar backs arched when squatting. I would think it would also work for teaching the waiters bow.
Joe Przytula said…
What would make someone stoop instead of using good mechanics? Why did the body choose mechanical inefficiency? Not being able to disassociate lumbopelvic from femuralpelvic motion, or lack of ankle dorsiflexion?...a dormant butt?...a tight posterior hip capsule?... Things that make you go hummm.
Anonymous said…
Joe, I don't think our body chooses to move poorly, our minds do. We are born with good movement. I honestly think the lifestyle shift from one of moving, surviving, hunting, etc. to one of driving, sitting, typing, watching tv, has basically created a mind/body breakdown. I like the idea of using tape! Interesting.
Anonymous said…
I was looking all over for the waiter's bow when you mentioned it in a piece about hamstring flexibility.

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