Hips are like the centre of your universe when it comes to moving your body, and when they’re out of balance the rest of your body can suffer.
Perhaps your hips are strong and good at bearing heavy loads, but you may feel limited when it comes to moving in certain positions that require you to be more flexible, like deep squats or pancake splits. Physical imbalances in the hips and other areas of your body can lead to injury, joint pain, reduced physical performance and… a lack of joy experienced through your body. Imbalances between strength and flexibility can be a thing of the past, once you understand movements like the horse stance. The horse stance is a movement that has been practiced in different variations across many forms of martial arts from China (Shaolin Kung Fu, Wushu, Hung Gar, etc) Japan (Karate, Sumo), India (Kalaripayat). The style I will be sharing is most reminiscent of the way Shaolin practice the stance – wide and low.
If you can imagine sitting upon an actual horse and how you hips and legs would be positioned, you begin to get a feel for what this style of horse stance involves. The horse stance is a position that has been proven over thousands of years to develop strong, flexible hips and legs, plus a focused, resilient mind. In addition to the horse stance – aka Ma Bu being an excellent tool to teach you how to get flexible hips, ankles and knees, it develops tendon strength through the lower body like few movements can. Holding in this isometric (contraction without movement) position for long periods increases blood flow to the tendons and ligaments of the hips, knees and ankles. When practiced diligently, with correct technique the horse stance becomes the tap to open up the flood gates of blood flow to those often neglected tendons and ligaments. The hip and thigh positioned trained in a deep and wide horse stance is similar to the position required for the middle splits. With regular practice, the ma bu is also an excellent tool to develop high levels of lactic endurance for the lower body.
According to Wim Hoff (developer of the Wim Hoff Method), developing a 60 minute horse stance will adequately prepare your lower body endurance for the rigours of a marathon. These days life can get busy, balancing time for work, yourself and those you love, which is one of the reasons you may like the horse stance. Over time and with a focus on improving quality, instead of just hold time, the horse stance is a tool that will help make you both strong and flexible through the lower body.
Achieving the horse stance hold with correct technique, for periods of 2 minutes and beyond has many carry-over benefits that will help your squat, dead-lift, jumping abilities and overall lower body athleticism. In order to hold position in Ma Bu for a prolonged period, your skeleton must be aligned as evenly as possible, and you must learn how to regulate your flow of internal energy or chi. Each time you experience too much loading in a specific area, it’s your body giving you a signal to find better alignment, and allow energy to flow through that area. The skill of internal presence can deeply enrich the way you experience and understand your body in every moment of your life.

Beneath it all I find the horse stance is a powerful tool that teaches you the process of letting go. There’s a couple of different ways to perform the horse stance, depending on which style of martial art you observe.
Before we get into cues, it’s important to simply use these as a guide and not worship them as religion. These cues will help you get started, and after consistent practice you’ll more deeply understand how your individual body works in the position, beyond words. Once you move beyond the wall, explore gradually widening and deepening your stance, to build a basic foundation.
I consider a basic horse stance foundation to be when you can balance two circular objects (I use two Hacky Sacks in the video) on your thighs and perform a 10-15 deep breath hold, at a 3 step width. Bringing your focus inwards provides some deeper experiences that can often be missed if you’re fixated on a timer.
Begin your horse stance at the wall, then progress your stance width using the test in the video.
Remember the importance of understanding intention and position in your horse stance practice.
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The Double Under jump rope exercise is extremely beneficial in building overall muscle strength and conditioning in your legs, core, and upper body. We take great pride in our Personal Training; and our team takes great pride in the results our members and clients receive from their CrossFit, Boot Camp and Personal Training. If you are looking to have fun, increase your energy, lose weight, feel great and perform at your best. This is potentially why it is less and less practiced these days, as many have become too focused on quick gains.
Hips that have a balance of strength and flexibility give a greater range of options when moving your body, whilst being more resilient to injuries. This is very important as blood doesn’t flow as readily to the tendons and ligaments (compared to your muscles), thus they take longer to strengthen and recover.

Horse stance practice (along with some additional supporting movements) can help to develop a different type of split, called the isometric middle split – like Van Damme demonstrates here in his epic split commercial for Volvo trucks. Horse stance practice can save you time by helping you get more flexible and strong hips, simultaneously.
The more you’re out of alignment, the harder it is for energy to flow and the more painful the stance will be in specific areas of your body.
For example in styles like Wushu and Chang Quan it is common to hold the horse stance (Ma Bu) with the hip back (anterior pelvic tilt), whereas in traditional styles and in southern styles the knees are forward and hips are tucked (posterior pelvic tilt). With regards to hip position – I recommend to work towards developing freedom of movement towards as many positions as possible. This will help align your body correctly, ensure you’re not cheating and teach you correct position for when you move away from the wall.
Remember there is no right or wrong when it comes to moving your body, there just is and is not. I prefer to count breaths instead of time, as it brings the focus within instead on the external. I show you how to have life-changing physical flow and make your body+mind your power source and secret weapon — no matter how 'fit' you are, or aren't. In the spirit of CrossFit our Hamilton location provides a wide variety of fitness options including CrossFit, Boot Camp, Lifting Club, Yoga classes, Cardio, a full service gym and showers. I highly recommend you don’t fall for this trap, as the most powerful progress in my experience comes from commitment and long term, humble practice.
In time you’ll experience a lower body that feels free to do more of what you choose, without limits.
In he article, Double Under Jump Rope Training – Success in 5 Easy Steps, Duane Waits explains the five steps necessary to improving your double under training. Waits also addresses some common problems people have with double unders and provides solutions to correct these mistakes.
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