Maybe you are completely new to the concept of training and have typed in "exercises for...." into the Google machine. In a matter of seconds, you had millions of results at your fingertips and probably felt overwhelmed with what link to click. There is a mountain of resources out there and can leave you feeling information paralysis.
Let's simplify things and look at five exercises with tremendous upside for pain-management and performance.
Your ankle holds a great amount of power over how well you move and the pain you experience in day-to-day life. A lack of ankle dorsiflexion is common in the clients I work with (ranging from junior high to masters). When a lack of ankle dorsiflexion is present, your body looks for the path of least resistance to execute a movement. In this case, the path of least resistance is through your knee. When your knee lacks stability or is being forced into compromised positions, pain will eventually develop.
Watch your knees the next time you walk up a flight of stairs. If your ankle is tight, your knee will start to dive towards the midline of your body to achieve the step-up movement. Do this for days, weeks, months, and years and your knees will eventually send you some unfriendly pain signals.
Outside of pain, your ankles are a gateway to performance. For example, in the sport of swimming, a majority (think 80+%) of propulsion comes from the ankle joint and below. Swim with tight ankles and you might as well have weights strapped to your feet. Your ankle joint also plays a role in the usage of elastic energy during jumping and running. Lack of mobility results in jagged movement.
This exercise provides another beautiful blend of pain-management and performance aid. What are you doing right now? Chances are you are hunched over at a desk or standing with your shoulders rounded forward reading this blog on your phone. Shoulder tension can cause many problems and express in the form of back pain.
Also, if you are unable to freely move through your shoulder girdle, you are susceptible to compensating with other regions of your body causing long-term damage. Utilize this exercise regularly to help improve your posture and free up tension that you experience throughout the course of a day. This is a great one for neck pain as well!
90/90 Hip Mobility
The first time you try this exercise, you might struggle to press your knees down to the ground. In that case, place a towel underneath your knees to give you something to rest on. This movement targets a little bit of everything when it comes to your hips. Flexion and external rotation of the front leg and adduction and internal rotation of the back leg are all targeted during this movement.
The human hip socket has some variation from person to person, so you might feel this movement in different places compared to your training partner. With that in mind, some of the biggest frustration points of movement arise during hip internal rotation.
Tight hamstrings cause a world of problems when it comes to pain management and performance. For example, if your hamstrings are tight, they can pull on your low back and result in back pain. They can also impact how well you move through your knee joint.
The nice aspect of this movement is that it challenges you to contract your quadriceps muscles which allow your hamstrings to relax. A lot of our tension arises from being tense with our breath or an inability to relax specific muscles. Engaging the quads helps relax the hamstrings without learning a difficult exercise.
This exercise puts everything together. With this exercise, you target your hips, shoulders, thoracic spine, ankles, and more! This is a standard in many of the training programs I write for all of my clients. It is a great "roadmap" exercise. For example, if your shoulders feel extra tight while completing this movement, it probably means you need an extra set of the wall angels on this day. If your hips feel a little tight, dial in the 90/90 hip mobility an extra time.
Here is a routine you can implement daily for pain-management and improved performance.
Complete three rounds of the following exercises. Rest minimally between exercises and complete sets.
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