I am occasionally guilty of procrastinating. I hold my hands in the air and admit it. I open up my Facebook app and have a scroll to see what’s going on in the world. My scrolling often gets side-tracked when I happen upon links with headlines such as “the one trick that will…” or “try this life hack and never waste another…”. Running with that theme, I thought I’d write my own clickbait article. Hopefully after reading this (and then getting back to what you were supposed to be doing), you might have at least gained something useful.
This is a short (and by no means exhaustive) list of exercises I often prescribe as part of my physiotherapy treatment. These are exercises I think most people could or should be able to do in some form or another, and can provide real benefit to your everyday life and function.
Squats often get a bad reputation. Many people find them difficult, but I’ve found I can nearly always find a variation of the exercise that is a lot more comfortable and manageable even for those with knee pain. A few tweaks to the foot position, use of aids, or altering how the hips move can be the key to getting this movement right for you. Everyone is individual with different proportions, so what works for one person might not work for someone else.
“Squats aren’t bad for your knees, how you squat is bad for your knees”
Getting the technique right, then adding load over time can be a great tool in fighting osteoporosis, and can also help reduce the risk of falls for the elderly. Increasing strength on this exercise (as part of a balanced training routine) can help improve athletic performance in sports and help in reducing injury risk.
2. Shoulder External Rotation
Due to evolving as tool using primates, the majority of tasks we perform day-to-day involve using our arms in front of us. Because of this, most of us tend to be overactive or dominant in the muscles involved in moving our arms forward and together. Something I often find when looking at injured shoulders is weakness in the muscles that do the opposite job, at the back of our shoulders.
I therefore often prescribe an exercise that strengthens shoulder external rotation as part of my treatment. Here are a few examples of ones I like to prescribe; one with a resistance band, another with a weight.
3. Above Head Press
Another shoulder exercise, but I feel I couldn’t leave this one out. I like to think of above head press as the squat of the upper body; working many different things with great carryover into function.
Whether you have a desk job don’t move your shoulders much at all, or you have a physical job where you’re using your shoulders all the time, this is an exercise that could benefit you to either just get things moving or increase your shoulders capacity for work. This can even be useful when trying to return to function after sustaining a whiplash injury with proper guidance from your physio.
4. Kneeling Flexion Stretch
Although there is a bias for strengthening in this list, we can’t forget mobility. The kneeling flexion stretch or known as the ‘child pose’ in the yoga world is a really nice exercise that does lots of things in one.
The primary benefit is to aid lumbar flexion, something many of us find restricted. This can be a useful exercise as part of a program for helping general mechanical back pain, spinal stenosis and even tight restricted hips. This is also something I’ve considered as an alternative for improving shoulder mobility (and stretching the lats) if people find standing exercises difficult.
5. A Standing Single Leg Exercise
Ok, this last one is a bit of a cheat because its quite vague.. Being slightly more specific, I’m thinking about movements such as the single leg squat or a split stance squat where you have to stand and use your balance either solely using one leg or more one leg than the other.
Doing an exercise working one side at a time can highlight differences in strength and control. This can show you where you might need to spend more time working if you want to improve athletic performance. A low level single leg standing balance exercise can even help us keep agile and steady as we get older.
So there you go.. a few of my favourite exercises that I give out on a regular basis. As mentioned at the start, this isn’t a solve-everything list. You’re needs might be different depending on your hobbies, work, or injury history, and going to see your physio for advice on reducing pain and keeping fit is always a good idea! Hopefully reading this hasn’t reduced your work productivity for today too much, and at least given you some food for thought on things you might want to add to your routine.