If you sit throughout the day and don’t stretch your hip flexors, these are two exercises you’re going to want to avoid. “But why my bald headed friend?” Well let me tell you. If you look at the picture it shows the psoas and iliacus muscles, they combine at the hip joint to form the iliopsoas and they sit underneath your abdominals, which aren’t pictured. These muscles are hip flexors. Your abs do NOT flex your hips. Any leg lifting, kicking, high knees, steps, step up high knees, activities you do are going to involve hip flexors. Because the psoas attaches to the lumbar spine, it will influence the lumbar spine. Sitting all day everyday without stretching or releasing this muscle can cause this muscle to become locked short, which can cause low back tension and or pain over time. So, when you do exercises like the bicycle kicks or scissor kicks, thinking your “lower abs” are getting such a great workout, you’re really just giving your lower back more of a reason to hate you. It may seem like it’s your abs feeling the burn, but the burn is likely coming from the hip flexors. And yes your abdominals can still get some work from these exercises. A visual sign of psoas tension may be a slight forward lean when walking or an arched back while standing.
At Home Exercise: Glute Bridge–Important thing to remember while performing the glute bridge is to engage your core. Think about pressing your low back into the floor, then initiate the upward movement with your glutes (buttock). Great for developing and strengthening glutes and abdominals for core stability. If you experience cramps in the hamstrings that means your glutes are weak and your hamstrings have to work extra hard to keep hips raised. Pause each rep in the up position for 5-10 seconds for 10-20 reps 2-3 sets.
At Home Exercise: Banded Seated Rows: Place the band around your feet. Keep your back upright and your head looking forward. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and initiate movement with your back rather than arms. Hold at the end position for more muscle fiber recruitment. Do not allow your shoulders to raise towards your ears, if it is an action you cannot control you likely have upper trap tension that should be addressed via massage, foam rolling or thera-cane use. As always, if you experience any pain during this exercise do not continue! Great exercise for strengthening and conditioning your lats, as well as smaller intrinsic muscles of the back. # of sets and reps can vary depending on workout routine.
At Home exercise: Banded Overhead Pulldowns: Keeping your arms straight, focus on using your back muscles to initiate the downward motion. Keep your elbows locked to prevent your triceps from taking over the movement. This exercise is great for increasing shoulder mobility and strength. It is also a great exercise for improving posture by strengthening typically weakened postural muscles. Warmup or incorporate into a shoulder/back routine. 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
At Home Exercise: Horizontal Pulls. Same as Diagonal, focus on using your back muscles to initiate the movement. Keep arms straight and make sure your shoulders are nice and relaxed. For more muscle recruitment, hold the end position for 4-5 seconds before returning to the start position. Target Muscles: Rhomboids, Middle and Lower Trapezius
At home exercise: Diagonal Band Pulls-Shoulder and Upper Back. Focus on using your back muscles to initiate the movement (Don’t just pull with your arms). Keep thumbs facing upwards. For more muscle recruitment, hold the end position for 4-5 seconds, then return to start position slowly. If you feel any pain, do not continue the exercise. This exercise is good for activating upper back muscles that are typically weakened due to sitting at a desk for prolonged hours and chest tension.
At home exercise for the shoulder/rotator cuff. External rotation: Perfect for those just getting starting with exercise as well as those who lift regularly. Very important muscle group to strengthen. The rotator cuff muscles; Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres Minor are often neglected muscles and when weakened, it may cause shoulder impingement, bursitis, tendonitis, or potentially frozen shoulder. Do this exercise before chest and shoulder press exercises to warm up the rotator cuff muscles. 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps. Targeted muscles: Infraspinatus and teres minor.