SORE NO MORE. THE BEST MOBILITY EXERCISES FOR RELIEVING CHRONIC PAIN AND IMPROVING FLEXIBILITY.
Do you wake up with neck, knee, lower back, and/or shoulder pain? Can you touch your toes with your feet together? Does your body positioning feel out of whack every time you perform an overhead or squatting exercise? Are you habitually having to skip workouts due to injury? Try to think of your body as a machine with hundreds of moving parts trying to work in unison...if one part becomes damaged due to overuse or improper motion, it can cause strain on the entire machine. As we get older, our body becomes accustomed to things we habitually do...whether it's sitting at a desk, swinging a golf club, or checking your Facebook every five minutes. Experiencing chronic pain is only a symptom of the problem...the root cause is oftentimes tightness and lack of mobility in one area of the body causing an imbalance or overuse injury. This can lead to everything from struggling to perform basic movements (pushing, pulling, walking, squatting, picking up) to being forced to have a hip, knee, or shoulder surgery by the time you're 40.
Below are a few of my favorite stretches to help shake off chronic pain, get stronger, and potentially avoid going under the knife. Once you've targeted a weak area, run through the included stretches, holding each of the positions for one to two minutes. Always relax into the stretch (never bounce!) and take deep breaths. In case you don't already have a mobility toolkit for home use, I implore you to purchase a foam roller, exercise mat, exercise band, and 3 lacrosse balls (tape 2 together to make a 'peanut').
Symptoms: Lower back pain, limited hamstring range of motion, tight hip flexors, can't touch your toes from a standing position. These especially apply to those of you that find yourself in a sitting position for more than 6 hours per day.
Find a wall or doorway (a band, belt, or strap can also be used)
Grab your toes front a bent knee position (back straight) and squatting position (butt down, chest up, gaze forward)
With a foam roller or lacrosse balls (peanut) in a seated position. Dig around for tight spots.
Two great yoga poses for lower back pain - cat and cow
Using a foam roller or soft object with your feet against a wall
With a foam roller or lacrosse balls (peanut) on the floor
Best stretch for those that sit for more than 6 hours a day. Can also use the back of a couch or chair. Plant the trailing leg back and try to extend your hips forward. Core is engaged (flex your abs) and back remains neutral (not hyperextended).
Symptoms: Shoulder pain, limited range of motion pressing weight overhead, can't reach one hand behind your head/the opposite hand behind your lower back and (at least) touch fingers.
Using a towel or band...one hand behind your head, one behind your back
With a broomstick, pole, or PVC pipe, go overhead and behind the back
Placing a foam roller above lower back and barbell overhead
One of my favorites for tight shoulders....the doorway stretch
Lying on your stomach with one arm out to your side at 90 degrees
Symptoms: Hip Pain (inside or out), difficulty squatting, tightness in a sitting position with the soles of your feet together.
From a standing position, take a giant lunge step forward and place arms on the floor
Pigeon pose - one leg crossed in front and the other extended behind
With soles of feet pointed behind you (not inwards towards body) and shins parallel, try slowly moving your hips back toward your feet
Happy baby. Lying on your back, grab the outside of your feet and pull inwards toward body
Wide stance squat with hands together and elbows inside knees
If you have difficulty getting depth (going low) while squatting, find a doorway or bar for support and hang out in the bottom position
Symptoms: Knee pain, difficulty fully extending your leg
There are a series of different knee mobility exercises below I would encourage you to try. The direct cause of knee pain is often difficult to diagnose (factors vary by individual) so you might have to run through a few of these to find one that's the most effective for you. Two of the most widely prescribed: 1. book or firm object placed in the middle of your knees with hips extended and applying pressure inside (middle right) 2. getting a lacrosse ball and mobilizing the tissue directly above the patella (#1 & #3 on bottom panel across)
Symptoms: Neck pain/soreness. This especially applies to those who spent a lot of time at a desk or frequently looking down at a cell phone.
With arms extended/interlocked behind your back, slowly turn your neck to the left, right, and forward
With a lacrosse ball against a wall pressing against upper back/lower neck. Dig for tight spots.
Last but not least, the most effective (in my opinion) for relieving a host of issues with neck pain. Load up a bar with 135 lbs slightly lower than shoulder height and place alongside upper traps close to your neck. Use the bar to massage any tightness. Can be done from a sitting or standing position. Warning...your pain threshold will likely be put to the test as this tends to be a very tight area for most people.
While it's important to focus on being consistent with an exercise program, mobility can oftentimes get lost in the mix. Having poor range of motion not only limits your ability to exercise effectively but can also lead to injury, chronic pain, and (if left unchecked) surgery. If you get in the habit of spending ten minutes every night doing some mobility therapy on a weak point, I promise it will pay huge dividends down the road.