Purpose: Wall scapular retractions help to promote good posture and decrease back pain. Continually, when mastered, it will increase your range of motion and ability to recruit back muscles while exercising. Being able to recruit these muscles to work properly is essential in maintaining proper posture.
Purpose: To stretch the quadratus lumborum or QL muscles located in the lower back between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the hips. This muscle is responsible for trunk stabilization, extension and ipsilateral rotation/bend. When trigger points are present here, which is very common, they can refer pain into the low back, buttocks, and back of the leg regions. These muscles are commonly in spasms or irritated from prolonged improper leaning forward or poor posture when standing (ie. leaning over the sink while washing hands/dishes).
Instructions: Three stages or difficulties depending on how tight these and surrounding muscles are. It's important to loosen up the upper spinal muscles like the lats first, then move down to the QL and hips by changing hand and foot placement.
Part 1: place feet together and angled 45 degrees away from the doorway. Top hand is pulling and bottom hand is pushing away to increase the torque or stretch in the rib cage. It's important to stretch these upper muscles out first so that you can later get a better stretch in the QL.
Part 2: Drop the top hand down low hear the bottom hand and lean away from the doorway at a 45 degree angle. You should feel the stretch in the lower back now.
Part 3: Cross the outside leg/foot behind the inside one to exaggerate the stretch now in the QL as well as the lower muscles like the outer glutes and IT band.
Common Errors: Not leaning away from the doorway at the original 45 degree angle. Bending the knees or bending forward at the hips instead of laterally will also reduce the stretch. Not loosening up the upper muscles before trying to stretch the QL's may also make it difficult.
Purpose: To stretch the triceps muscles, at the back of the upper arm, which can contribute to shoulder, elbow and hand pain.
Instructions: Standing up tall, lift up the arm you need stretched above your head, and bend your elbow until you can touch (or almost touch) the top of your back. Use the other arm to push your elbow back to get a bigger stretch - you should feel this at the back of your arm, from your elbow to your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds.
Common Errors: Not lifting your elbow up high enough - this is why you use the other arm to push it farther. Careful not to let your head hang down when you hold this stretch, but to look up straight.
Purpose: The hip hinge is the first step to developing the proper form for a deadlift. Bending should first come from the hip hinge, and this exercise promotes practicing this form before progressing to weighted lifts. It can also promote proper form to use in bending throughout the day, when we bend over to pick things up.
Instructions: Use a pole or a broomstick to first set the alignment of your body. Holding it behind your back, it should come in contact with the back of your head, your back between the shoulder blades, and your lower back/glutes. This contact should remain throughout the entire exercise. Keeping your feet hip distance apart, bend at the waist until you feel a pull at the back of your legs, without bending your knees, then return to standing up straight, squeezing your glutes until you're straight. Practice this for 20 times, and do often to train your body how to recognize this as proper bending form.
Common Errors: Losing contact with one or more of the three contact points - don't bend down so far if you lose this form. Bending your knees is also sometimes a way people compensate for lack of bend at the hips - keep your knees straight until you can isolate just bending at the hips.
Purpose: This is primarily an IT band stretch - the band of fascia that runs from your pelvis to just past the knee on the outside of your leg. However, you can also get a stretch of the glutes, and stretching both can help contribute relieving dysfunctions that contribute to knee pain.
Instructions: Lie on your back, put a strap or a belt around your foot, and let your leg lower across your body, keeping your knee bent and your toes pointed up towards your head. You will feel a stretch or similar sensation down the side of the leg. Hold this for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Common Errors: Bending the knee or letting the foot point - keep the knee straight, and the ankle bent!
Purpose: To stretch the muscles of your chest, your pectoralis muscles. These tend to be tight with common postures such as forward head posture, or upper crossed syndrome, where the muscles in the upper back are loose, and the muscles in the chest are tight.
Instructions: Stand in a doorway with your arms on the frame, take a step through the doorway until you feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Your arm position can move up and down depending on where you feel the stretch. Make sure you maintain good standing posture throughout the whole stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.
Common Errors: Looking down during the stretch - you will feel a greater stretch as well as encourage better posture if you look up!
Purpose: To improve the core strength, form, and endurance. This exercise also reinforces the use of the pelvic tilt in functional exercises.
Instructions: Start on your forearms and knees or on your stomach and forearms , engage your core muscles, and lift up so you're supported only by your forearms and toes. Look a little bit ahead of you on the ground, pelvic tilt, squeeze your glutes, quads, and hamstrings to hold this pose for 30 seconds at first, gradually increasing the time when you progress this exercise.
Common Errors: Sticking your butt come too high in the air - your body should be a straight line from the shoulders to the heels. Drop your butt and pelvic tilt. If this is difficult, try it first on your knees - assume the plan position shown in the video, then drop down onto your knees without losing your core engagement. Hold the position here.
Purpose: This stretches the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle in both sides of your lower back, as well as promotes spinal rotation.
Instructions: Lie on one side, with hips and knees stacked on top of each other, or use a foam roller or something similar to rest the top knee on. Keep your hips and knees together through the whole stretch, and reach your top arm over and back, as far as you can to feel a stretch in your side body, back, and through the front of your shoulder.
Common Errors: Letting the knees come apart, or the top knee to drop behind the bottom one. It's more important to keep your knees together for this exercise than it is to be able to touch the ground, so make sure you keep good form before stretching any farther.
Purpose: To stretch the piriformis muscle, a hip rotator, which can be tight and create lower back pain.
Instructions: Lie on your back, bending one knee and placing your ankle over the other knee, in a figure 4 position. grab onto your opposite leg and pull both legs forward until you feel a stretch at the back of your crossed leg.
Common Errors: Straining your neck to bend it forward - make sure when you assume the position, then relax your head back.
Purpose: This exercise is a good way to set your head and neck position before doing many of the neck, shoulder, and upper back exercises. It helps to counteract forward head posture by stretching the muscles at the back of the skull and to strengthen the deep neck flexors.
Instructions: Sit or stand up tall, and tuck your chin back, like you're making a double chin. Hold for a few seconds and release, for about 10 times.
Common Errors: Tilting your head down - this is not a chin to chest movement! Make sure your head goes back, not down.
Purpose: This is an exercise to stretch the quadriceps muscle at the front of the leg.
Instruction: Grab onto your ankle and pull your leg up towards your glutes until you feel a stretch at the front of your thigh. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Reverse position and repeat with other leg. For extra stretch, squeeze the glute of the leg you're stretching, and bend your foot up at the ankle.
Common Errors: Not keeping the hips square and forward - squeeze your glute to get an extra stretch. Stand up tall, not hunching forward, and if you struggle to grab your foot or ankle, grabbing your pant leg will work.
Purpose: These are great stretches for the shoulder muscles in 4 directions.
Instruction: Use pull-up bands or another strong band attached to something high. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
1 - For the first stretch, with the band in your palm, bend forward at the hips, letting the band pull your arm in opposition. You should feel a stretch in your armpit and down your side chest.
2 - For the second stretch, stand with your arm in the band across your body. You should feel this stretch across the side of your shoulder and arm.
3 - For the third stretch, turn so your arm in the band stretches to the side then behind you. You should feel this stretch across the chest and front of the arm.
4 - For the fourth stretch, lift your arm above your head and behind your head, facing away from the band. Keep your palm straight up and let the band pull your elbow up and back.
Common Errors: Make sure to keep your core engaged, and let the bands pull your arm in each direction until you feel a comfortable, but not painful pull. The technique is key to feel a stretch - watch the video to see hand placement with the band.
Purpose: To stretch the muscles at the front of the hip, which tend to become shortened or tight with common postures such as lower cross syndrome, or when we sit for prolonged periods during the day. Releasing these muscles can help move the pelvis and help with back and knee pain.
Instructions: Kneeling on the ground with the leg you are to stretch, step out into a lunge position with the other one. Square your hips, engage your core, and lean forward, leading with the hips and not the shoulders. Do not lean back when you do this, but squeeze your glute to get a deeper stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, perform 3 times. Repeat on the opposite side, even if you do not have pain on that side.
Common Errors: Leaning backwards or forwards, instead of letting the hips guide the movement. Not stepping out far enough with the opposite leg can put strain on the knee.
Purpose: This is a progression from doing the "YTA"s with the theraband. It is more challenging to the core and shoulder stability muscles by moving against gravity with weights.
Instructions: Lie on a gym ball, on your stomach, and engage your back muscles by extending up, so you can look ahead of you. Set your shoulders and neck first, hold small weight dumbbells (2lbs to start) then perform the Y, T, and As, returning your arms to hang in front of the ball. Perform 3 sets of 10, resting between each set.
Common Errors: Rounding over the ball is indicative of not engaging the back extension muscles, or not setting the shoulders properly before performing this exercise. Breathing is also important, watch that you don't hold your breath as you lift your arms.
Purpose: To strengthen the front and side muscles of the shoulder, as well as reinforce scapular stability, which helps carry over to everyday functional activities, such as lifting, reaching, etc.
Instructions: Set your shoulder blades before you start - pull them back and down. Put a band under your feet and hold the ends with your arms down to your side. Keeping good posture, with your core braced and trunk not moving, lift your arms straight out to the the side (abduction), return to resting, then straight out in front of you (flexion). Repeat 3 sets of 10, resting between each set.
Common Errors: Not keeping your shoulders down as your arm lifts up - this is usually a compensation, where you are using your trapezius muscles between the shoulder and the neck, to help lift, but the lift should come from the shoulder joint. Also, if you're arching your back to get the arms up higher, you might need a lighter resistance band to work on technique first.
Purpose: To work the rhomboids and external muscles of the rotator cuff and to aid in scapular stability.
Instructions: Stand with a rolled up towel under your affected arm, set your shoulder, and hold a theraband with your arm across your body. Rotate your arm to about 90 degrees straight in front of you - keeping your shoulder stable. Return to the start. Do 3 sets of 10, giving yourself a rest between each set.
Common Errors: Not setting your shoulder first so it rounds forward. Prepare first! The towel helps reinforce keeping your elbow tucked against your body, and will fall if your elbow comes away.
Purpose: To stretch the back of the leg, which, if tight, can contribute to back, hip, knee, and ankle pain, and increase the risk of injury playing sports.
Common Errors: In the 3 way stretch, keeping your knee bent, or not squaring your hips - usually indicates poor form or the height of the chair is too high for you. Try your foot on a lower surface until you can do this stretch with good form. In the lax ball stretch, careful to not perform this took quickly.
Purpose: This is a great shoulder and upper back rehabilitation exercise. It can be used with bands at home or with a cable column at the gym. It is excellent for improving, re-balancing, and strengthening postural muscles.
Instructions: While standing with your core engaged (pelvic tilt), squeeze shoulder blades together while maintaining arms extended. Slowly extend arms up and back (Y), straight back (T), and back and down (A). These movements are to be done in a very controlled fashion and only engaging back muscles, while trying to relax neck and chest muscles.
Common Errors: Shrugging your shoulders or excessively bending your elbows are indicative of weak postural muscles, weak shoulders, and or tight chest muscles.
Purpose: In a quadruped position tightening the abdominals, and attempt to bring your hips to your head while rounding the back up similar to a cat.
Instruction: Mobilize the thoracic spine, while contracting the abdominals. Helps improve range of motion in the back and strengthen the core.
Common Errors: Not contracting the abdominals or leaving the head up, thus not rounding the back.
Purpose: This is a core stabilization as well as a balance exercise.
Instruction: On your hands and knees, extend one arm and the opposite leg making sure not to loose your core engagement or arch your spine. The height of your leg is not important as long as you can maintain good core stability.
Common Errors: Twisting at the trunk or arching your back indicative of poor core control, and weakness of the abdominals, obliques, and glutes.
Purpose: Core stabilization, reinforcing pelvic tilt.
Instructions: Lay on your back with your knees in a table top position, press your low back into the ground and brace your core. While in the table top position press one hand against the opposite knee and at the same time extend the other arm and leg. Keep your toes pointed up and stretch the leg and arm out into space. Repeat on the opposite side, and increase the level of difficulty by placing a medicine ball between your hand and knee.
Common Errors: Losing the low back connection with the ground by letting your back arch. Indicative of weak lower abdominals and poor control.
Purpose: A function exercise for engaging the glutes, hamstrings and quads and to avoid excess stress on the low back or knees.
Instructions: Stand against the ball with your feet slightly our in front of you. Bend at the hips and knees to 90 degrees without leaning forward and without allowing your knees to go past your ankle/foot.
Common Errors: Knees buckling in, knees moving past toes - indicative of weak hip stabilizers. Bending too far forward - indicative of a weak core.
Purpose: This is the best exercise for low back injuries. It is the precursor to nearly every exercise you will do on a regular basis. Some people refer to it as core stabilizing, bracing, or engaging their core. The bridge is a pelvic tilt followed by a contraction of the glutes and hamstrings to lift the hips off the ground until a straight line is achieved from your shoulders to your knees.
Instructions: Lay flat on your back with knees bent, posteriorly tilt (try to roll your hips backwards). Bring your ribs down by tightening your abdominals then breathe out. If done correctly you will feel your abdominals tighten and your low back press down against the floor.
Just note that although it seems like a simple exercise a lot of people have difficulty with it and the only way to improve is to continuously practice it.
Common Errors: There is an arch in the back when you are tilting - indicative of weak (and improving!) lower abdominals, or tight restricting hip flexors. In the bridge, the knees buckle together - indicative of weak hip stabilizers. To correct this issue, try doing them with a light band around the knees and gently push outwards against the band.
Purpose: This is a great exercise for strengthening the groin muscles.
Instructions: Begin this strengthening exercise lying on your back with a rolled towel or ball between your knees. Slowly squeeze the ball between your knees tightening your inner thigh muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times as hard as possible and comfortable pain free.
Common Errors: Make sure to keep your low back against the floor.
Purpose: This exercise improves knee and hip strength to improve proper patellar motion. A great exercise for people who struggle with general knee pain, runners knee or general weakness of the VMO.
Instructions: Brace your core (pelvic tilt), straighten your leg by contracting your quadriceps, lift the leg roughly to the height of your opposite knee, return to neutral and relax.
Common Errors: Not pelvic tilting prior to lifting - after all, these muscles are connected to your core. It is also important to relax between each repetition so that you have a full contraction.
Norwalk Sports and Spine | Norwalk, CT Chiropractor | Dr. Jason Queiros | Dr. Andrew Zomick | Sports Chiropractic