These exercises will help you to get strong in all the right places! I have limited it to specifically static strengthening exercises, so that means no cardiovascular exercises!
1. The Squat
It doesn’t matter if it’s a body weight, front, back, overhead or any other variation of squat you can think of, squatting is the ultimate test of strength throughout the human body. A successful squat requires the muscles throughout the lower extremity, spine and even your shoulders. No other movement uses so much of your body.
Squatting is an important movement for everyone to be able to complete, its only down to modern day life (sitting all day etc) that most adults cannot even do a basic squat with the correct form. Whereas most children can squat with perfect form by the age of 2.
I could keep talking about squats for the rest of this blog, but that’s not the point. What I will say is that even if it’s only a few sets of bodyweight squats every other day or so, your body will thank you for it.
2. Hip Thrusts
Ok, so hip thrusts are similar in terms of the muscles used as the squat. So why include it you might ask. It helps to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings, two muscles that are massively important within the gait cycle and are also commonly weak/dysfunctional. The hip thrust also is one of the most effective ways to stretch your hip flexors.
Many people, once again due to modern life, find that they have very tight hip flexors. 10 points to anyone who guesses why this happens… Yep you guessed it. Sitting down all day. In any case, the hip thrust is particularly effective when stretching the hip flexors because it uses the antagonistic muscle to the hip flexor (read as: the muscle that does the exact opposite). Now the body has a neurological function that means that when one is contracting, the other has to relax. By relaxing the hip flexor and extending the hip during the hip thrust, we achieve a much more effective stretch.
To perform a hip thrust simply lay on your back, place your feet towards your bum and then lift your hips into the air. Pretty self-explanatory. Aim for 3 sets of 12-15. For the advanced try placing one leg out straight and doing single leg hip thrusts. This will challenge your core musculature as well as you will have to resist rotating and falling over.
3. Thoracic rotations
So you might not have heard of this one, and its performed in many different ways, but thoracic rotations are one of the most versatile exercises there are. Because of thoracic spine’s location (your upper and middle back) it has a very unique set of requirements to fulfil its function. The thoracic spine handles most of the rotation in your back, but also does a lot of flexing and extending. I like to view the thoracic spine as a transitional zone of your back, without it functioning properly the movements coming from above (the neck) and below (the lumbar spine) are compromised. Added to this is the presence of the rib cage and the scapula, both of which have unique requirements of the thoracic spine too. So having a stiff thoracic spine has knock on effects on many different areas of the body. I bet right now at least half of you are thinking “yeah, my upper back is a bit stiff”, well try this exercise out and thank us in a couple of weeks when you can move a lot more than you thought you could.
To perform the thoracic rotation start on your hands and knees, then reach with one arm across your body to the other side. You should have your arm passing between the arm and leg of the opposite side of your body. Reach as far as you can, then return to the start position. Repeat with the opposite side. That’s one rep, aim for 3 sets of 10.
4. Scapula wall slides
This movement has become popular within the exercise rehab and prehab community recently, and with good reason. The scapula wall slide strengthens the lower and middle fibres of trapezius and also the rhomboids and a few other smaller muscles within the shoulder, whilst simultaneously stretching out the chest. This movement is great for anyone who has had a recent shoulder injury, but also anyone that feels like their upper back rounds and their shoulders roll forwards (I’m guessing at least half of you again are thinking that this is something you struggle with).
To perform a scapula wall slide stand about a foot away from a wall. Lean back into the wall so that your bum, shoulders and head are touching the wall. Now raise your hands above your head, and push them backwards into the wall. Maintain the pressure through your arms, and begin to slide them downwards, bending at the elbows. Imagine you are trying to tuck your elbows to your sides. Then once you’ve gone as far as you can whilst keeping all of these points on your body in contact with the wall, slide your arms back up. That’s one rep. Try and get 10.
5. Pelvic Tilts
The final exercise on my list is the pelvic tilt. An exercise that is designed to strengthen the transverse abdominis (no, not your six pack). The transverse abdominis is essential for maintaining stability in your lower back. It pulls on tissue known as the thoraco-lumbar fascia (last big word I promise) which creates a stabilising effect on your lumbar spine. It’s essentially your own internal weightlifting belt.
To perform a pelvic tilt, start in the same position as a hip thrust, now instead of lifting your hips up, you are going to push your lower back into the ground. Some people find it helps to imagine they are crushing something beneath their lower back. You should feel the muscles in the front and sides of your abdomen working to achieve this. Hold the position for a second or two and then relax. Repeat for 4 sets of 10.
For videos demonstrating the exercises, head over to our Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/alphahealthost/ where we will be posting in the coming days.
So there you have it. my top 5 exercise for a healthy body. Now keep in mind that doing the exercises on this list will not bullet-proof your body from injury, nor will they make your injury go away, for that you might need to pop in and see one of our Osteopaths. These exercises are chosen because they can help reduce the risk of injuries occurring and help to facilitate the body functioning at its best.
Please note that this shouldn't be used as a replacement for seeking advice from a medical health professional.