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Here are six simple moves that’ll improve your mobility to guarantee flexibility for life, and one test to help you find your weaknesses, and then conquer them
While sitting at your computer
Scapular Retraction – Sit with your hands on your hips and your feet flat. Gently raise your chest towards the ceiling – don’t look up; keep your chin level with the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, feeling the stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, and relax. That’s one rep, do 10. Tip When your muscles are elastic, it’s easier to maintain good posture, says physical therapist Harold Millman. Good posture can alleviate muscle strain that develops when you sit for long hours.
To warm up for sports
Back Lunge And Twist – Stand with your feet together. Step back with your right leg and bend your left knee 90 degrees. Twist your torso to the left, extending your arms horizontally to deepen the stretch. Then step forward to bring your feet together. Repeat the back lunge with your left leg, twisting your trunk to the right. Do a total of 10 with each leg. Tip Dynamic stretching is a good warm- up. It gets blood flowing and excites the nervous system, says strength and conditioning coach Ron DeAngelo.
For Tight Lats
Kneeling Stability Ball Lat Stretch – Kneel on the floor and place a stability ball in front of you. Place your hands on the ball, lean forward at your hips, and press your shoulders toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat twice.Do this up to three times a day. Tip Lie face down on the floor, palms facing each other. Raise your arms towards the ceiling, keeping your arms straight at all times. If you arch your lower back, bend your elbows or rotate your palms, you need this stretch.
For healthy shoulder mobility
Sleeper Stretch – Lie on your left side. Form a 90-degree angle with your left arm, your upper arm on the floor and your forearm pointing up. Use your right hand to stretch your left forearm towards the floor but don’t let your upper arm rise. Hold for five seconds, do nine more, then switch sides and repeat. Tip A flexible rotator cuff improves your range of motion sports.
Before any exercise
Inchworm – Start in a push-up position. Walk your feet towards your hands until the stretch in your legs starts to feel uncomfortable. Keeping your feet still, slowly walk your hands forward until you’re back in push-up position. Do this five to 10 times. Tip This works your whole body, especially your legs, lower back, hips and shoulders.
After a long day at work
Corner Chest Stretch – Stand facing the corner of a room. Raise your arms to shoulder height and place your forearms, elbows and hands against each wall. Lean inward to stretch your chest muscles and hold for a count of 15. Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps. Tip Raising or lowering your arms stretches different parts of your pectoral muscles.
Screen Out Injuries
“Quality of movement is a predictor of durability,” says Shaun Cairns, qualified Functional Movement Screen (FMS) practitioner. FMS was created by strength and conditioning coaches Gray Cook and Lee Burton, and is a grading system that studies your movement patterns to find limitations. Duke University assistant professor Dr Robert Butler, who specialises in assessing movement at the Duke Sports Medicine Centre, recommends FMS.
How does it work? You’re given a score on the seven movement tests and a corresponding programme to help you improve those weaknesses.
The benefit? “You’ll move better, and without any dysfunction, pain or injury as a result of training,” says Cairns. You’ll avoid injuries, lift more, and be more fluid in your movements. Training with gym machines can restrict your range of movement and take away the stabilisation required for functional movement. “Many people have built fitness on dysfunction and at some point you pay the price for it,” says Cairns.
The most common issues? “Shoulder and hip mobility,” says Cairns. The FMS test isn’t just for weightlifters and gym-goers. It can help everyone.