Have you heard of TRX training? TRX stands for Total body Resistance eXercise. It allows you to use your body weight to perform strength training exercises with a strap suspension system. You may have seen the hanging straps at a gym, but you can also buy them for home use. TRX is great for upper body, lower body, and core strengthening. I enjoy incorporating it into my strength training routine for variation and a challenge. Almost every exercise done with the TRX can be modified to make easier or harder depending on your level of ability. Check out some of my favorite TRX exercises!Read More
There are several exercises I find essential for every athlete to perform on a regular basis in order to maintain stability, balance, and core strength. These exercises are prescribed as part of a home exercise program for many of my patients who are injured, but they should be completed by anyone looking to prevent injuries too. I do these exercises three times per week as part of my core and strength routine. If you look at the exercises performed by elite athletes, some variation of these will undoubtedly be on their list too. Even if you only have 5 minutes and no equipment, these exercises are easy to fit into your schedule.
3 & 4. Hip abduction and adduction
5. Quadruped alternate arm and leg extensionRead More
Bridges are a fundamental exercise for glute and hamstring strength. We are often dominant in the muscles in the front of our legs (hip flexors and quads), so it is really important to balance those out with strong muscles in the back of the legs (posterior chain). The more dominant your quads are and the weaker your posterior chain is, the more likely you are to get injuries.
Basic Bridge: To perform a bridge, lay on your back with your knees bent. Perform a posterior pelvic tilt and squeeze your butt as you lift your hips up into the air. You should have a straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your knees. If you do not feel your hamstrings engage, push more through your heels and they will activate. If your hamstrings cramp, thats ok! Do not give up. It means they need to be strengthened.
You can perform all of the bridge exercises shown with either your arms by your sides for support and stability OR with them straight up towards the ceiling for more of a challenge. Additionally, you can do repetitions (up and down) or simply hold the bridge position for an amount of time that you can maintain the proper alignment and muscle contraction.
Bridge with Leg Crossover: The next step is to transition from two legs supporting you to only one. The easiest way to begin this progression is to cross one leg over the other. The same sequencing for the basic bridge still applies here even though you're on on leg (posterior pelvic tilt, butt tightening, and lift).
Single Leg Bridge: The next advancement is to completely straighten one leg in the air and push up with the other leg. This is harder than the cross over because the opposite leg no longer has support and you have to hold up more weight. Again, the same basic principles apply for tight abdominals and butt, as well as alignment of shoulders to hips to knees. Make sure your hips do not tilt to one side now that you are only using one leg. Your hips should remain level.
Bridge on Ball: For a stability challenge, place your heels on a ball and perform your bridge. You can do this with your legs straight or your knees bent. You will feel it much more in your hamstrings with your knees bent than with them straight.
Hamstring curls: Keep your hips up and maintain your bridge as you pull the ball in and out (straighten and bend your knees while keeping your butt off the ground). Again, make sure you maintain level hips and keep your hips elevated. Do not let your butt drop down towards the ground, as this breaks your alignment.
Single Leg Bridge On Ball or Single Leg Hamstring Curl: Similar to the bridge without a ball, you can progress to performing the bridge on the ball with one leg. You can lift your hips up and down from the floor OR you can do you hamstring curls in and out with one leg. This is hard!
Similar to planks, bridges should be incorporated into your regular strength training routine. Along with abdominals, hamstrings and glute muscles are vital to being a strong athlete and having balanced core muscles.
Planks are a classic bodyweight strength training exercise, but they can be detrimental if done incorrectly. Common mistakes include to much arch in the low back and/or the butt too high up. There should be a straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your heels. Engage your abdominals with a posterior pelvic tilt and squeeze your butt cheeks together so you have a tight core the whole time. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows with your neck and head relaxed for a neutral spine. Don't look up because that will cause too much curvature at the neck and cause pain. Have a friend or family check your alignment as you hold your plank.
If being on your toes and elbows is too challenging or uncomfortable, try putting your knees down and/or going up on your hands. Make sure you maintain the same alignment though with your shoulders and hips, as well as tight abdominals and a tight butt.
Once you master the basic plank, there are many variations to play with. Don't get too fancy though because you still have to maintain a tight core!
One Leg Plank - lift one leg several inches to one foot off the ground and keep your butt tight. This will really engage the quad of the leg that stays on the ground. Hold as long as you can while maintaining tight abdominals and then switch legs.
Plank on Ball - place shins on a ball and push up into a plank. This will really challenge your core and take the pressure off your legs. You might want to have someone hold the ball for you when you first try this to get started. It's no fun when the ball rolls out from underneath you!
Plank on Ball with Shoulder Taps - hold place on ball and reach with hand to tap opposite shoulder. Continue alternating trying to maintain balance on the ball. This is very challenging - keep your abs tight to stay in place. Try not to sway back and forth as your shift your weight from hand to hand.
Plank with Elbows on Ball - place elbows on ball and push up into plank. This can also be progressed to doing roll outs forward and back or side to side with your elbows. Drop down onto your knees if it's too hard to keep the ball under you.
Side Plank - laying on your side, push up onto your elbow and feet. Keep your top shoulder, hip, and feet all in a straight line. Try not to let your hips sag down. Similar to a regular plank, this can be done on your knees or your hands. I prefer my top arm to be straight up, but you can also rest it on your side if that's more comfortable for you.
Side Plank with Leg Lift - in your side plank, lift the top leg keeping your hips in line. Try not to let your hips rock back and keep your body facing sideways. Some people have a tendency of opening their hips up towards the ceiling to compensate, but you want to keep the body vertical to the ground. You want the outside of the hip doing the work (glute medius), not the front of the hip (hip flexors). This is important to build lateral stability. So much of what we do in life is straight forward (including running), but we have to be strong in the side to side plane as well to prevent injury. When performing this exercise, you can lift the leg up and down for several repetitions OR you can simply hold the leg up.
Try to incorporate planks into your strength routine at least two times per week. Do not push though pain if you experience discomfort while doing these exercises. The focus should be on your core without the neck, back, legs, feet or ankles getting aggravated.