The other day I was listening to a Tim Ferris podcast interviewing Amelia Boone. She is the top woman in obstacle courses racing (you can check out her website here: http://www.ameliabooneracing.com/. Some of the most interesting questions I found Tim to ask were about Amelia’s prehab and rehab exercises. Prehab exercises are exercises you do regularly to prepare yourself for better functionality in exercise, and rehab exercises would be exercises you do after an injury has flared itself and you need to correct it.
It’s probably the least sexiest thing to ask athlete’s about. Really- how many people out there are wondering what athletes are doing to stay injury free and recover from injuries? What I find most fascinating is that these exercises are one of the most overlooked components that may be contributing to her ultimate success. People are endlessly curious about what athlete’s eat for breakfast, what their nutrition is like, how do they train, what do they do in the gym etc., but what about proper body maintenance?
Behind the scenes each athlete at the highest level is doing specific exercises for their specific body and sport to better prepare themselves to perform. Although most of my readers are not professional athletes we all try to exercise in and out of the gym regularly. We foam roll, we do our strength training, we do our cardio to stay healthy and fit, and then eventually down the road pops up an injury! Was it inevitable? Could you have done something to prevent this? How many days do you have to stay sedentary now due to this injury?
Today I want to show you 3 exercises that I think all programs need to contain to keep the body moving efficiently. These are generalized exercises that I find people to be weak in, but remember that your individual body may require a lot more than these 3 exercises to keep it prepped and ready to participate in exercise.
Here are my top 3 exercises to Prehab and prepare your body to do activities of daily living and work out/play sports.
- One leg glute lifts.
This is a fantastic exercise because it works abdominal stability, glute strength, and you also can’t perform the movement correctly without hip flexor mobility. One of the biggest issues I see when people train with me is not enough glute strength and not enough abdominal stability, this exercise trains both! Keep your hips level by engaging your abs and engage your butt cheek in order to lift the hips up all the way off the ground. Don’t flare your ribs up or push through your lower back. If you can’t do this on one side, start with the two leg version shown below. Train your body to really use your glute muscles (not your legs)= sometimes this takes a lot of brain power!
Ps- if your quads and hamstrings are totally taking over this is something to correct over time by mindfully engage the correct muscles (your butt muscles!).
2. Dead Bug
This exercise teaches the core area how to stay solid and strong while the limbs move around. Our core is our solid centre unit and is the area in which we generate and transfer power and force throughout our body. When you are running, swinging a bat, jumping, bracing from a fall, it all requires your core unit to engage and act as your body’s strong foundation. In this exercise you drop your opposite arm and leg down at the same time, then bring it back up and switch to drop the other two. Straight legs is harder. The key is to keep a neutral lower back (not pushing into the floor, not arching up), and to breathe properly while you do it. Inhale and get tight through the core before your drop your limbs, then exhale as you bring them back up to the top (not letting the muscles disengage). This is a very slow controlled exercise.
3. One leg work.
The final area in which I notice people to be weak, is balance and stability on one leg. This is partially due to weak core, but also do to the hip stabilizers (found in the upper outer portion of the butt muscles). Walking, running, cycling, fitness classes, they all require us to be able to be strong and balanced on one leg. When we can’t balance and be strong then our core unit ‘wobbles’ as we move, and as a result we get a lot of movement through our lower back! (No wonder so many people have back pain)! Next time you walk up a flight of stairs watch your hips. Does one side rise as the other falls? Do they rise nice and strong and powerful together? If one hip drops as the other rises as you climb stairs you most likely are in need of some core strength and one leg work.
Here are some of my favourite one leg exercises:
Step ups and balance (for 3 seconds at the top):
I like this exercise because if you do it correctly you are teaching your body how to engage your glutes and core and stabilize yourself throughout a motion. You should be able to step up with tall posture, driving into your heel into a nice tall position. You shouldn’t have to hunch forward, hurl yourself up, have your knee cave inwards, or lose your balance. Try 10 on each side.
One leg deadlifts.
This is a great exercise to teach your body how to use your glutes (butt muscles) to lift properly. Grab the largest sized medicine ball you have (doesn’t need to be heavy) and hinge forward to touch the ball on the floor. As you do that keep your hips facing the floor and kick your other leg straight back. At the bottom I like to take a deep inhale and engage my core strong, and then as I stand back up I exhale and engage my glutes. This rhythm is the same rhythm for every exercise, and really teaches your body how to work your core training into your breathe rhythm.
One leg squats.
My final favourite exercise is one legged squats. Try sticking one leg out and keeping the heel off the ground as you lower yourself slowly, tap your butt on the bench, and use the butt muscles to stand back up. Again, these are great for core and glute strength, and stability of one side hip muscles. They also are freaking hard 🙂
To finish off I should say that these are not easy exercises. To do these exercises implies that you are strong, fit, exercise regularly, but probably need to target in on a few other muscles groups to prepare to function better!
Now don’t confuse these exercises with rehab exercises. Rehab exercises are for people who have been injured and are trying to bring their body back to normal strength and movement. Rehab exercises that I may program for one of my active rehab clients are going to be much gentler. These prehab exercises are focussed on building optimal body mechanics and movement for optimal fitness!
Try to incorporate all of these exercises into your schedule once a week and tell me how it affects your fitness and performance. I know without a shadow of a doubt you will run faster, have less lower back pain, lift heavier, and see improvements in every other activity you do!
Thanks for reading 🙂