Your musculoskeletal (MSK) system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. It’s your body’s framework, providing structure, support, and stability. It’s also responsible for creating movement. In adults, MSK fitness and health plays a key role in personal independence and quality of life, risk of cardiovascular disease, risk of injuries, and cognitive and functional ability.
A healthy MSK system requires strength, endurance, coordination, mobility, and stability. In fact, most musculoskeletal injuries occur due to a deficit in one of those components. A test called a functional movement assessment can highlight exactly what areas need improvement in order to reduce your risk of pain or injury.
Two commonly used movement assessments are the Overhead Squat and Y-Balance Test.
Overhead Squat – A squat is a fundamental movement pattern, and an inability to perform a squat correctly can be a predictor of pain or future injury. When assessing a squat, we look for proper alignment of body segments in order to identify movement compensations, which can be caused by overactive muscles, underactive muscles, or injuries.
Y-Balance Test – This functional assessment observes one’s ability to reach with one leg for a maximal distance while balancing on the opposite leg. These movements identify strength and range of motion imbalances while comparing the left and right sides. Significant differences between the right and left sides may indicate an increased risk of lower extremity injury, as well as increased risk of total body injury from slips, trips, and falls.
Once risk factors are identified, incorporating strength, balance, and coordination exercises into a regular workout routine can help build full-body stability and reduce the risk of injury. Here are some of the EHE Health Mentors’ favorite exercises. Because they require no equipment and minimal space, they can be performed anywhere.
Precautions: Please be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Perform each exercise for the suggested length of time or number of reps, focusing on slow, controlled movements and good form.
Hold your arms straight overhead. Lift the right knee up to waist level while bringing the arms down, pause for 2-3 seconds as your hand touches your knee. Alternate knees and repeat for 30-60 seconds.
Stand in a split stance, feet about 3 feet apart using a chair or wall for extra balance support. Keeping torso straight, bend knees and lower body towards the floor without allowing front knee to bend over the toe (you should see the tip of your shoe). Push through the heel to come back up without locking the knees. Complete 1 set of 12 reps. Repeat on the other side.
Stand in front of a chair, feet shoulder-width apart. Sit onto the chair by pushing the hips back and down on the chair. Return to the standing position by pressing evenly throughout your feet. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Place your forearms and hands flat on the ground, shoulders directly over elbows. Lift your body off the ground by squeezing your quadriceps, glutes, and abs until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Try holding this position for 10-15 seconds at a time.
Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling, and your legs raised with your knees bent at 90°. Lower your right arm overhead and left leg out at the same time until they are just above the floor. Pause for 2-3 second before returning to the starting position. Repeat with the other side to complete one full repetition.
Start on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Raise your right arm out in front of you and your left leg out behind you, both parallel to the floor. Pause for 2-3 seconds while keeping your torso and pelvis flat. Slowly bring your right elbow and your left knee to touch under your abdomen. Round your back as the limbs touch, and then extend them away from each other. Repeat for 3 sets of 3 reps on each side.
Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor under your knees. Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders. Squeeze your core and pull your belly button back toward your spine. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then return to your starting position. Complete at least 10 reps.
Hold onto a wall or chair for balance if needed. Shift your weight to the right leg and, without tilting the torso, lift the left leg straight out the side until you feel a contraction in your glutes. You may only need to lift the leg a few inches. The foot should be flexed, and your hip, knee, and ankle should be in alignment and pointing in the same direction. Lower the leg without resting it on the floor and repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Hold onto a wall or chair for balance if needed. Start on the heels of your feet and roll forward and up onto your toes. Do 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions. To increase difficulty, perform on a single leg or using dumbbells.
To get the most out of your workout include a moderate warm up before exercise, and a total body stretch in your cool down. Stretching and foam rolling have been shown to reduce muscle fatigue and speed up post-exercise recovery time.
Preventing injury risk should be at the forefront of everyone’s wellbeing. In conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle, EHE’s Health Mentorship Program is here to help improve MSK health, adding quality to your daily life. Sign up today!