6 Movements You Should Be able to Easily Do: Part 1
These are exercises that should be no problem at all if our body is functioning well. If you have difficulty with any one of them – you simply cannot do them or you have pain, there are body dysfunctions that should be addressed.
Our bodies are meant to move, and when movement becomes a problem due to a lack of strength or flexibility, our lives can close down as we find ourselves no longer capable of doing the things we want. Stairs become a problem, getting in and out of cars or chairs difficult, or we have trouble carrying groceries home.
Training movements is far more important and useful for good function than training muscles. One can strengthen the quadriceps on a leg extension machine, but that teaches the brain nothing useful about how to use that strength. Getting stronger by getting good at these different movement patterns will translate into more ability to do what you want day-to-day.
Most often the reasons people have trouble with these movements is they have lost the flexibility to do them. As that flexibility improves, there is more range-of-motion to strengthen.
Please watch the videos, but use your common sense with respect to trying the movements. Hire someone to help you learn to do these exercises properly, and create a planned progression to regain your ability if you know you cannot do them.
This is exactly what we do in my business, Wellness Works Integrated Health Services. We assess your movement patterns to figure out where you are having a problem. We descend the movements to the point you can do it correctly, and then build them back up from there.
Instead of making this post super long, I thought I’d break it up into three posts over the next three weeks, so today I’ll cover the first 2 of the 6 exercises I think we should all be able to do.
Squat to floor and stand up again
This is a movement that we used to do daily to poop, from the time we were able at about age 1, until the time we died. The invention of the toilet ended that. Many of us are no longer able squat that low due to a lack of flexibility, or we can’t get up from there keeping the trunk parallel to the lower legs (chest higher than the butt) on the ascent.
The usual cheat is to lift the butt up first so the trunk is parallel to the ground instead of the lower legs, and then straighten up. If lifting the butt first is the strategy being used, that indicates a lack of strength in the front of the thigh muscles (quadriceps).
Being able to do this movement correctly ensures adequate slack in the myofascia which would likely reduce the incidence of low back, hip, knee and ankle pain.
One would have adequate strength and range-of-motion to do most day-to-day activities, like climbing stairs, getting out of chairs and even low car seats.
The key to success in this movement is to keep the front of the hips and the front of the ankles soft throughout the range of motion. Simply ensure that your centre of gravity is right over the feet and lower yourself down with ease, bringing the trunk between the knees to ensure that center of gravity is maintained.
If the front of the ankles are firing, your weight is too far back, so bring your knees and body forward until the ankles quieten.
If the ankles are soft, feet relaxed, it is okay if the heels are not firmly on the floor. As you push through the feet to stand up provided the ankles are soft, the myofascia on the bottom of the feet will soften onto the floor as you come up.
Contracting the anterior lower-leg muscles (tibialis anterior) to force the heels down will cause a tug-of-war over the knee cap, as lower leg would then be pulling the knee cap down towards the ankle as the quad is pulling the knee cap up the leg.
The knee cap, being pulled in both directions would end up being scraped over the fold of the knee joint – ouch! So keeping the ankles and feet soft is key.
This movement should be done with a sense of ease. The descent is more an “allowing” than a battle. The ascent is accomplished with a push down through whatever part of the feet are on the floor. It should not feel “effortful”. Good movement is efficient, not difficult.
Start with a height that is manageable (a chair?) and slowly work towards lowering the height over weeks and months of practice, until it is possible to squat fully to the floor.
We find stackable stools work great for this purpose. Every time you succeed in reducing the number of stools for your sit to stand, you have gained that much more flexibility and strength.
In my humble opinion, being able to squat all the way to the floor with no added weight is far more useful in terms of improving function than squatting to the point where the thighs are parallel to the floor with added weight. I know many people that can do half squats with lots of weight, but are not capable of squatting to the floor with just their body weight.
I would not advise squatting with added weight lower than one can keep the back neutral. A flexed (rounded) spine under load is more vulnerable to injury.
Tripod split squat to overhead lift
This movement is particularly useful for lifting items off the floor, as it keeps the back neutral making it less vulnerable to the weight lifted.
This movement requires excellent flexibility in the toes, ankles, knees and hips, as well as adequate strength to get up from the low position while carrying whatever needs to be carried.
It is important to be able to do this movement equally well leading with either leg in order to maintain good muscle balance between the two sides of the body.
Straddle the object to be lifted, and from the squat position above, drop one knee to the floor and sit on the heel of that foot. This position is comfortable and stable as you have created a triangle on the ground with the points being one knee, the toes of the same leg and the other foot.
From here, maintain neutral spine as you grab the object, then holding it close to your trunk, stand straight up again, keeping even weight through both feet.
The common mistake here is to lower the back heel down just when beginning the lift. Stay on the back toes until almost completely upright.
If the weight is kept close to the body on should also be able to lift it over the head and put it on a high shelf.
Next week I’ll discuss two more exercises I think we should all be able to do, and that I have noticed many people have difficulty with.