The Top Functional Exercises For Your Best Life
1. PROPER SQUAT FORM (TO MOVE BETTER, AND LONGER)
How often do you find yourself squatting – whether it is to play with kids, watch TV, or to pet a dog?
Are you confident in your ability to get back up?
Today’s functional movement is simply that: The ability to squat up and down from the ground.
As children, we did this movement naturally.
Thanks to our sedentary lifestyles, people are losing this ability.
So why should we maintain the ability to squat well in the first place?
First of all, a squat is as natural of a movement as you can get. For example:
- We have to get up and down from the toilet
- We have to get up and down from a chair and from the ground
Squatting also helps to…
- Improve balance
- Improve mobility in our joints
- Support flexibility in our muscles
- Improve Coordination
- Walk without pain
- Go up and down the stairs without pain
So how can you practice squatting properly to improve the way you move?
- Start with your feet about shoulder width apart, eyes and chest up
- Lower yourself toward the ground as far as you're comfortable, by bending your knees and dropping your bottom back. You should maintain good posture the entire way down – eyes and chest up, facing forward
Spend time down in this squat and strive to improve that duration as you practice, building up to the ultimate goal of 10 minutes straight
- Note: Most of your weight should be in your heels
Once you have reached your time goal, you will stand back up by firing the muscles in your bottom to help you get back to that standing position.
- If right now you can only spend about 30 seconds before you need a break no big deal, just keep adding on a set or two each time you try!
Please note, this squatting exercise should NEVER hurt.
Watch THIS video to hear from our Physical Therapist, Michael Hauber, to learn more.
Also, if you start to feel yourself rounding or you simply cannot move further there are some great modifications to help you build up to a great deep squat:
- Keep a chair behind you or…
- Hold onto something in front of you that is sturdy, such as a door frame. Sometimes when you have something sturdy to hold onto, it allows you to squat a little bit deeper.
Do you want to get a visual of how to perform the perfect squat? Watch the video above of Physical Therapist, Michael Hauber of Elite Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy.
Good luck and be safe! If you have any questions about your own ability to squat, or if you experience any pain please feel free to give us a call to schedule a FREE 30 minute consult.
2. BREATHING: DO YOU BREATHE PROPERLY? [SELF-TEST & EXERCISES TO IMPROVE]
Do you know how to breathe properly?
It seems simple enough, but I often find that our clients have lost the ability to breathe naturally and effectively.
Many individuals have come accustomed to breathing more with their chest and neck muscles instead of their diaphragm. Even some of the strongest individuals that come in for personal training to work on their strength and conditioning tend to chest breathe.
So why does it matter how we breathe anyway?
If we are taking thousands of breaths a day, and we start tensing up our neck muscles, your neck may start to hurt. Additionally, we are just not getting enough oxygen as we inhale so we cannot perform optimally.
Try a quick test to evaluate how well you are breathing…
- While standing or lying down, place one hand up on your chest and the other on your abdomen, just above the belly button
- Take a deep breath in through your nose
- Let your breathe out through your mouth
Where did you feel your movement? Was it the hand on your chest, or the hand on your abdomen?
You should primarily see the movement coming from the abdomen, not so much up in the chest.
This is called diaphragmatic breathing.
So now what?
Whether you already have mastered belly-breathing naturally, or you would like to improve your breathing ability practicing proper inhalation and exhalation through your diaphragm daily is important for overall health.
Take some time and really focus on breathing through the abdomen several times a day. Here’s how you can do that…
Place one hand on your chest, one on your abdomen, and practice 10 deep belly breaths. Really focus on breathing from that deep space in your abdomen…
- First thing in the morning
- Before eating lunch
- Before eating dinner
- Before lying down to go to bed
The ability to crawl plays is essential movement, even from the time we are babies. Crawling plays a major role in teaching us…
- How to coordinate
- How to balance
- How to use our core
It may sound odd that crawling can improve our coordination, balance, and our core strength. So let’s take a look at how it helps…
- Coordination with moving opposing legs and arms at the same time to move ourselves forward
- Balance when we are on only one hand and one foot as we are moving
- Core strength to help our balance. The better you keep your spine in a tabletop position, the more you will improve your core strength, as well as coordination and balance. This will also reduce risk of injury.
How To Practice Crawling:
Crawling is an exercise you can practice at home, ideally on a comfortable surface if you can. You will get down on your hands and knees. If this causes any pain or discomfort you may not be ready to practice crawling just yet. Speak with your Physical Therapist if pain or discomfort occurs.
One thing to be mindful of is proper posture and alignment while crawling. Try to picture your spine almost like a tabletop as opposed to a rounded spine.
Crawl the length of your carpet or a yoga mat, by moving forward with your one arm and the opposite leg.
Once you are in a good position you can begin to crawl the length of your carpet or yoga mat. When doing so, you will more forward alternating between one arm and the opposing leg, then the opposite side.
You might spend a good couple minutes just crawling back and forth each day to help build coordination, balance, and core strength.
Check out THIS video to learn more about how to crawl!
Crawling can also be used in your warmup for any sort of exercise. This will light up the body as a whole and prepare you for running, lifting, or whatever other workout you may be performing.
4. AN ANNUAL PHYSICAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT: 5 REASONS YOU NEED ONE
Have you ever thought about the things you are prioritizing over your body and overall well-being?
Do you wait to go to the dentist when your teeth hurt, or do you go in for your routine check-up?
Do you bring your car in to get an oil change, or do you wait until your car starts smoking to get routine work done?
Just like our teeth and our cars, our body’s need routine check-ins. Checking at your Kansas City Physical Therapy clinic will help you learn to move better and relieve you of any pain and weaknesses you may be experiencing.
So how often?
At Elite Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy we recommend that our clients come in on either an annual or biannual basis, depending on the individual.
By doing an annual or bi-annual screening with a Physical Therapist, individuals can…
- Prevent injury. We get many patients at Elite Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy that have suffered some sort of injury that is limiting their daily living or sports performance. What they may not realize is that injury can actually be PREVENTED if they are moving well, and often. Ask your Physical Therapist for a functional movement screen to help you understand how well you move.
- Decrease pain. Once you learn how to move better and strengthen any areas of weakness your pain will begin to disappear, allowing you to actually enjoy being active!
- Improve strength & balance. Just lifting weights and practice standing on one leg will not always give you the strength and balance you need. By working with a Physical Therapist, together you can find your weaknesses and true balance needs, then develop a plan with specific exercises to keep you getting stronger, balancing longer, and moving better.
- Increase mobility. Stiff joints? Limited range of motion in your physical activity? The sooner you act on it the better informed you are to not only increase that mobility, but do things like lift
- Reach peak performance. In order to reach peak performance you must be injury and pain free, plus have optimal strength, balance, and mobility. A Physical Therapist can help you reach all of these marks and set you up for success in whatever sport, workout, or daily movement you enjoy the most.
Learn more about getting an annual Physical Therapy evaluation HERE!