Last week we talked about the relationship between the body's major joints, and how a balance of mobility and stability is crucial to joint health and overall body fitness.
Here is another exercise you can add to your joint-stabilizing repertoire. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to balance on one leg and perform more sophisticated movement with no risk of injury.
To build strength and mobility simultaneously in your hips and ankles: Stand on one leg and hinge at the hips with a neutral spine, keeping the glutes (muscles of the butt) and the abdominal muscles engaged. One leg travels up in back as far as you can hinge forward keeping a neutral spine. The other foot in anchored on the ground. If this strains the back at all, bend your standing knee until the posture is comfortable, but still challenging. Slowly straighten the spine back to standing, training the glutes to aid you in hip extension. Repeat eight times on each leg.
Another good one for hip and knee stability: lay on your side against a wall with your back, butt and heels pressed firmly against the surface of the wall. Wearing socks, raise your upper leg as high as you comfortably can, still keeping both heels, your butt and back in contact with the wall. This will train your abductors (outer hip muscles) which will in turn stabilize the hip and benefit your knee.
You can also train these important hip stabilizers by walking sideways with resistance tubing around your ankles.
To build mobility: Stretch your hip flexors by kneeling on one knee and leaning slowly forward until a stretch is felt in the front of the hip of your trailing leg. The foot of the other leg, which is bent at a 90-degree angle, should be firmly planted on the floor to provide stability.
Make sure to keep your core tight and your forward leg far enough in front of you so that you don't over flex your forward knee.
Next week, I'll give you one more set of exercises to amp up strength, stability and mobility in the joints, this time, the thoracic spine.
Start integrating each of these exercises into your own routine, and you'll gradually increase your ability to take on more challenging movements.
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