My buddy Frederick is about to leave and spend some time in Kenya where he will be in more rural parts of the country and may have limited access to gyms and fitness equipment. He asked me to create something for him to work on building up his strength and mobility during our "off-season" over the next 6-8- weeks. He wanted to increase his flexibility/mobility for Jiu Jitsu (shoulders), soccer (hips, left knee issues), trail running (right and left ankle, left knee), and basketball (left knee, hips, shoulders). He's given me some key areas that he wanted me to focus on to make sure I work on injury prevention and address some areas that have been giving him off/on issues over the years.
In general, based on what I've seen of how Frederick moves, I think that he lacks good hip flexion and has difficulty getting deeper into his hips when squatting/lunging/stepping. He's mentioned that in the various sports he participates in the hips / knees / ankles or basically the whole lower extremities generally give him issues when trail running (on uneven surfaces) and stopping, cutting, changing directions when playing soccer or basketball. I've known this and have tried to use my speed to take advantage of this when we play basketball together.
If Frederick doesn't want me to take advantage of his weaknesses, then he's going to have to go through a training camp that will cover these basic movements of squatting/lunging and stepping. I've compiled a list of body weight exercises that will work on squatting, lunging, stepping and shoulder/core strengthening using multiplanar movements in various positions such as plank, table top/hands and knees, and in the kneeling and standing positions.
Using movements and testing in different positions allows us to get a more complete understanding of how we function. These movements can be used as the test and it doubles as the exercise. These movements and testing ideas were not my own creation, but something that I picked up from the GIFT program in 2010 or the Gray Institue of Functional Transformation. I credit them for creating the structural framework from which I understand physical therapy and make adjustments or "tweaks" to modify or progress an exercise to be harder or easier.
We function as 3 dimensional beings and can perform many things. If we look at the developmental milestones for children we can better understand the purpose for developing certain strengths and why it's important that we continue to maintain these strengths as we age. We develop hand-eye coordination and visual tracking, we learn to put our hands to our mouth and other parts of our body, we roll, we lay on all sides of our bodies, we sit up, we crawl, we kneel, we stand, we walk, run , hop, jump, skip, gallop, throw, catch, spin, twirl and twerk. We can do so many things and if we understand that we are also 3 dimensional beings and can test ourselves with these planes of movement in mind we can start to see a broader picture of how we function in life, but we can also focus in on specific movements and positions to really see under the microscope how we function with that particular task.
Here's my list of exercises I would have Frederick do daily. He's got intermediate level exercise experience: Exercises 4-5x/week for 30-60 minutes. Able to run, jump, hop, change directions and squat at least 1-1.5x bodyweight. No pain, but has occasional knee irritation.
3D Squat Matrix 3 Sets x 3 Reps each, Rest 2 minutes.
3D Squat matrix: Squats but in various foot positions. We can stand in a neutral stance, wide stance, and narrow stance. Our feet can be lined up, staggered with right foot or left foot forward. Our legs can externally rotate (toe out) and internally rotate (toes in). If we combine all of these positions and test them individually we can see that we have the ability to squat many different ways (27)! I've used them to get a feel for how well my body can load into the ground in each of the different positions.
I would work on loading into your hips as much as you can and don't let your heels come off the floor. Think about sinking in to your hips. Take note where you feel tightness/restriction/pain, also take note which positions feel easy or comfortable.
3D Kneeling Hip Flexor Matrix 3 Sets x 3 Reps each, Rest 1 minute.
3D Kneeling Hip Flexor Matrix is another one of my go to positions to assess hip mobility in a safer position. This particular version has a hip driver matrix and an arm driver matrix where you start in the 1/2 kneeling position and drive from the hips in all 3 planes of movement + hip circles. You can also do an arm driver where you work the upper half from this position to test your bodies ability to shift and translate in all 3 planes of arm driver movements.
I'd start with driving at the hips first, then adding in the arms.
Forward / Sagittal Plane Lunges + 3D Arm Driver 3 Sets x 3 Reps each, Rest 5 minutes.
Disclaimer: I'll usually run through just the lunge movement first to see how well a person can move before adding in arm drivers. But, because I know Frederick, we've done these before and I know that he can do them.
Forward / Sagittal Plane Lunges + 3D Arm Driver. This is taking a look at your body's ability to forward step/lunge and drive the arms in the 3 planes of movement. I'll generally run through this one first to assess hip hinge, knee stability, and your ability to move with stability and if you're able to return comfortably. If it looks stable we can then move onto driving your arms in multiplanar movement.
Start slow and steady, don't rush the arm movements. Focus on stability and strength throughout the whole movement. NO wavering or falling over! If you are struggling, dial back how far you step, or reach with less range.
Lateral / Frontal Plane Lunge Matrix + 3D Arm Driver 3 Sets x 3 Reps each, Rest 5 minutes.
Lateral / Frontal Plane Lunge Matrix + 3D Arm Driver. This is taking a look at your body's ability to lateral step/lunge and drive the arms in the 3 planes of movement. I'll look at this one next to see where the foot position is, what's the trailing limb look like, how much frontal plane hip mobility they have and whether or not they can have stability with additional arm drivers.
Start slow and steady, don't rush the arm movements. Focus on stability and strength throughout the whole movement. NO wavering or falling over! Feel how your body loads into the movements and explodes out.
Rotation / Transverse Lunge Matrix + 3D Arm Driver 3 Sets x 3 Reps each, Rest 5 minutes.
Rotation / Transverse Lunge Matrix + 3D Arm Driver. This is taking a look at your body's ability to rotation step/lunge and drive the arms in the 3 planes of movement. I'll look at this one last because it's generally the most challenging and is not a set of movements most people are used to performing. By the time we do this one, I've already got a good idea of what we will probably need to work on. I like to use this set of movements to see how well the hips can open up, what's happening at the knees and how do they perform with adding arm drivers.
Start slow and steady, don't rush the arm movements. Focus on stability and strength throughout the whole movement. NO wavering or falling over! Feel how your body is able to load into the movement and explode out.
Plank Mobility 3 Sets x 8-10 Reps each, Rest 3 minutes.
Plank Mobility is all about assessing your body's ability to shift weight. You can assess by asking for different drivers. You can start by doing weight shifts up/down, side/side and with twists when driving from the shoulders. You can also assess the body's ability to load and move when driving from the hips. You can also take a look at your ability to move when driving at the feet in all 3 planes of movement.
Table Top and Hands/Knees Mobility 3 Sets x 5 Reps each, Rest 3 minutes.
Table Top and Hands/Knees Mobility. Run through
Table top hip extensions, Table top Diagonal Reaches, hands/knees half step throughs, hands/knees bear crawl fwd/sideways, gorilla step + weight shifts.
Easy on the diagonal reaches. If you're hesitant, start with reaching straight up.
Bridge Progression 3 Sets x 10 Reps each, Rest 1 minute.
Bridge Progression: will work on hip extension and core strength, back and shoulder mobility/strength
Regular Bridge, SL bridge, back bridge (3-5 reps), wrist stretches in childs pose
Single Leg Reach Clock 3 Sets x 3 Reps each, Rest 5 minute.
Single Leg Reach Clock. Stand on one foot (in neutral) and reach the foot at the different positions around the clock and tap your heel. Keep foot neutral and keep the knee generally over the foot. Use this to see how much distance you can achieve while on one foot, you may notice weakness or could possibly have pain while doing this. This is a challenging test because it'll put a lot of stress on the one leg testing how well the ankle dorsiflexes, the knee flexes and how well the hip loads while reaching to various planes of movement.
My advice would be to go through each movement once and work your way up to 3 sets. This is a great program to start with and will cover a lot of your bases. Depending on the day and how you're feeling you can do more sets, but I would say that you should try and do each of these movements at least 1 set through each day. Good luck my brother, I will see you back when you get home.