By Rob Smith
It's very easy to get wrapped up in over-complicated routines for stretching or exercising when often what people need is to do most is more of the basics.
There are two positions that every human should practise, ideally daily, if you want to have great structural health late into life. I.e. be able to move your body how you want, without pain.
1. The Low Squat
2. The Passive Hang
The Low Squat - explained briefly as sitting as low in a squat as you can.
Sitting in chairs for hours at a time has caused us multiple mobility issues, and you may have even heard the phrase 'sitting is the new smoking'.
Tight hip flexors, weak glutes, and bad posture slowly increase over time and we pay for it in our later years.
You can help correct this now by spending more time in a low squat.
There are quite a few variants of this move, but the one I am recommending to start with is the relaxed position, i.e. not worrying about the spine, just focussing on getting your bum as low as possible and heels on the floor, ideally.
1. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart (everyone is different, there is no universal perfect position, just have a play around)
2. Slowly lower yourself down, holding your arms out in front of you as a counter balance if needed.
3. Ensure the knees do not roll in.
4. If it is impossible to keep your heels down you have two options, slightly elevate the heels using two thin books or similar, or hold on to the back of a chair to stop yourself falling back. Do this until you are able to get your heels down.
The Passive Hang
After evolving from primates we stopped spending as much time brachiating (arm swinging from branches). Despite spending less time in trees, our shoulder joint is still pretty similar.
The shoulder joint needs to be able to move the arm in many directions, helping us do things like throw. However, this increased movement does mean our shoulders are more vulnerable to injury and need a bit of TLC to keep them healthy.
One of the best things we can do is the passive hang, i.e. just hang from a bar, or branch, or whatever, and allow your shoulders to stretch out.
Hanging is also great for our finger strength, wrist health and also fantastic for decompressing the spine.
So hang out!
My challenge to you:
Firstly, see where you are at now. See how much time you can spend in a low squat with your heels down. Perhaps this is not possible yet, that's fine, you have your starting point.
Next, hang for as long as you can.
If you don't have something convenient to hang off, a sturdy door can often be a good substitute, but don't blame me if you pull the hinges off!
Next, try doing these movements for at least one minute a day for 7 consecutive days. If you can only hang for 15 seconds at a time, then do 4 sets of 15 seconds.
Retest at the end of the week!
Let me know how you get on!