At home exercise screening whilst in isolation

With the lockdown still on going many people are continuing to exercise at home. There is so much content available, you are guaranteed to find an exercise or an exercise routine that works for you. More over personal trainers and fitness influencers alike are really making use of online training to target their clients and the masses. For those who are not newbies to exercise and planning to follow what they see online, here are some of my favourite quick fire exercise screens based on the exercises i see people performing the most during this period. The aim of these is to help you to determine which exercises and movements are suitable for you and what additional drills you may need to add in order to train in an efficient and pain free manner.

Swimmer hovers

Before performing exercises such as push ups, dips, pull ups and vertical push variations, it’s important to make sure you shoulders blades are moving on the ribcage in an efficient manner and to ensure you create tension where it i needed. Swimmer hovers are a great screening tool prior to performing the above mentioned exercises.

A good screen here means you should be able to work horizontally and vertically through the shoulder blades without any issues whilst stabilising the trunk and lower back- creating sufficient core stability. Check out this Youtube vid from Joe Gambino:

Common compensations:

– Forward head protrusion.

– Excessive rib flare/ arching of lower back

– Sub optimal shoulder blade positioning leading to sub optimal shoulder (ball and socket movement

Conclusion:

If you struggle with any portion of the swimmer hovers, it maybe worthwhile adding some upper back mobility and diaphragmatic breathing to your routine. The screen itself can be used as an exercise to strengthen and stretch your body at potentional ‘weak’ and/or ‘tight’ spots during exercises such as press ups, chin ups and dips! These areas include the posterior delts (rear part of the shoulder), internal and external shoulder rotators- including the pecs and lats Note– the face down version shown at the end of this video is a progression as there is more of a gravitational effect. On the flipside, there is less of a core requirment! Controlled Articular Rotations (CAR’s), Progressive Angular Isometric Loading (PAIL’s) and Regressive Angular Isometric Loading (RAIL’s) are the best way to improve mobility and joint health and will be covered in an upcoming article! For now check out the videos below from ‘The shoulder guy’ Eric Cressey for examples of T-spine mobilisation exerices and my article titles ‘My approach to Core Stability Part I’ for information on diaphragmatic breathing.

Hip impingement FADIR) test

Squats are probably the most popular lower body exercise during this time. If you’ve read my article on my experience of hip pain and why you shouldn’t avoid chronic pain, you will understand why the hip impingement test is a useful at home screen:

Pain or pinching in the front of the hip with this screen could be indicative of a bony block where the thigh bone meets the pelvis. This might mean deep squat type movements with feet forward may be contraindicated for you. I must point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t squat, but chances are you will have to modify depth, feet positioning or perform a single leg squat variation rather than a bilateral squat. In my experience, keeping more of an upright torso can help relieve the pinching, but this is dependent on trunk stability (ZOA) and ankle mobility.

Disclaimer – Some researchers question the validity of the FADIR test as and indicator of hip impingement!

Zone of Apposition (ZOA)

In part one of my approaches to core training for beginners I spoke about the Zone of apposition, which is essentially the ribcage to pelvic region. It relates to the shortening of the distance between these to points and the ability to then push air down into the diaphragm for optimal spinal stability. The heel taps with hands under the lower back is a great too for screening your ability to diaphragmatically breathe and brace the core whilst moving the lower appendages. A good screen here will mean you should be able to squat, hinge, lunge and train the core whilst maintaining an optimal lumbo-pelvic position.

A) Establish 90 90 position and place something light on your belly button- paper plate etc. Slide both hands under your lower back (image 1)

B) Inhale through your nose and push air into your diaphragm. The paper plate should elevate and you should feel pressure on your hands.. Touch the heel to the ground without losing the pressure on your hands (Image 2)

C) Return to start position and repeat on the other leg. If you managed to maintain the same level of pressure on both repetitions try the progression (image 3), this time straightnening the knee

Common compensations:

– Ribcage flare

– Accessory muscle breathing (neck muscles, pectorals etc)

– Excessive arch in lower back/ losing the pressure on the hands

Conclusions:

If you notice any of the above compensations you will benefit from the 90 90 breathing drill which will help to reinforce the ZOA, shown in my IG video below:

Hip aeroplanes

Hip aeroplanes can hold there own as a fantastic exercise but they are also sill useful for a screening single leg balance and single leg exercise ability, including single leg squats and deadlifts. For all you pavement pounders out there, this one is definitely for you :

Top and Bottom (left to right) show the same movement from front on and side views.

A) Stand on one leg with arms out to the side. Aim to keep the pelvis level. (Left)

B) Open the pelvis towards the same side as the top leg, allowing the trunk and arms to move simulataneously. Top hip should be higher at this point. (Middle)

C) Rotate back down to the starting position. Then rotate the elevated hip towards the bottom knee once again moving the trunk and arms as a unit in the same direction (Right). Repeat on the other leg.

Common compensations:

– Unstable foot. You may tip inwards or outwards, causing you to lose balance

– Knee moving inwards

– Decreased motor control around the pelvis and trunk and supporting Gluteus Medius (usually manifests as a sudden drop and loss of balance)

-Moving the shoulders rather than opening and closing as a unit

Conclusions:

If you find you’re foot and ankle region is really unstable you may need to work on foot positioning (establishing a tripod foot).

The great thing about the aeroplane portion is that just by virtue of doing it, you will improve the motor control of the trunk, hip and pelvis. Check out this video which shows progressions of this exercise from the floor to the standing version:

So there you have a few quick fire screens that you can perform at home. The list is far from extensive but provides you with a few tools that I use during face to face personal training. Remember pain is your body telling you something is not mechanically right, so don’t ignore!

Happy training and stay safe!

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