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Exercises That Could Be Hurting Your Back

​Have you ever thought about why you do the exercises in your current workout routine? Probably not. Because the fact is, most people, even personal trainers, learn their moves from coaches or from a book, or maybe even from an online video and continue doing these exercises indefinitely.It's always a good idea to occasionally stop and evaluate the worth of an exercise, assess its risk to reward ratio. After all, a few of the commonly included moves in yoga and Pilates classes, along with those in the "core training" or "functional" strength programs of many personal trainers, aren't really th...
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RESTORING JOINT MOBILITY

​A single faulty joint affects the body as a whole because the individual parts of the human body are meant to work synergistically, not independently. As long as there's not permanent damage in the joint, you can regain lost ranges of motion through preventive care, its recommended performing daily self-assessments and joint-mobility exercises. "If you look at life, maintenance is one of the key principles. It doesn't matter if you're maintaining your car, your lawn or your personal relationships. Once you stop maintaining it, it goes down. Same thing with your body,"
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JOINT MOBILITY: WRIST ROLLS

​Working at a computer all day, gripping heavy weights at the gym or past wrist strains can lead immobility in the wrists. This can make effective body-weight exercises like push-ups and certain yoga poses uncomfortable or even impossible. Wrist rolls can help facilitate those movements. HOW TO DO IT: With your arms outstretched in front of you, fully open your hands. Bring your fingers back toward your forearm, then circle at the wrist for five to 10 repetitions in each direction on both wrists
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JOINT MOBILITY: ANKLE CIRCLES

​Mobilizing your ankles may be just what you need in order to let go of nagging running injuries and finally ditch that knee brace for good. "The epidemic of plantar fasciitis and fallen arches is a result of the foot bones destabilizing in order to compensate for the ankle being incapable of absorbing and retranslating force," says mobility expert Scott Sonnon. The ankle-roll mobility drill restores movement to the ankle and, as a result, restabilizes knee alignment in your gait as well as causing arches to stop falling and resolving pain from plantar fasciitis, says Sonnon. HOW TO DO IT: Sta...
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JOINT MOBILITY: KNEE CIRCLES

​Knee pain is often the result of loss of mobility at the hips, says mobility expert Scott Sonnon. This knee-circling exercise not only frees the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee joint, but it also frees the hips. HOW TO DO IT: Begin standing. Bend one knee up so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold on to a chair or ledge for balance if necessary. Extend your leg straight out in front of you. Circle at the knee as you bring the heel to the outside of your hip, through to starting position, then toward your opposite inner thigh and back around to the extended position. P...
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JOINT MOBILITY: WINDSHIELD WIPER

​Hip mobility may help provide relief from low-back pain. A 2011 study from the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy reports that more than 60 percent of subjects reported improvements in chronic low-back pain after performing hip-mobility exercises. If the hips are not mobile, the body destabilizes the lower back or knees to compensate for the lost range-of-motion potential. "The high degree of lower-back pain and injuries and knee strain correlate directly to hip immobility -- particularly from sustained sedentary seated lifestyle behaviors," says restorative mobility expert Scott Sonn...
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JOINT MOBILITY: CAT COW

This traditional yoga pose is excellent for opening up the thoracic spine and lubricating the discs. "If your thoracic spine is locked up, you will likely experience problems in the cervical and lumbar spine as well. When your spine is out of alignment, neurological issues may arise. "If you're not firing neurologically, "you're going to create imbalances and movement-pattern problems. You've got to correct the neurological and then stabilize the structure of the spine." HOW TO DO IT: Begin on your hands and knees in a neutral-spine position. Inhale as you arch your back and tilt you...
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JOINT MOBILITY: PELVIC CIRCLES

Every time you land, something has to absorb the shock. The muscles, tendons and ligaments aren't designed to do it all. You want the discs throughout the lumbar spine to absorb the shock. If something is jammed in the spine, that weight load is going to be translated to the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Over time, it leads to sprains, strains, knee and low-back pain," says chiropractor Natacha Nelson. Lubricate your pelvic joints and lumbar spine with pelvic circles. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands on your hips. Keep your feet planted and core contracted...
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JOINT MOBILITY: ELBOW KICKBACK SWOOP-AROUND

​Progressive stretching is the best way to treat post-surgery joint stiffness. You can prevent the need for surgery with daily mobility drills. HOW TO DO IT: Hinge forward at the hips just slightly while maintaining a flat back. Draw your elbows along the sides of your ribcage, with your arms forming a 90-degree angle. Make fists with your hands. Extend your arms back behind you, palms facing each other. In one fluid motion, swoop your arms around to the front as you internally rotate your arms to bring the backside of your hands together. Then externally rotate the arms and pull back to pinch...
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JOINT MOBILITY: BACKSTROKE

​The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, but due to improper posture, motion can deteriorate over time. "Ergonomics is not enough. You must get the movement in the joints," Practicing proper posture in the workplace and taking breaks to get your joints moving as well as keeping them hydrated. This classic swim stroke counteracts the negative effects of slouching shoulders. HOW TO DO IT: Keep your arms straight and elbows locked as you lift one arm straight out in front of you and slowly circle it backwards. Try to avoid rotating the torso as you do...
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JOINT MOBILITY: NECK CIRCLES

​Today's digital culture means hours spent in front of the computer screen or staring down at a smartphone and can create postural deficiencies like forward-head posture, explains chiropractor Robert Bates. Forward-head posture causes stiffness in the joints in the cervical spine and elongates the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders, creating knots and tension. Neck circles are a simple and effective exercise for releasing that tension. HOW TO DO IT: Begin with proper posture: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-distance apart, a slight bend in the knees, navel drawn in, hips tucked u...
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JOINT MOBILITY

​Stretching and strength training are good for your muscles and cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart, but what about your joints? Joints, along with bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, form the musculoskeletal system that allows us to walk, run, jump and move in whatever way we want. And joints rely on movement to keep them functioning properly. Unlike muscles, joints have no direct blood supply. "If there's no motion in the joint it will degenerate -- that's a law,"  Joints rely on synovial fluid to "wash" away waste products that build up and compromise the integ...
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Yoga

​"I love the lunge for getting the hip into extension, because our hips are in a partially flexed position from doing a lot of sitting," says yoga teacher Sadie Chanlett-Avery. Lunges stretch the hip flexors on the front of the upper thigh and pelvis as well as strengthen the legs and back muscles. Reaching your arms up overhead adds a level of challenge and builds shoulder strength. HOW TO DO IT: From downward dog, step the right foot forward in between your hands. Make sure your right knee is directly over your right ankle to protect the knee joint. Come onto the ball of the back foot and br...
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Yoga

​Twists are an excellent way to rejuvenate your body and realign your spine, especially when you've been sitting in front of your computer all day. "In a seated twist, your hips are anchored, so you have less chance of rotation in the hips, says yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. That keeps the twist in the thoracic spine and above for the greatest benefit. HOW TO DO IT: Sit on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the mat about a few inches from your left leg on the outside of your left knee. Bring your right palm to the mat just behind you...
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Yoga

​"Forward bends are a great counter to hunching over computers all day," says in-house yoga teacher at Clif Bar Sadie Chanlett-Avery. And they're great for when you don't have a mat or a lot of space. Calming to the nervous system, forward bends also stretch out the spine, glutes and hamstrings and strengthen the quadriceps and knees. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Fold forward at the hips, only going as far as your hamstrings allow. Keep your knees bent just a little and rest your stomach on your thighs. Advanced practitioners can straighten the legs. Chanlett-Avery re...
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Yoga

​Plank pose is one of the best ways to build core strength as well as strength and stability in the wrists, arms, shoulders and quadriceps. HOW TO DO IT: Start in downward dog. Roll forward onto the balls of your feet and lower your hips so that your shoulders come directly over your wrists and your hips are in line with the top of your head and shoulders. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted and your leg muscles engaged. Beginners can modify the pose by lowering their knees to the ground while keeping a straight, solid line through the knees, hips and head.
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Yoga

People spend a lot of time sitting with their hips at 90 degrees. "Over time, this can create a host of problems, including limited mobility in your joints," says yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. "[Garland pose] helps open the hips and inner thighs and lengthen out the spine. It helps you keep your pelvic and hip joints healthy." HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes out slightly. Keep your gaze forward and your spine straight as you push your hips back and lower down as if into a chair. The goal is to bring the hips as low as you can without rounding t...
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Yoga

​A foundational pose in many styles of yoga, down dog is the whole package. "It helps strengthen the shoulders, arms and legs; it lengthens out the spine and helps relieve pain in the upper, middle and low back," says Atlanta-based yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. It's also a gentle inversion, which reverses the flow of blood in the body, benefiting the circulatory and lymphatic systems and fighting the effects of gravity on the body. HOW TO DO IT: Starting from a tabletop position with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees, curl your toes under and lift your hips sky...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​You probably won't be able to pull off a triple flip, the iron cross or all those pommel horse spin moves anytime soon, so the L-sit is the closest you're probably going to get to an Olympic gymnastics move. It won't be easy though. HOW TO DO IT: Set two benches parallel to one another a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Get between the benches and hold yourself up with your arms so that your body forms an L shape. Your torso should be perpendicular to the floor, your arms straight at your sides and your legs out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Hold this position.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​One benefit of the weighted carry is that it builds functional strength. You'll probably need that same strength the next time a buddy moves to a new apartment. But in the real world, little variables pop up, says Mike Wunsch, director of training and program design at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. There's a bump in the walking surface or the couch slips in your hand. If your core isn't ready to adjust, you'll fall or get injured. The K-off carry uses a mini band to approximate little adjustments like that so you'll be ready. HOW TO DO IT: Double-wrap a thick mini exercise ban...
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