One of the greatest, yet overlooked, benefits of exercise is injury prevention. Yes, prevention. It is a common misconception that exercise will cause injury, and while that can most certainly occur with improper form and progression, strengthening the stabilizer muscles will reduce the chances of injury from both sports-related injuries and injuries from daily movements. Some of the most common exercise-preventable injuries include knee, shoulder, low-back, and hip injuries. Here are some examples of exercises that can help strengthen the muscles in those areas while improving stability, flexibility, and mobility. Conveniently, all of these exercises can be done in short periods of time in your home or office.
Partial wall squat – stand with your back against the wall, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. In a slow, controlled motion, bend your knees to about a 30* angle. It is absolutely crucial that you do not allow your knees to extend past your toes, as this puts a lot of strain under the knee cap and can cause injury. Repeat 8-12 times.
Hamstring curl – stand facing a wall with your legs right up against it, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Use the wall for balance if necessary. Flex your knee and bring your foot up to your glutes, as far as possible, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 8-12 times, then switch legs.
Arm circles: Stand or sit with your shoulders back and abs pulled in tight. Extend your arms straight out to the side with your hands in a golf grip and your thumb facing forward. Keeping your arm straight, move it in circles forward, in the direction your thumb is pointing. Do 20 circles, then switch directions, with your thumb turned to face back.
Standing elbow curls: Stand with your knees shoulder width-apart, knees slightly bent and toes pointed forward. Curl your knuckles into a golf grip with your thumbs pointed down, and bring your hands to your temples, your elbows should be bent out in front of you. Slowly try to touch your elbows together in front of your face, hold for 5 seconds, and then bring them back out. Repeat 20 times.
Cats and dogs: Start in a seated position but at the edge of your chair so your back isn’t against the backrest. With your knees bent at a 90* angle, rotate your hips so that you create an exaggerated back arch, hold for 5 seconds, and then rotate your hips under so your back is rounded. Repeat 8-12 times.
Sitting overhead extension: In a seated position, extend your arms straight out in front of you and interlock your fingers. Keeping a neutral spine and abs, bring your arms overhead and look at your hands. Your biceps should be right against your ears. Bring your arms just to the point of a stretch, not to pain, and hold for 20 seconds, focusing on keeping your arms straight and stretched.
Knee raises: Sit in a chair with a neutral back, knees flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Hands should be on the seat next to your legs. While keeping your knees and back stable, lift your leg off the ground from your hip about 2-4 inches and hold for 5 seconds. Switch legs, repeating 20 times per leg.
Counter stretch: Place your hands on a wall at chest-height. Take about 4 steps away from the wall and bend at the hips, flattening your back so that your hips are at a 90* angle. Make sure your knee, heel, and hip are all aligned. Hold for 1 minute.