Nagging injuries, aches, pains, and stiffness sucks, but it’s a part of life and a part of playing hard. Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect ourselves. Eating right, training smart, and trying to lead a stress-free lifestyle will keep you going strong for a long time. But even when you’re doing everything you possibility can the right way, things can still flare up. The slightest little muscular imbalance or tweak in the gym or in your sport can do it. Even our day-to-day habits like sitting and sleeping play a part.
For some of us it’s the neck, others the back, maybe the knees, or elbows, or feet. If you’ve got something that bothers you one minute, goes away the next, only to come back a month or two later. We’ve got you. Don’t give into the, “it what it is” philosophy and quit. Or drive yourself crazy trying to push through and dig yourself into an even deeper hole.
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Keita Minakawa C.S.C.S., FRC is a movement & mobility specialist. He specializes in bulletproofing the human body to withstand any kind of workout/activity. The following is a listing of common aches, pains, or limitation along with a series of things you should do, how to do them, and what you shouldn’t be doing. Let’s get back in the game! Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Disclaimer: you should always consult with your doctor when experiencing any pain or discomfort of any kind before trying any workout or exercise programs.
If you’re experiencing a shoulder pain…
There’a a good chance it’s a shoulder impingement.
DO: Regularly perform shoulder mobility exercises
DON’T: Perform any heavy lifting that involves the shoulders, especially overhead movements until pain subsides.
The Workout to Relieve Shoulder Pain
Perform the following exercises 3 x per week for 2 to 4 weeks.
PAILs and RAILs means progressive and regressive angular isometric loading. This will increase the space between your shoulder joint. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to take a couple of minutes to stretch your shoulder towards the floor. From there, pull your arm up into the oppose hand for 15 seconds, then go the other way and try to touch your arm to the floor for another 15 seconds. You should feel it deep within your shoulder joint. Do two rounds on each side, each time starting with a stretch for at least 1 minute.
CARs means controlled articular rotations. This will improve your shoulder mobility while also maintaining joint health. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to essentially rotate your shoulder joint through its entire range of motion (make the biggest circle possible without letting your arm go out to the side). You should feel it all over your shoulder and your pecs and lats. Make sure to tense up your entire body while performing CARs. Do 2 full circles on each side.
3️⃣Active External Rotations
These will improve your shoulder mobility and overhead movement. From Keita’s position, keep the elbow bent at 90 degrees and pull your hand back as much as you can. Once you clear the head, hook your arm behind while trying not to touch any part of your head. You can squeeze a lacrosse ball in your hand to maintain tension in the arm, and make sure that you’re also keeping your core tight. You should feel this behind the shoulder and in your upper/mid back. Do 3 to 5 reps each side.
4️⃣Kettlebell Arm Bar
This will improve your shoulder stability from various angles. The goal is to hold the kettlebell up while twisting the body around the shoulder. You should feel this all over your shoulder but also in your upper/mid back, lats, & pecs. Do this 2 to 3 times.
If you’re experiencing hip pain…
There’s a good chance it’s piriformis syndrome.
DO: Perform hip-specific stability exercises.
DON’T: Sit still for long periods of time, or cross your legs while seated.
The Workout to Relieve Hip Pain
Perform the following exercises 2x per week for 4 weeks.
1️⃣ 90/90 Knee Lift
This will strengthen your glutes and improve your hip mobility. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to drive the lead knee in the floor while lifting the trail knee as high as you can. If you can’t hold your arms out, start by using one as a kickstand until mobility improves. You should feel your outer glutes working while you’ll also feel a nice stretch in the inner thigh muscles. Do 5 to 10 reps on each side.
2️⃣ Pallof Single-leg RDL
This will improve your hip stability while also training the body to use your legs and core together. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to maintain the single leg RDL position without letting the cable pull you out of position. Bring the other foot off the floor and back down at a steady pace. You should feel it in the upper body, throughout the core, and standing leg… pretty much the entire body. Make sure to work your front foot when doing these by driving your toes into the floor. You can also think about gripping onto the floor with your foot. Do 10 to 20 reps on each side, or you can go for time.
3️⃣ Side Plank Clamshell
These will improve your core and hip stability. From Keita’s position with a mini band around your thighs, maintain proper side plank position as you lift the top knee as high as you can. You should feel this in the side of your butt and all throughout your core. Do 10 to 20 reps each side.
If you’re experiencing a stiff neck…
DO: Perform a combination of neck, shoulder, and scapular (shoulder blade) mobility exercises to deal with the stiffness.
DON’T: It’s important not to force your neck in painful positions, or to keep your neck too still throughout the day.
The Workout to Relieve Neck Pain
Perform the following exercises 3x per week for 4 weeks.
1️⃣ Segmented Cat Cow *sped up x2.5
This will teach you control each vertebrae one by one and improve spinal mobility. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to create tension throughout your entire body as you look to fully round/arch your spine one joint at a time. Sit back on your heels to lock your lower back in place, and focus on moving your spine from your belly-button and up to your neck. It might be challenging at first, but the more you do it the better you will become at controlling each joint. Be careful not to force yourself into any painful ranges. Do 1 set of 2 reps in each direction.
2️⃣ Scap Push-Up
This will improve your ability to stabilize your neck while also training the rotator cuff. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to drop your chest to the floor while maintaining a neutral spine. You should feel it in your back and deep in the shoulders as you do the movement. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
3️⃣ Scapular CARs *sped up 2.5
These will improve your shoulder blade mobility. From Keita’s position, tense up your body and slowly take your shoulder blades through their full range of motion (forward, up, back, and down). You should feel tension in your arms and shoulders throughout the entire range of motion. Do 1 set of 2 reps in each direction.
4️⃣ Foam Roller Press
These will improve your ability to bring your arms overhead while engaging the appropriate muscles, which can often times help to address stiffness in the neck. From Keita’s position, use your shoulders to push the roller into the wall and slowly roll it up and down. You should feel tension in the muscles on your upper ribs throughout the entire range of motion. Do 2 sets of 5 to 10 reps
If you’re experiencing foot pain…
There’s a good chance it’s plantar fasciitis.
DO: Perform mysofascial release exercises.
DON’T: Perform high-impact activities, wear high soled shoes, wear shoes all day long, or rely on orthotics.
The Workout to Relieve Foot Pain
Perform the following exercises 3x per week for 4 weeks.
1️⃣ Toe CARs *sped up x3
This will strengthen your intrinsic foot muscles and improve overall balance/connection in your lower body. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to slow control each toe one at a time. Start by driving all toes into the floor, then reaching them all up the ceiling- be sure to keep tension throughout your entire body. You may run into cramps, but try to fight through it. Spend a minute or two on each foot, do 1 set.
2️⃣ Ankle CARs *sped up x3
This will improve your ankle mobility while also training the foot to ankle connection. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to draw the biggest circle possible with your ankle. You should feel it all around the ankle- especially in the calves and shins- as you do the movement. Do 2 reps x 1 set.
3️⃣ Toe Slides *sped up x3
These will further improve your intrinsic foot muscles and ability to flex your toes. From Keita’s position, slowly grab hold of the towel and drag it towards you. You should feel the muscles in your foot working throughout the entire range of motion. Do anywhere from 5 to 10 reps and 2 to 3 sets.
4️⃣ Single-leg RDL Balance *sped up x1.5
These will improve your balance and connection from foot to hip. From Keita’s position, maintain the Single leg RDL position as you pass the kettlebell from hand to hand. You should feel your feet working really hard but every other muscle in your lower body will be working too. Do 45 second holds for 2 to 3 sets.
If you’re experiencing elbow pain…
There’s a good chance it’s tennis or golfers elbow.
DO: Perform wrist stability and mobility exercises
DON’T: Perform any repetitive wrist movements or keep your wrists in an unnatural position for a longer period of time. Think: sitting at your computer all day or holding a barbell in the rack position.
The Workout to Relieve Elbow Pain
Perform the following exercises 3x per week for 2 to 4 weeks.
1️⃣ Wrist CARs *sped up x2
This will increase wrist range of motion while also improving your control of the joint. The goal is to control the wrist and create the largest circle possible while not letting anything else move. You should feel the muscles in your forearm working as you try to make the circle bigger each time. Do 2 reps in each direction x 1 to 2 sets.
2️⃣ Wrist Extension PAILs/RAILs *sped up x3
This will improve your wrist mobility and also strengthen the muscles and tendons in your forearm. Your initial goal is to take a minute or two to stretch into as much extension as possible. From there, take 10 to 30 seconds to push your palms into the floor. You should feel this in the front of your forearm. Follow that up by pulling yourself further into the stretch for an additional 10 to 30s. You should feel this in the back of your forearm. Do 2 reps x 1 set.
3️⃣ Half-Kneeling Bottoms Up Press
These will improve your wrist, elbow and shoulder stability. Slowly press the KB up while keeping your wrist straight. You should feel your forearm working throughout the entire range of motion to keep the KB from dropping. Do 10 reps and 2 to 3 sets.
4️⃣ Bottoms Up Get-Up
These will improve your wrist stability, along with shoulder, elbow, core, and hip stability. Carefully transfer from tall kneeling to half kneeling to standing while keeping your joints stacked. You should feel your entire body working throughout the entire range of motion. Do 5 to 10 reps and 2 to 3 sets on each side.
If you’re experiencing knee pain…
There’s a chance it’s jumper’s knee.
DO: Perform knee stabilization exercises.
DON’T: Perform high-impact activities or any agility drills that create pain. Also, don’t go completely sedentary—movement is medicine.
The Workout to Relieve Knee Pain (Part 1 of 2)
Perform the following exercises 3x per week for 4 weeks.
1️⃣ Knee CARs *sped up x3
This will create blood flow to the knee joint to keep it lubricated while improving your control over the joint. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to make the biggest circle possible using just your knee/shin bone. Knee injuries offer occur during rotation, and yet many of us never train rotation of the knee. This is a great way to train just that- you should feel all of the motion coming from your knee as opposed to the hip, ankle, etc. Do 2 reps x 1 set.
2️⃣ End-range Lift-offs *sped up x3
This will improve your hamstring strength, which is vital for maintaining healthy knees. There’s also an added bonus of getting a good stretch of the quads when performing this exercise. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to lock your body in place and to lift your foot off using just your knee/hamstrings. To find your starting position, bend your knee as much as you can and then drop a couple of inches from there- use a bench or something similar to rest your foot on. You should feel it deep in the hamstrings and in your abs as you look to keep your spine from moving. Do 10 reps x 2 sets.
3️⃣ RNT (reactive neuromuscular training) reverse lunge *sped up x3
These is a great way to train your brain to keep your knee from caving in during movement. From Keita’s position, simply perform reverse lunges with the band pulling your knee to the inside. You should feel it more towards the outer leg as you try to keep your knee in line with the ankle throughout the entire range of motion. Do 10 reps and 2 to 3 sets.
If you’re still experiencing knee pain…
There’s also a chance it’s runner’s knee.
DO: Perform hip stability exercises
DON’T: Go running until pain subsides. And relying on stretching and foam rolling isn’t enough
The Workout to Relieve Knee Pain (Part 2 of 2)
Perform the following exercises 2x per week for 4 weeks.
1️⃣ Standing Fire Hydrant *sped up
This will strengthen your single-leg stability and improve your ability to recruit the proper muscles during movement. The focus on the exercise is on your outer glutes, which is an important muscle group for maintaining healthy knees. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to keep your core tight while swinging your leg back and out. You can also add external rotation of the hip (twist your thigh outward) to give your glutes some additional work. Do 15 to 20 reps/ 2 sets
2️⃣ Eccentric Sissy Squat *sped up
This will strengthen and improve mobility of your quads while also training various parts of the body including your ankles and feet. From the position Keita is in, your goal is to slowly control yourself down while focusing on your quads doing most of the work (lean back further to activate more quad muscles). You should feel it all throughout your lower body as you do the movement. Don’t forget to work your feet by driving your toes into the floor. Do 5 reps x 2 to 3 sets.
3️⃣ Banded Skaters *sped up
These will also improve your single-leg stability with resistance coming from your side. (How many knee injuries occur.) From Keita’s position, drive one leg firmly into the ground and move the other leg side to side. Think about distributing your body weight evenly among the 4 points of your standing foot: the ball of your big toe, ball of your pinky toe, inside of your heel, and outside of your heel. Also, make sure to keep your joints aligned at all times: hip over knee over ankle. You should feel these more in the standing leg if done correctly. Do 30 seconds on each leg and 3 sets.
If you’re experiencing low back pain…
DO: Perform a combination of core and hip stability exercises along with hip and spine mobility exercises.
DON’T: Perform excess spinal movements under any kind of load of resistance such as crunches or side bends. Also, stay away from heavy loaded deep squats or deadlifts.
The Workout to Relieve Low Back Pain
Perform the following exercises 2 to 3x per week for 4 weeks.
1️⃣ Advanced Bird Dog
This will strengthen your core and improve your stability in various planes of motion. Your goal is to slowly extend out your arm and leg while keeping your spine still. You should feel your abs working hard as you progress through the movement. You can always regress to the regular bird-dog if you find this variation a bit challenging. Do 5 reps and 2 to 3 sets.
2️⃣ Loaded Dead Bug
This will also improve your core stability but from a different angle. Your goal again is to keep your spine still while moving opposite limbs. To make the exercise more challenging, try moving the same side limbs simultaneously. Be sure to pay attention to what’s going at your spine as you do the movement. Do 10 reps x 2 to 3 sets.
3️⃣ Hip Flexion Passive Range Hold
These will improve your hip mobility, which is important for preventing compensatory movement at the spine. Hug your knee up as high as you can. From there, let go and hold your let as high up as possible for 10 seconds, and repeat twice. Feel your abs and hip flexors working as you hold your leg up. Do 3 reps and 2 sets
4️⃣ Shin Box to Stand
These will improve your hip and core stability. The idea is to transition from the shin-box position to standing without letting your spine move. Feel your hips and abs working throughout the entire range of motion. Do 5 reps and 2 to 3 sets
5️⃣ Spine Rotation/Side Bend
Slowly twist your spine as much as you can in one direction. Once you get stuck, start to side bend your spine by dropping your shoulder towards the hip. You should be able to get more rotation as you start to side bend. Once you are completely stuck, control your spine back to neutral and repeat on the other side. Do 2 reps and 1 set.