This post is for you if you haven't worked out or played soccer in a while and need to know where to start. If you are post partum and have been cleared for exercise by your doctor, this is a friendly option for you as well. As with any new exercise program, if you have pain, do not continue. Muscle soreness is ok, but pain is not!
I recommend starting with core exercise because the core is the rock that you move your limbs from. The stronger your core is, the less work your arms and legs have to do to work efficiently. The first exercise is the most important. It is the one that all the other exercises build upon.
A. Transverse Abdominis Activation
The transverse abdominis is the deepest core muscle which attaches directly to your spine. It is like your own personal corset around your waist. Start laying on your back with knees bent. Pull your belly button down toward your spine like you are putting on a tight pair of pants. You can make sure you are doing this correctly by placing your fingers just to the inside of your hip bones. In other words, roll your fingers over your hip bones toward your belly button about a 1/2 inch as shown in the picture. When you contract (or pull your belly button down) you should feel your muscles pop into your fingertips. Make sure you are breathing while you do this. This is harder than it sounds!
Hold the contraction for 5 seconds. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
B. Supine Marching
Marching works on engaging your core properly while using your hip flexors. Lay on your back. You will contract your transverse abdominis as above. While doing this, you will raise one foot off the floor about 2-3 inches only. Then slowly lower foot back down. Land softly so you cannot hear your foot fall back to the ground. This helps to keep your core contracted. Repeat with the other leg.
Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg. Add a 5 second hold each time you lift a foot off the ground to progress.
C. Sidelying Clams
I really like clams because they work your gluteus medius which helps keep your knee in proper alignment when walking, running, jumping and landing. Lay on your side and bend your knees about 90 degrees. Your shoulders, hips and ankles should be in line if you were to look down at yourself from the ceiling. Now lift your top knee up as shown in the bottom picture (~4-6 inches). Make sure your top hip doesn't roll back as you lift your knee. If you aren't sure if you are doing this one right, you can lay with your back to a wall for this exercise. The wall will block your hip from rolling back. Again, make sure you are activating your transverse abdominis (exercise A above) during this exercise. Hold your knee up for 5 seconds. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
Bridges are great for strengthening your back and gluts. Commonly gluts are weak and hip flexors are tight. This exercise provides a hip flexor stretch as well as glut strengthening. Start laying on your back with your knees bent. Contract your transverse abdominis and lift your hips up. As shown in the bottom picture, your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight diagonal line when you have gone up high enough. Careful not to lift hips above this point or it will create added stress to your low back. Hold hips up for 5 seconds. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
E. Quadruped Alternating Arms and Legs (Bird Dog)
This is a safe easy progression to strengthen your core if you are wanting to get back to planks but aren't ready yet. Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips like in the top image. Lift your right arm and left leg up toward opposite walls of the room, not up toward the ceiling. Return your right hand and left knee to the ground. Next lift your left arm and right leg toward opposite walls of the room. Then return to the starting position. Keep your hips level. One way to make sure they are level is to put a tissue box on your low back and don't let it slide when you lift your legs. Again, make sure you are contracting your transverse abdominis. If this is too difficult, start with just alternating your arms keeping your knees on the floor or just alternating your legs while keeping your hands on the floor. Hold arms and legs up for 5 seconds. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
Start with these exercises 2-3 times a week. If you develop any issues please consult a medical professional before continuing. Otherwise, feel free to progress the number of sets of each exercise as they become easy for you. Comment below if you have other favorite beginner exercises.
If these exercises are painful, text me at (512)763-0556. I am happy to find a time we can talk about what is going on and what treatment options align with your needs.
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