Lockdown is posing many problems: gyms are shut, social interaction is limited and, for many, time spent sat down in front of the tv/laptop/playstation (take your pick) is at an all time high. Extended periods of being sat down poses a number of challenges to our body’s ability to move optimally. If we remember, part 1 of this mobility at home series took you through 3 things you should be including in your mobility routine. The aim of this second part is to look specifically at a more comprehensive strategy for addressing two areas of the body that are likely to be most affected by lockdown and extended periods of being seated – your hips and shoulders.

An Overview of the Problem


Time for a very brief anatomy lesson…

The length-tension relationship of a muscle refers to its resting length and the tension it can produce at this resting length. Every muscle has a length at which it can produce the most tension (the length at which the actin and myosin filaments in the sarcomere have the greatest degree of overlap)[1]. This is the muscle’s optimum length-tension relationship. At the moment, due to extended periods of being sat down, certain anterior (front side of the body) muscles are becoming tight, thus altering their length-tension relationship. Conversely, muscles on the posterior (rear side) side of the body are becoming lengthened, once again sub-optimally altering their length-tension relationship. If we do not try to pro-actively combat these muscle imbalances, our bodies, over time, will be unable to generate proper force for efficient movement. Ultimately:

Long periods sat down = tightness in muscles = altered length-tension relationships = sub-optimal movement

The Framework to Correct This

NASM’s Corrective Exercise Continuum provides a useful framework to adopt and implement when addressing any movement deficiency. For the purposes of this article, the term ‘corrective exercise’ is used to describe ‘the systematic process of identifying a neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction, developing a plan of action, and implementing an integrated corrective strategy’ [1]. This process has four main phases, detailed below, which are to be completed in order:

  • Inhibit: the use of inhibitory techniques (self-myofascial release) to release tension or decrease overactivity of neuromyofascial tissues in the body.

  • Lengthen: the use of lengthening techniques (static or neuromuscular stretching) to increase the extensibility, length, and range of motion of neuromyofascial tissues in the body.

  • Activate: the use of activation techniques (isolated strengthening) to re-educate or increase activation of underactive tissues.

  • Integrate: the use of integration techniques (global movement) to retrain the collective synergistic function or all muscles.

Through the implementation of this systematic, step-by-step process, we are able pro-actively correct muscle imbalances that are likely to arise in this current lockdown situation.

Problem Area 1 – Hips

Hip Mobility: The Problem

Extended periods sat down means our hip flexors (anterior muscles) are in a constantly flexed and thus shortened position. This causes our glute muscles on our posterior side to become inhibited, that is, have a reduced neural drive due to the tightened hip flexors. This process is known as altered reciprocal inhibition.

Hip Mobility: The Solution

Follow the step-by-step process outlined below:

Corrective Exercise Continuum Action
Inhibit Foam roll hip flexors and rectus femoris (45s per leg)
Lengthen Perform the kneeling hip flexor stretch (45s per leg)
Activate Perform 5x5s glute bridge holds
Integrate Perform 2×10 bodyweight squats

Problem Area 2 – Shoulders

Shoulder Mobility: The Problem

Sitting hunched over a desk in a work from home set-up (many of these are in makeshift study spaces with people sat in uncomfortable positions) can cause something known as upper crossed syndrome [2]. This can also be caused by pattern overload; for example, swimmers who swim thousands of freestyle metres each week may present with this movement impairment syndrome. Individuals with upper crossed syndrome are usually characterised as having rounded shoulders and a forward head posture. The process of altered reciprocal inhibition, as discussed above, means our upper back muscles (including rhomboids and lower traps) may have a reduced neural drive.

Shoulder Mobility: The Solution

Follow the step-by-step process outlined below:

Corrective Exercise Continuum Action
Inhibit Foam roll pec (use a lacrosse ball if possible)
Lengthen Perform the kneeling pec stretch (45s per side)
Activate Perform 2×10 YTWs
Integrate Weighted row variation

In the first article of our ‘mobility at home’ series, we detailed the three key components of your mobility routine. This article has built on this by providing an in-depth examination of how to address and correct two key areas of your body most affected by one of the constraints posed by lockdown, namely, being sat down for extended periods of time, using the NASM Corrective Exercise Continuum.

References

[1] Clark M. et al., NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training, 2014.

[2] Sahrmann SA., Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, 2002.