Simple functional tests to perform at home
Changes in the stretch of muscles may be the cause of disrupted movement patterns, improper exercise, and eventually pain symptoms in various parts of the body. It may be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, as a result of which muscles adapt to positions in which they are shortened and contracted. This results in tension in a particular muscle or in a whole group of them. This suggests the need for tension release, tissue stretching and joint mobilization. Sometimes you need to see a physiotherapist or personal trainer, but there are also tests you can do on your own and find out which muscle groups you need to stretch and strengthen at home.
PYRAMID OF PHYSICAL FITNESS
Let's start with the basics, namely the fitness pyramid. This is a concept that provides a starting point for conscious, structured, and safe training. There's a reason it's called a pyramid in its name-the base is the largest and most important, as is the first level of our physical activity pyramid, which consists of mobility, stability, and movement patterns. The next level is motor qualities such as strength, endurance or aerobic capacity, but also flexibility, speed and motor coordination. At the top of the pyramid is specialization, which applies to professional athletes rather than amateurs.
MOBILITY AND STABILITY
Mobility is understood as an appropriate range of motion in a joint, which allows us to perform proper movements in everyday life and training without putting excessive strain on the musculoskeletal system. Stability, on the other hand, is the ability to resist the movement in a given joint; in simpler words, it is the ability to control the movement that we perform through appropriate muscle tension and awareness of movement. Of course, proper breathing is also important, which you can read more about in the article on breathing.
Both insufficient mobility and lack of stability can lead to compensation during everyday functioning or sport exercises. It is worth explaining here the concept of compensation - it occurs when the work of an inefficient muscle or structure is taken over by an adjacent muscle that is not adapted to such work. This often leads to chronic pain syndromes, and even to serious damage resulting from the consolidation of incorrect movement patterns.
Our spine can serve as a perfect example. The lumbar region should be stable, while the thoracic region should be mobile. Due to the reduced mobility in the thoracic region, often associated with a sedentary lifestyle (upper crossed syndrome), the body looks for mobility in the lower segment, the lumbar spine, which causes a loss of stability (remember that the lumbar spine carries a huge load). This can increase the risk of pain and even discopathy.
A professional functional assessment consists of both the history of the exerciser (past injuries and illnesses) and a study of movement patterns, which shows deficiencies in mobility or stability. Examples of functional assessment are exercises such as the squat with arms over the head or the push-up, which give us an adequate view of mobility, stability or muscle strength. Such assessment is done by physiotherapists and appropriately qualified personal trainers, but there are several tests that we can do by ourselves at home. When we are aware of which part of our body is inefficient, we can implement appropriate, safe exercises.
Without appropriate knowledge and experience it is difficult to assess the movement patterns on your own, but when it comes to mobility assessment, below you will find several muscle length tests that will allow you to assess whether the given joint has an adequate range of motion, and the given muscle is adequately stretched.
STRAIGHT THIGH MUSCLE LENGTH TEST
Position: lie on your stomach
Movement: bringing the heel close to the buttock
Test result: If you are able to touch your heel to your buttock or bring it as close as 12 cm without feeling resistance or movement in your lower back and pelvis, you have adequate range of motion. If not, it's a good idea to implement quadriceps stretching exercises.
Exercises: couch stretching, heel to buttock stretching while standing (2 minutes per side), rolling
SCIATIC AND KNEE MUSCLE LENGTH TEST
Starting position: lie on your back.
Movement: attempt to straighten the leg so that it is over the hip in a 90 degree hip flexion position.
Test result: If you are unable to straighten your leg over your hip or it is accompanied by the other leg pulling away from the ground, it is a good idea to implement lower limb posterior band stretching exercises.
Exercises: Leg raise while lying on your back, bend to straightened leg while standing (other leg bent at the knee), bend on straightened legs (2 minutes)
STRAIGHTEN ARMS OVERHEAD WHILE SITTING
Starting position: cross-legged sit by the wall, arms bent at the elbows, forearms and hands glued to the wall
Movement: an attempt to straighten the arms over the head without movement in the lumbar region
Test result: If you are unable to straighten your arms overhead it means you lack mobility in your shoulder girdle.
Exercises: Overhead shoulder raises against a wall, chest opens while lying on your side