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Our bodies can be vulnerable to injuries for various reasons. Whether it’s heavy lifting, a sudden misstep while walking, a car accident, or just from a lack of physical activity for a period of time. From experiencing chronic pain, such as suffering from arthritis or a sports injury, or if you simply have a lack of energy throughout the day, physical therapy exercises can provide relief.


While some exercises require equipment, there are many great beneficial exercises that can be done at home, without any equipment at all:


Anyone can benefit from the following exercises. These all focus on targeting mobility, stability, and strength in some kind of way. It will get the entire body involved and engaged leaving you feeling loose and strong.


1. Doorway Stretch for Legs 


All you need is a chair or elevated surface/step in front of a doorway. Holding onto the doorway for balance and support, start off with either foot on the stable surface. Drive your knee and hips forward, keeping your trunk upright. Focus on keeping both heels flat. Hold your position for 3-5 seconds. You will potentially feel pulling or stretching in your calves, glutes, and hip flexors.


Come back to the starting position and straighten out your leg. Keeping a straight leg on the surface (slight knee bend if needed) reach forward, to the left, and then to the right. Hold each position again for 3-5 seconds in order to get a stretch through your hamstring muscle group and into the calves. 


Repeat for 10-12 repetitions on both sides as tolerated.


2. Step-through Doorway Stretch  


In a doorway, place one hand chest level against the door with the same side leg forward so you’re in a split stance. With your opposite hand, reach forward and across as you shift your weight forward. What you’re looking for is a nice, comfortable rotation in your mid-back (thoracic spine). Make sure you’re not compensating by rotating your hips. Keep your hips squared. Hold that position for 3-5 seconds. Take a step back into the starting position and repeat. You can change it up by reaching high or low. 


Perform for 10-12 repetitions on each side as tolerated.


3. Half-kneel Hip Openers


This exercise is particularly useful if you’re trying to return to normal activity following knee surgery. Start off by kneeling on one leg on a soft surface with your other knee bent in front of you. You can use a dowel or rod for more stability. Keeping your trunk upright and tailbone tucked underneath you, drive your knee and hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your opposite hip flexor or groin.

Repeat this motion while changing your foot position. Imagine a clock, and change your foot from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock, etc.

Perform 5-10 repetitions with each foot position on both sides.


4. 3D Lunge Matrix 


This exercise focuses on performing the traditional lunge exercise in all three planes of motion, targeting different muscle groups of your lower body. 


Sagittal plane: Keeping your trunk upright, lunge forward at a distance you’re comfortable with and shift your weight forward. Make sure your knee doesn’t travel too far forward past your toes or collapse inward. The key is to keep your knee tracking directly over your foot. Come back to the starting point.


Frontal plane: Keeping your trunk upright, lunge out to the side at a distance you’re comfortable with and shift your weight toward that side. You should feel the load/tension in the glute region. Come back to the starting point. 


Transverse plane: Keeping your trunk upright, open up your hips and lunge behind you at a distance you’re comfortable with and shift your weight toward that particular direction. This particular plane of motion will add a rotational component. Come back to the starting point.


5. Single-leg Clock Taps  


Start off in a single-leg stance where you’re balancing on one leg, standing upright and tall. If you don’t have adequate balance at the moment, use the opposite foot to assist by weight-bearing through a toe-touch stance.


Standing on your left leg, use your right foot to tap across the three planes described below:


Sagittal plane: Reach forward to tap your toes forward toward 12 o’clock. Repeat by reaching toward 6 o’clock. 


Frontal plane: Reach out to tap your toes to the right toward 3 o’clock. Repeat by reaching toward 9 o’clock on the opposite side. 


Transverse plane: Open up your hips to reach out behind you toward 5 o’clock. Repeat by reaching toward 11 o’clock. 


After each tap, return to starting position. Pay attention to your knee position. Try your best to keep your knee tracking over your feet and not collapsing inward. 


5 taps in each direction, on both sides.


6. Deadbug 


Start off by lying on your back. Allow your shoulders and lower back to make full contact with the surface you’re lying on. Bring both arms up, reaching toward the ceiling fully extended. Lift both legs so your knees are directly over your hips. Engage your core by bringing your belly button toward your spine. Your lower back should always be making contact with the surface you’re laying on.

Exhale and slowly start lowering your right arm and left leg until they’re above the floor. Inhale, bring both limbs back to starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. 


Perform 5-10 repetitions as tolerated on both sides.


7. High plankwith 3D knee drivers 


To start off this exercise, find an elevated surface that is stable and sturdy. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders like you’re about to do a push-up. Press your toes into the floor and engage your core. Neutralize the neck and spine by focusing on a spot on the floor and keep your head in line with your back. 


Once you have the plank position down, you can add a knee driver to facilitate movement through your spine, hips, and knees. All while challenging your core to maintain stability.


Sagittal plane: Drive your right knee straight up toward your right elbow. Alternate by driving your left knee toward your left elbow.


Frontal plane: Drive your right knee out to the side and then up toward shoulders. Your body will naturally bend toward the right or left, depending on how far your knee comes up. Repeat with the left side. 


Transverse plane: Drive your right knee to your left elbow and then alternate with the other side. You will feel a rotation in your lower back and hips with this plane of motion. 


Repeat on each side for 5-10 repetitions as tolerated.


Finishing Up

All exercises above should be completed with caution. Perform only with appropriate muscle strength, stability, and coordination. Musculature soreness is a normal response and common following exercises. When in doubt, always consult a physical therapist or medical professional for assistance.

Photo via Pixabay

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