The biggest problem that I face when prescribing a rehab program is compliance. It's all well and good to have a great stretching and strengthening plan in place, but if you don't do the exercises, I might as well have not wasted my time in writing the program in the first place.
It can be hard to find the time to exercise every day, so here's a time-saving tip that I use frequently - make your commuting time into rehab time. Use the stairs, handrails, and seats as you would steps, racks, and benches in a gym. Here are ten exercises you can do on your daily commute.
A: Step Exercises - do theses in the stairwells of older trams, or on the gutter while you're waiting for a tram.
1. Heel-drops. Stand with your toes on the top step, with your heels hanging in the open space above the second-to-top step. Hold on to a handrail for balance, and let your heels drop down. This is a terrific stretch for your calves. To target the deeper calf muscles, bend your knees about 30-degrees.
2. Step-ups. Stand with one foot on the top step, and the other on the second-to-top step. Don't hold on to a handrail. Step forwards and upwards with your back foot, so that you are now standing with both feet on the top step, and repeat on the other side. Step-ups will train your glutes and help quadricep-dominant athletes to correct their form.
B: Rack Exercises - do these exercises while standing, using the vertical and horizontal handrails, and the hanging wrist straps.
3. Negative single-arm pull-downs. Loop your wrist around a wrist strap, bend your knees slightly, and turn your body away from your high arm. You should feel the stretch in the lats. Negative pull-downs are terrific at increasing shoulder mobility and lengthening lats.
4. Single-Side Chest Stretch. Line up your forearm with a vertical handrail, palm facing forwards, and your shoulder and elbow both bent at 90-degrees. Twist your body away from the high arm, feeling the stretch across the front of the chest. Repeat on the other side. Chest stretches will lengthen the pecs, and increase shoulder range of motion.
5. Negative row. Grasp a vertical handrail with both hands, and stand as far back as your arms will allow. Straighten the elbows, slump the shoulders, and pull back as far as you can. The stretch will be between the shoulder blades. This will correct stiffness in the upper back.
6. Resisted Triceps Stretch. Stand as close to a vertical handrail as possible, bend your arm, and put the back of your elbow as high-up on the handrail as possible. Lean into the bar, and feel the stretch through the triceps along the back of the arm.
C: Bench - do these exercises on the seat
7. Resisted Trapezius Stretch. With one hand, hold on the underside of the seat, and cross the other hand over the top of your head to sit on the opposite ear. Pull the head gently towards your shoulder, feeling the stretch on the side of the neck. All office workers should be doing resisted trapz stretches to prevent neck pain.
8. Seated Glute Stretch. Sit with one leg crossed over the other, with one ankle sitting on the opposite knee. While keeping your crossed-leg parallel to the floor, bend your low back forwards slightly and feel the stretch in the glutes. Repeat on the other side. This is the best stretch for tight glutes.
9. Box Squats. When you sit down or stand up, move in a slow, deliberate fashion and don't use a handrail. This is a box squat. Repeat that exercise as much as you can without feeling silly to strengthen your glutes.
10. Single-Leg Squats. If box squats are too easy, sit down and stand up using only one leg. Single-leg squats will strengthen the glutes even more.
If you like to make the tram your gym, tell me what exercises you like to do on a tram. You can contact me by writing in the comments section, or email me at email@example.com.
If you want advice on what stretching or strengthening would be best for you, you can make an appointment with me at South Yarra on (03) 9687 2122, or North Fitzroy on (03) 9486 411.
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Dr Mitch Clark