The Overhead Squat Test
When your body is in perfect balance, it stays aligned when you squat. But your workout, job, and poor posture can all cause you to develop weak or tight spots that restrict movement. To identify those areas and fix them quickly, take this test every 4 weeks.
How to Do It
Stand facing a full-length mirror with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead, and your arms raised overhead. Squat three times. Don't overthink this: Simply bend at the hips and knees to lower your body straight down. Hold the pose at the lowest point in your third squat and take note of your body position at the checkpoints highlighted on the next page. Repeat the test with your profile to the mirror.
If your arms move forward...then your chest and latissimus dorsi muscles are tight, which often leads to ailments of the neck and shoulders.
Fix yourself: Lie on the floor with a foam roll under your lats. Glide your body up and down, pausing at tender points for 30 seconds. Repeat for your chest. Stretch your lats and chest, and add the squat to row to your workout.
Cable Squat to Row
Stand at a low-row cable station, holding the handles with your palms facing each other. Take a few steps back. With your arms straight, squat down. Stand up as you pull the handles to the bottom of your rib cage. Do 10 repetitions.
If your knees move out...then your hips and lower back must compensate for that imbalance, which means they'll fatigue faster and may even strain during explosive sports movements.
Fix yourself: Use a foam roll behind your hips, pausing at tender points, and stretch your hips and hamstrings. Add the cable soccer kick to your workout.
Cable Soccer Kick
Attach a foot strap to the low-pulley cable of a cable station and stand with your right hip to the weight stack and the strap wrapped around your right ankle. Keeping your leg straight, sweep it across the front of your body as far as you can while rotating your foot inward, and then return to the starting position. Do 12 reps with each leg.
If your knees cave in...then your outer thighs are weak and your risk of injury to an ACL (knee ligament) may triple, say researchers at the Cincinnati Sports Medicine Research and Education Foundation.
Fix yourself: Roll your inner and outer thighs over a foam roll. Stretch your inner thighs and add the lateral tube walk to your workout.
Lateral Tube Walk
Loop resistance tubing around your ankles and slide it up your legs until it's above your knees. Stand with your knees slightly bent and your hands on your hips. Keeping your abs tight, sidestep 12 to 15 times to your right and then 12 to 15 times back to your left.
If your upper body leans far forward...then your calves are tight. This may seem odd, but consider: Tight calves impede your ankles from bending, so your torso shifts forward in an attempt to maintain your base of support as you squat. But this throws off your center of gravity, making it harder for you to produce power during any activity.
Fix yourself: Glide your calves over a foam roll. Stretch your calves and hip flexors, and perform the Swiss-ball cobra.
Lie facedown on a Swiss ball with your abs drawn in and your arms hanging down, holding light dumbbells. Raise your arms up and back until they're in line with your body, and pull your shoulder blades down and together. Return to the starting position and repeat for a set of 10 repetitions.
If your lower back arches excessively...then the fronts of your hips (your hip flexors) are tight and your abs are weak. Tight hip flexors shorten your stride, making you a slower, less efficient runner.
Fix yourself: Use a foam roll on your hip flexors and outer thighs. Stretch your hip flexors and shore up your core with the plank.
Assume a modified pushup position, with your forearms resting on the floor. Your elbows should be under your shoulders and bent 90 degrees. Keep your body straight and rigid for 10 seconds, rest for 20 to 30 seconds, and then repeat for a set of 10.
If your feet turn out...then your outer calves are tight. This reduces your ability to produce force when you're running and jumping.
Lie with the outside of your calf on a foam roll and glide up and down, pausing at any tender points for 30 seconds. Stretch your calves twice a day, and add this twist on the standard calf raise to your workout.
Calf Raise with InversionHold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand on your right foot with your toes angled slightly inward. Rest the instep of your left foot across the back of your right ankle. Rise on your toes as high as you can, then descend. Do 12 reps and repeat with the other leg.