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Stretch and strengthen

Maybe your summer exercise routine focused on bicep curls and shoulder lifts so you could look good in sleeveless tops. Maybe your fall routine consisted of walks after dinner. Or maybe hanging holiday lights is as active as you've been in the last few months. Whatever you've been doing leading up to New England's big chill, winter poses different challenges to your body, says Orthopedist Chris Geary, MD, Chief of Sports Medicine at Tufts Medical Center.

"For intensive winter activities, whether it be skiing or shoveling snow or just staying stable on snowy sidewalks, you really want to focus on your core: abdominals, lower back, hips and thighs." A simple strengthening program can go a long way to avoiding overuse injuries. Below are some recommended exercises for your core from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). For more suggestions, visit orthoinfo.aaos.org and click on "Rehabilitation Exercise and Conditioning Handouts" on the left.

Spine Conditioning Exercises


Kneeling back chest extension stretching tips from the Orthopedics department at Tufts Medical Center. Kneeling Back Extension
(10 times, daily): works quadratus lumborum, erector spinae. Feel it in your lower back and your abdominals.
Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders positioned over your hands.
Rock forward onto your arms, round your shoulders and allow your low back to drop toward the floor. Hold for 5 seconds.
Rock backward and sit your buttocks as close to your heels as possible. Extend your arms and hold for 5 seconds.


Knee to chest stretching tips from the Orthopedics department at Tufts Medical Center. Knee to Chest
(3 sets of 10, daily): works quadratus lumborum. Feel it in your lower back, as well as in the front of your hip and inner thigh.
Lie on your back on the floor.
Lift one leg and bring your knee toward your chest. Grasp your knee or shin and pull your leg in as far as it will go.
Tighten your abdominals and press your spine to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds.
Repeat on the other side, then pull both legs in together. Repeat the sequence 10 times.
TIP: keep your spine aligned to the floor throughout the sequence.


Plank stretching tips from the Orthopedics department at Tufts Medical Center. Plank
(5 times, daily): works back extensors, erector spinae, quandratus lumborum, abdominals. Feel it in your middle to lower back, abdominals and gluteal muscles.
Lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly below your shoulders.
Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off the floor.
Squeeze your gluteal muscles and lift your knees off the floor.
Keep your body straight and hold for 30 seconds. If you cannot hold this position, bring your knees back to the floor and hold with just your hips lifted.
Slowly return to the start position and rest 30 seconds. Repeat.
TIP: Do not let your pelvis sag toward the floor. Keep your stomach muscles tight. 

Hip Conditioning Exercises

Standing stretch.Standing Iliotibial Band Stretch 
(2 sets of 4, daily): works tensor fascia. Feel it at the outside of your hip.
Stand next to a wall for support.
Cross the leg that is closest to the wall behind your other leg.
Lean your hip toward the wall until you feel a stretch at the outside of your hip. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Repeat on the opposite side, then repeat the entire sequence 4 times.
TIP: Do not lean forward or twist at the waist. 


Hip Abduction stretching tips from the Orthopedics department at Tufts Medical Center. Hip Abduction
(8 times, 2–3 days a week): works gluteus medius, abductors. Feel it at your outer thigh and buttocks. Begin with 8 repetitions and progress to 12, adding ankle weights in 1 lb. increments as the exercise becomes easier, always starting at 8 repetitions each time up to 12.
Lie on your side with your bottom leg bent to provide support.
Straighten your top leg and slowly raise it to 45°. Keep your knee straight, but not locked.
Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Slowly lower your leg and relax it for 2 seconds.
Repeat, then complete exercise on the other side.
TIP: Do not turn your leg to raise it higher. The outside of your thigh should be lifted toward the ceiling. 


Hip abductor stretching tips from the Orthopedics department at Tufts Medical Center. Hip Adduction
(8 times, 2–3 days a week): works adductors. Feel it at your inner thigh. Begin with a weight that allows 8 repetitions and progress to 12, adding ankle weights in 1 lb. increments as the exercise becomes easier, always starting at 8 repetitions each time up to 12.
Lie on your side with both legs straight.
Bend your top leg and cross it over your bottom leg.
Raise your bottom leg 6–8" off the floor.
Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Slowly lower your leg and rest for 2 seconds.
Repeat, then complete exercise on the other side.
TIP: Place your hand on the floor in front of your abdomen to prevent you from leaning backward.

Knee Conditioning Exercise

Squats exercise.Half Squats
(3 sets of 10, 4–5 days a week): works quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings. Feel it at the front and back of your thighs and at your buttocks. Gradually increase the resistance by holding hand weights. Begin with 5 lbs. and increase to 10.
Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart. Your hands can rest on the front of your thighs or reach in front of you. If needed, hold on to the back of a chair or lean on a wall for balance.
Keep your chest lifted and slowly lower your hips about 10 inches, as if you are sitting down into a chair.
Plant your weight in your heels and hold the squat for 5 seconds.
Push through your heels and bring your body back up to standing.


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