: Is Your Body Ready To Play - or about to Pay.

: Is Your Body Ready To Play - or about to Pay.

The Sports Test: Is Your Body Ready To Play - or about to Pay.

If you''re like most weekend warriors, the last time you "got in the game" was when you fell off your recliner because you got too excited watching the play-offs. If you''re not regularly (physically) involved in sports, then your body is most likely an accident waiting to happen.

Take this series of self-tests, developed by Michael Mejia, C.S.C.S., designed to evaluate the most common problem areas for guys (it''s good for women too). The test will only take about 10 minutes and you''ll find out if your body is performance-ready or totally shot-out. Don''t worry, wherever you''re in need of a tune-up, the tools have been included to fix yourself up. Enjoy!

1.) Core Stability

Your core muscles, those supporting your abdomen, back, hips and pelvis, are critical in just about any sport. They provide spinal stability, allowing you to generate the power needed for quick changes of direction and faster body rotation.

The Problem

The transverse abdominis, a deep abdominal muscle, is usually the limiting factor here. Typical abdominal training is built around crunches. Due to its'' limited range of motion - only lifting your head and shoulders off the floor - it doesn''t force you to use your transverse abdominis.

Self Test: Slow Sit-Up

Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat. Hold your arms straight at your sides, palms down, and keep them parallel with the floor throughout the exercise.

A. Keep your feet flat on the floor the whole time.

B. Slowly raise your upper body by rounding your spine. Take a full 5 seconds to sit all the way up.

C. Pause for 1 second and take another 5 seconds to lower yourself back down to the floor.

You Pass If: You can complete 10 full reps without cheating.

You Fail If: You can''t do at least 10 reps. Your abs are probably "locking up" after the first 30 degrees of motion - the highest point you lift your body with crunches.

The Fix

You need to train with exercises working your transverse abdominis, twice a week, at the beginning of your workout. Doing this at the beginning of a workout allows you to work it harder because you''re "fresh". Perform the following moves in the order shown for maximum benefit.

PLANK

A. Get into a modified push-up position - resting your weight on your forearms, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.

B. At the same time, pull your belly button towards your spine and squeeze your glutes tightly. This tilts your pelvis backward and flattens the curvature in your lower back, increasing the activation of your transverse abdominis.

C. Keeping your back flat, take shallow breaths for 30-45 seconds. Rest 30 seconds and repeat two more times.

SLOW SIT-UP

Follow the same form and speed you did for the self-test, but start with your knees bent 45 degrees. Do two sets of 8-10 reps, resting 30-60 seconds between sets. As you progress, pull your feet in closer until you can reach the 90 degree bend in your knees. If you can''t do 8-10 reps, do as many as you can each time.


2.) Shoulder Stability

The stability of your shoulders is critical in preventing repetitive-stress injuries that occur in sports, ie; rotator-cuff injuries.

The Problem

Poor shoulder stability can be caused by a lack of development of the muscles surrounding the shoulder, or overdevelopment of the muscles opposing them. Therefore, guys who lift weights regularly are just as much at risk as those who don''t work out at all.

Self Test: Posture

This is a good indication of shoulder stability. Stand sideways in front of a mirror in a relaxed position, like you do when no body''s looking. Now look at your shoulder positioning.

You Pass If: Your shoulders line up directly below your ears.

You Fail If: Your shoulders are forward to the point where it looks like you''re trying to hide your chest, or; your hands hang in front of your thighs, instead of next to them.

The Fix

1. Concentrate on exercises that "squeeze" your shoulder blades together, ie; seated rows, bent-over rows, and rear lateral raises. For seated and bent-over rows, use a wide grip with your elbows out, so your upper-arms stay perpendicular to your body. Do two sets of these exercises for every set of chest (dips & bench presses) and lat (pull-ups & pull-downs) exercises you perform.

2. Stretch your internal rotators, the muscles you work doing bench presses and lats. Refer to the "Dowel Over" technique described below for an effective stretch.

3. Work your external rotators with the "Scarecrow" move described below...

Scarecrow

A. Stand holding a pair of light dumbells and raise your upper arms to the side until they''re parallel to the floor. Keep your elbows bent 90 degrees, or more, so your forearms hang down. Now you look like a "scarecrow" hanging on a bar.

B. While keeping your elbows, upper arms and wrists in fixed positions, rotate the weights up and back as far as you can. Pause, then return slowly to the stating position.

C. Do two sets of 10-12 repetitions, 2-3 times per week.

3.) Flexibility

Common sense simply tells us that good flexibility is crucial in any sport that can force you into contorted positions. Proper flexibility provides you with greater range of motion and decreases your risk of injury.

The Problem

Most guys have tight hip flexors (the muscles that let you lift your upper leg) and poor shoulder flexibility. Both of which lead to injuries and poor performance.

Self Test: Overhead Squat

A. Hold a barbell (or broomstick) directly over your head with a twice-shoulder-width overhand grip. Pinch your shoulder blades together. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, back straight (but naturally arched) and eyes looking straight ahead.

B. Without allowing the bar to move forward, slowly lower your body as low as you can, keeping your torso as upright as possible. Pause a moment, then repeat 1-2 more times.

You Pass If: Your heels stay flat on the floor, your butt almost touches your heel at your lowest point, and the barbell stays directly over your head.

You Fail If: Your heels come off the floor at any time, showing poor hip-flexor flexibility. The bar moves forward as you descend, indicating poor shoulder flexibility. Both your heels rise and the bar moves forward - revealing a combination of both problems.

The Fix

Stretch. Use the "3-Point Stretch" below if you have tight hip flexors, and the "Dowel Over" if you have tight shoulders.

3-Point Stretch

1. With your hands on your hips, Stand on one leg and "hook" the instep of your other foot over a secure surface, ie., counter top, chair back or the back of an incline bench.

2. Keeping your heel pressed against your butt, bend the knee you''re standing on as you push your other knee behind you.

3. Keep your front knee bent as you lean back and hold the stretch for 15 seconds. That''s one set. Rest 30 seconds and repeat for a total of 3 sets. Do this stretch 2-3 times a week.

Dowel Over

1. Hold the end of a broomstick or pole in your right hand and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your upper-right arm parallel with the floor and bend your elbow about 90 degrees so your forearm is facing up. Position the pole so that it''s behind your right arm and touching it about mid-bicep/tricep.

2. Reaching in front of your body with your left hand, grab the other end of the pole (at hip level) and pull it forward. This will rotate your upper-right arm backward. The key is to feel a good stretch, not pain, don''t over-do it!

3. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat this move on your other arm. This is one set. Do 2-3 sets, 2-3 times a week.

4.) Muscular Balance

Muscular balance is extremely important in running sports-such as basketball and soccer-to reduce knee strain, improve mobility and prevent muscle pulls. The muscles don''t need to be equally strong, just as strong as they''re supposed to be relative to each other.

The Problem

When one muscle or muscle group is relatively weaker than another, it can be overpowered by the stronger muscle, causing pulls and tears. Research has shown that strength imbalances between the quads and hamstrings are the most important factor in recurring hamstring injuries.

Self Test: Single-Leg Squat and Reach

Set an up-right dumbell at arm''s reach on the floor in front of you. Bend one leg 90 degrees and hold it behind you. Squat down and reach forward for the dumbell with both hands. At your lowest point, your thighs should be at or below parallel. Pause and stand up.

You Pass If: You touched the dumbell without allowing your heels to rise or your leg or hip to pinch inward.

You Fail If: You couldn''t keep your heels down - a sign of weak hamstrings and tight hip flexors (see "Flexibility" above). You kept your heels down but your knee pinched inward (towards your other leg). If your same-side also rotated in, you probably have tight hip adductors - the inner-thigh muscles that pull your leg sideways toward your body. If your hip didn''t rotate in, you have a weak vastus medialis, the quadracepts muscle on the inside of your thigh.

The Fix

Weak Hamstrings: Do four sets of hamstring and hip-dominant exercises, such as regular deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts, for every one set of a quadracepts-dominant exercise, like front squats or lunges.

Tight Hip Adductors: Use the "butterfly" stretch for your groin area. Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together as close as you can to your body. Hold your feet with your hands while at the same time pressing down on your knee area with your elbows. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat 2 more times.

Weak Vastus Medialis: Do 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps twice a week of Bulgarian split squats, described below...

1. Hold a barbell across your upper back and stand about three feet in front of a bench (you can use a chair too). Place one foot behind you on the bench so only your instep is resting on it. Turn your front foot so it points outward slightly.

2. Maintaining an upright posture, lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees (don''t let your knee go past your toes) and your rear knee almost touches the floor. Do 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps twice a week, resting 60-90 seconds between sets.