How many times has a Military Special Forces Operator passed next to you and you instantly started dreaming about having such a body? But did you know that the trainings that, according to Doug Kechijian, a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Peak Performance in New York, who has a background in Air Force Special Operations, they are exposed to makes them the most injured persons?
A SEAL trains under extremely high loads and grueling conditions like swimming while pulling a weight through the pool or fast roping from a helicopter. The result is a body with compromised movement and mobility, explains Kechijian. If he or she continues to work out with a jeopardized frame, the solider will ultimately suffer from muscle and joint pain, he says.
That’s why Kechijian recommends all special operators do the following four movements. And this type of exercise is not limited only to SEAL guys, but also for those who train hard to be fit. What these execises do is that they help build a durable body by reducing tightness and eliminating muscle imbalances that lead to injury.
“Human beings adapt to physical stress in the same ways, even if they’re not doing the exact same activity,” he says. That means you’ll fall victim to the same injuries as SEALs, even if you’re jumping in a CrossFit box instead of jumping from a helicopter.
Therefore, start doing each of the movements once a day to build a body that’s stronger, healthier, and more elite than it was the day before. And even if you don’t have pain right now, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't still try these exercises. Often, pain is a lagging indicator of a problem.
Modified Pigeon Stretch
People generally favor their right side when they stand, shifting their weight into their right hip. That causes the left hip to become tight, because it rarely moves through a full range of motion. (Even left-handed people tend to shift to their right hip when they stand.)
If you don’t exercise often, your tight left hip may never cause you any real issues. But as soon as you add intense training to an imbalanced lower body, you set yourself up for problems, says Kechijian.
“It usually leads to lower back issues and also hip pain,” he says. “The modified pigeon stretch hits that oft-tight, left hip area, preventing problems that arise.”
How to do it: Get on all fours, placing your left knee on a pad. Shift your left heel so it is under your right hip. Bring your right knee in to meet your left calf, pinning your left leg in place. Oscillate your hips side to side, forward and backward. Spend extra time pushing through your left hip.
If you want to enhance the stretch, go down on your forearms, bring your chest closer to the floor. Continue to push through your left hip. Perform the stretch for five minutes total. You can do it as one long set or as a few shorter ones.
Climbing, pullups, and farmer’s carries require strong lats. In most guys, however, their upper backs are tight.
This immobility can decrease your ability to fully engage your lats, so you can’t lift as heavy of loads as you potentially could. Plus, a tight upper back means you probably can’t lift your arms all the way over your head without relying on your lower back to help you, says Kechijian.
The lat hang loosens your upper back. They key is that you inhale and exhale deeply each rep.
How to do it: Hang from a pullup bar with your heels on a bench that's slightly in front of you. Your legs should be straight. Sit back, so your torso is perpendicular to the floor. Your legs should be on a diagonal from your hips.
Inhale deeply, trying to fill your entire diaphragm with air and exhale trying to force all of the air out of your lunge. Repeat for 5 breathes. That's 1 set. Do 4.
Here's one tip to try: Use a balloon for this movement. The video below doesn't show it, but blowing into a balloon forces you to breathe deeper and relax into the stretch, says Kechijian. It should feel like your lower and upper back are “expanding” with air when you inhale every rep.
Belly Lift Walk
Guys who train hard, run, and ruck—this military workout is the #1 Fitness Trend of 2015—typically have relatively immobile ankles and upper backs, says Kechijian. And that can throw off your ability to perform exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, pullups, and overhead presses, putting your shoulders, neck, low back, and hips at risk.
The belly lift walk, though, mobilizes your ankles and upper back, while improving your breathing. Ultimately, this will help you move bigger loads with better, more effective form. Are you curious about the result? Superior gains!
How to do it: Get into a pushup position, your hands elevated on a low step or box. Keeping your legs straight, “walk” your feet up as close as possible to your hands, rounding your upper back as each foot moves forward. Actively push your heels into the floor and your palms into the step or box. Stop at the point where you can no longer keep your legs straight. At that point, take 5 deep inhales and exhales. Don’t “shrug” your shoulders or rush your breathing. That's 1 set. Do 5.
If you run or lift, chances are your quads and hip flexors feel tight. That tightness might not bother you, but it can lead to restricted range of motion, inhibiting how much power and force you can generate. Your pace will be slower and your lower-body strength exercises less explosive.
If you don’t treat the tightness, your progress will not only suffer, but you put yourself at risk for knee and low back pain down the road, says Kechijian. Target the stiff areas with the couch stretch. It’ll free up these areas, leading to faster times and better form in all leg exercises.
How to do it: Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Your feet should be against a wall. Keeping your knee on the floor, lift one foot and slide it up the wall until your shin and foot lie flat against the wall. Step the other leg forward.
Now squeeze your glutes and lift your torso so it’s in line with your back quad. Actively try to pull your heel to your butt by contracting your hamstring for 2 seconds. That’s one “contraction.” Do 30 contractions. Then repeat on the opposite leg.