Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

Strength coach Todd Durkin offers exercises for 7 areas of the body to reduce nagging pain and help prevent common injuries.

The daily grind of training and competing can take a toll on your body. Heck, even sitting down for too long can mess you up. That's why it's important to be proactive and to incorporate injury prevention exercises into your training program.

Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10 (San Diego), advises athletes to regularly maintain the following areas of their bodies to stay healthy, durable and pain-free.

1. Major Muscle Groups

One of the most important tools in your training toolbox is a foam roller. Foam rolling regularly releases tight spots in your muscles, lengthens fascia and increases blood flow, all of which increase mobility and help prevent injury. That's why Durkin recommends foam rolling before and after workouts, practices and games—and even when you have some free time at night. Roll your major muscle groups or common tight spots, such as your quads, hamstrings, IT Band, calves, glutes and upper back for 30 to 60 seconds each.

RELATED: How to Strengthen Small and Weak Muscles

2. General Mobility Issues

The Overhead Squat may be the single best general strength and mobility exercise you can perform. This one move corrects mobility issues in the ankles, hips, upper back (t-spine) and shoulders all at once. "Every muscle is worked in the Overhead Squat. You'll see athletes cheat if there are any injuries," adds Durkin.

Overhead Squat

  • Use a broomstick or PVC pipe to assess mobility.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Hold the bar with a wide grip and keep your arms straight.

Sets/Reps: 1x5-10

3. Tight Hamstrings and Hips

We sit too much throughout the day. Whether you're in school, an office or on the couch at night, odds are you spend too many hours in a chair every day. Unfortunately, sitting—although it might be comfortable—is not great for your body, causing hip flexors and hamstrings to tighten up, which can lead to a number of problems, including low-back pain, poor exercise form, reduced speed and power, and an increased risk of injuring a muscle.

To increase mobility in your hips and hamstrings, Durkin recommends the following four exercises, which dynamically move your hips through a full range of motion.

RELATED: Flexibility Isn't the Problem With Your Hamstrings

Straight-Leg Raises

  • Keep your legs straight.
  • Contract the front of your quads.
  • Quickly raise and lower your leg.

Single-Leg Windshield Wiper

  • Keep your legs straight.
  • Rotate through your hips.
  • Touch the toes of your swinging leg to the ground.

Scorpion Kicks

  • Touch your foot to your opposite hand.
  • Rotate through your hips.

Army Crawls

  • Keep your core tight.
  • Touch your knee to your elbow.

Sets/Reps: 1-2x10 each side, each exercise

4. Ankle Sprains 

The ankle is one of the most frequently injured parts of the body. It must support your body weight and handle the forces of acceleration, deceleration and changing directions. Sometimes ankle sprains occur, but even a non-injured ankle may not be performing at 100-percent of capacity because of wear and tear.

"So many times I see athletes whose ankles are jacked up, tight and not working properly," says Durkin. "You can't maximize your strength, power and speed."

To restore ankle function and build strong ankle muscles to protect the joint from injury, Durkin advises adding the following two exercises to your workouts.

RELATED: Ankle Exercises That Can Help Prevent Sprains

3-Point Balance Touch

  • Perform barefoot.
  • Touch your foot to each position.
  • Add an Airex balance pad to increase the difficulty.

Sets/Reps: 1x5-10 each position, each leg

Touch Over

  • Rotate your hips as if stepping over a hurdle.

Sets/Reps: 1x20 each leg

5. Shoulder Joint Integrity

The shoulder joint is primarily supported by the muscles around it. This gives it incredible mobility at the cost of stability. That's why it's important to strengthen your rotator cuff and other shoulder stabilizers in your training—whether or not you're a throwing athlete. Here are two exercises Durkin uses for his QBs and other overhead athletes to strengthen the muscles on the backside of the shoulder, which help maintain joint integrity and function.


  • Use lightweight dumbbells.
  • Keep your shoulders back.
  • Bring your arm across your body with your thumb at your opposite hip.

Sets/Reps: 1x20-30


  • Use lightweight dumbbells.
  • Keep your shoulders back.
  • Rotate your shoulders through a full range of motion.
  • Change your hand position to build sport-specific strength

Sets/Reps: 1x20-30

6. Lower Back

Lower-back pain is one of the most common complaints among adults, and even young athletes are not immune. Many things can cause lower-back pain, such as poor posture, tight hip rotators and a weak core. It may not be acute pain, but steady low-back pain can lead to a degenerative injury. Plus, who wants to play their sport or go about their day in pain? These exercises will help fix it.

Child's Pose

  • Reach your hands forward and sit your hips back.

Sets/Duration: 1x30-60 seconds

Pigeon Pose

  • Position your front shin across your body.
  • Press your hips to the ground.
  • Bend over to increase the intensity.

Sets/Duration: 1x30-60 seconds each leg

Penguin Walks

  • Point your toes up and position your arms straight overhead.
  • Slow down to increase the intensity.

Sets/Reps: 1x10 each side

7. Neck

The neck is probably the most overlooked area of the body in the weight room. It needs to be trained, especially if you play a collision sport. A stronger neck reduces the amount of force transferred to your head during a collision, potentially reducing the severity of head injuries.

Neck Flexion Bridge

  • Keep your hands on the ball.
  • Drive your forehead into the ball.
  • Maintain a tight core.

Neck Extension Bridge

  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart for balance.
  • Drive the back of your head into the ball.

Neck Lateral Bridge

  • Drive the side of your head into the ball.
  • Brace your core.

Sets/Duration: 1-2x20-30 seconds each exercise

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock