It’s that time of year again when our new years resolutions have us re-commiting to getting fit. For many it means dusting off last years gym memberships and heading back to those dreaded machines and weights. It’s also the time of year those same people come into my office with injuries stemming from poor technique or overwriting. How can you prevent these injuries and stay healthy enough to achieve the new years resolutions, here are my top 3 tips to avoiding some of the common mistakes made at the gym.
1. Improper Stretching – Stretching should be part of any workout routine. Regular stretching helps improve flexibility, increases range of motion, and reduces the risk of injury caused by lesions of the connective tissue. When and how to stretch is imperative. Before your workout you want to engage in dynamic stretching as part of your warm up. The purpose of warming up is to prepare your muscles. Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch. This will increase your muscles core temperature and prepare your body for its workout. Dynamic stretching will prepare your muscles in a specific way. While static stretching warm up may loosen off the muscles, it has really has no relevance to what you are actually about to perform. Whether you are preparing for a basketball game or just going for a run. Your body needs to be prepared for the intensity of whatever workout is ahead.Warming up with dynamic stretching will prepare your body for the different types of movement that will be performed during your workout. Example of dynamic stretching include:
Arm Swings – great to do before you do an upper body workout.
Side Bends – Do before a heavy core workout.
Static Stretching – This type of stretching involves less movement and should be incorporated as part of a cool down and can help to improve muscle recovery and prevent post workout pain. To perform this type of stretching exercise one must elongate the muscles as tolerated and that position is then held for at least 20 seconds. It is important to remember to breath during each stretch.
Example of static stretching:
One of my favorite static stretches is a stretch targeting the glutes and lower back. I often refer to it as the Figure 4 stretch. While lying on the floor or mat bend the right leg and keep the right foot on the floor. Cross your left leg over the right thigh. Hold onto the back of the right thigh with both hands and pull both legs towards your torso. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. Not understanding the core – A common misconception is that the core as involves only the abs, and because of this many will train their core in ineffective ways. Traditional ab exercises like crunches and sit ups are often used in hopes of achieving a stronger core and more defined abdominals, but this does not work. Not only does performing endless crunches and sit ups not strengthen your core or give you more defined abs, it can be hazardous to your spine.
“The crunching movement is a secondary function and one that’s not meant to be done at high volume due to the stress it puts on the discs of your spine.”
Furthermore, crunches don’t work your abs in the way these muscles were designed to perform. The main function of the abdominals is to support the spine and prevent it from spinning all the way around, breaking over backward, or flexing to the side. The crunching movement is a secondary function and one that’s not meant to be done at high volume due to the stress it puts on the discs of your spine.
Exercises such as a plank or side plank are great exercises as are Bird Dog Exercises.This is an excellent exercise for improving core stability because it hits multiple functions at once. The Bird Dog works both anti-extension and anti-rotation, improves coordination, and puts the glutes and shoulders to work. You can think of this exercise as a plank-superman hybrid.
3. Lack of Cross Training – We often find one activity we like or can at least tolerate and we will often just stick with it. Cross training is typically defined as an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to develop a specific component of fitness. It has many benefits including
Reduced risk of injury. By spreading the cumulative level of orthopedic stress over additional muscles and joints, individuals are able to exercise more frequently and for longer durations without excessively overloading particularly vulnerable areas of the body (e.g., knees, hips, back, shoulders, elbows and feet)
Enhanced weight loss. Overweight individuals can effectively achieve a reduction in body weight and fat stores by combining two or more physical activities in a cross-training regimen. They can, for example, exercise on an elliptical trainer for 20 to 30 minutes and then cycle for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
Improved total fitness. Cross training can include activities that develop muscular fitness, as well as cardiovascular conditioning. Performing only one type of workout (i.e just weights or just running) means the some muscles are being overworked while others are somewhat neglected. Quality cross-training helps ensure those neglected muscles are worked out too, leaving you better able to handle a variety of physical challenges.
Enhanced exercise adherence. Research on exercise adherence indicates that many individuals drop out of exercise programs because they become bored or injured. Cross training is a safe and relatively easy way to add variety to an exercise program. In the process, it can play a positive role in promoting long-term exercise adherence by reducing the incidence of injury and eliminating or diminishing the potential for boredom.
I was so thrilled to collaborate with fitness guru Alicia Bell of www.trainitright.com. My article will over readers advise on...