The Gym Injury Conundrum, and what we can do about it!
I’m going to need all of you to be extra honest today, as I would like to start this article by asking you a few questions. Let’s get going!
Let’s start with an easy one, how many of you currently attend a gym? Wow, thats great! And how many of you have experienced an injury inside or outside of the gym? I thought so! How many of you warm up effectively before starting your work out? That could be the root of your problem right there!
I firmly believe that the majority of us do not warm up thoroughly prior to pushing ourselves through a workout. “I’m in a rush” some say; “Warming up is useless anyway” state others. I beg to differ.
In the long run, warming up is a solid 10-12 minute investment. Warming up and cooling down effectively will mean more injury free sessions in the gym, less time away from sport and physical activity and effectively less money ‘wasted’ on medical and physiotherapy bills. As a physiotherapist, I’m shooting myself in the foot, I know!
So what happens to your body when you warm up? Lets have a really quick look at the physiology behind the warm up. First of all your warm up serves to “prepare” your muscles for movement. Blood flow to musculature is increased, reciprocally increasing central muscle temperature. This results in increased muscle and tendon elasticity, making movement more efficient and effective. This is the reason behind keeping your warm up dynamic (full of movement) rather than static (slow and relaxing).
I believe an effective warm-up should include two components. The first is a 4-8 minute cardio based exercise, this bit is especially important in colder climates or throughout the winter months. As a rule of thumb, the colder you feel when you’ve arrived at the gym, the longer I want you focusing on this portion of your warm up.
In general I’m a fan of picking a pre-session warm up depending on what I will be doing later on in my session. Simply put, row if you’re focusing on upper body or functional work (power cleans. snatches etc) and jog or cycle if you’re looking at more of a lower body session (I normally lean towards cycling over treadmill running due to decreased joint loading whilst on a bike).
The second part of this warm up should replicate the movements you will be focusing on during your session but under a lower load. I like to start my warm-up using a therraband (those colourful elastic bands you’ve seen in physiotherapy clinics around the world) and progressing to slightly heavier resistance for my second warm up set (I find an olympic barbell serves this purpose perfectly but a pair of light dumbbells will do the trick also). In summary I would recommend two sets of 20 repetitions (2×20) each of the following exercises. With regards to resistance exercises, start using a therraband and progress to a 20kg barbell. Tempo (speed of movement) should be slow to moderate on your first set and progressing to moderate to fast on your second set. (For the tempo nerds out there I would recommend an eccentric: isometric: concentric tempo ratio of 1:0:1 moving on to 0.5:0:0.5 for the second set):
Overhead Shoulder Press
Overhead Squat (stick to therraband resistance if relatively new to this movement)
Stiff Leg Deadlift
Hamstring Walk into Low Back Stretch
“SpiderMan” Hip Flexor Exercise
Calf Walk Out
I’ve uploaded a video on YouTube giving an outline of the exercises I’ve just described just in case you’d like to have a quick look.
I would suggest picking and choosing from the above list, rather than completing the entire routine, especially if time is a serious issue. Always remember to stick to the particular warm up exercises which best replicate your session. And remember, always build up to heavier weights! As a simple example, don’t attempt your 120kg 1RM bench press before you’ve tackled your 60kg 10RM.
Post-session is when I would recommend going for a static stretch, proper static stretching technique, form and timing will be tackled in an upcoming article.
If you do have any pressing concerns regarding a nagging injury or special warm-up requirements I do recommend contacting your physiotherapist for a consultation and a tailor made warm up programme.
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