Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

Structuring your fitness routine to decrease injury

The 12th April is the date for gyms to open up with the Lockdown easing. But will you be racing back to old gym routines or are you happy with your home exercise program?

A number of clients I’ve spoken to recently are happy in the main with online exercise. Although they often have questions about the order and type of warm ups, stretching and foam rolling and how they fit these elements around the main exercise program.

And as great as online exercise is I have been fixing an array of injuries stemming from online programs recently! So how do you structure your routine to incorporate all the elements you need to stay flexible and injury free?

Read on and I’ll guide you through the process…..

1. First – do you have any injuries or tight muscles? Yes? Foam roll these areas before you do anything else. Hold on areas of tension for 30 seconds + to ease tension in the muscles. If you don’t they will just continue to tighten as you exercise increasing you risk of injury.

2. No tight areas? I don’t believe you – check again! Then move onto dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are those with movement e.g. squats, lunges, abdominal twists, alternate toe touches, 3 minutes is all you need here, no equipment required.

3. Now start your cardiovascular warm up. This might simply be performing the exercise you’re going to do in your main routine but at a gentler pace or without weights. Jogging, cycling, swimming, performing a couple of easy sets for 3-5 minutes are great to warm muscles and get heart and surrounding vessels pumping.

4. Activation exercises can be performed next for continuous exercises like running or directly before individual exercises for gym sessions. They are designed to help a specific muscle fire faster. Muscles should fire in a specific order to enable correct movement patterns. When muscle firing patterns are incorrect (often when a muscle is too tight) there is an increased risk of injury.

As suggested simple activation exercises can be done as a precursor to the main exercise. For example, glute activation exercises should be performed before squats for those who fail to activate glutes in their squat.

The glute activation exercise could simply be to lie on your front, lift legs alternately to engage glutes for 2 minutes then move straight into squats. This helps to train neural pathways between the brain and working muscles allowing glutes to fire faster. The result, a more technically accurate squat.

5. Complete your main exercise program now…….

6. To finish up perform a cardiovascular cool down to bring your heart rate back to resting and dissipate lactic acid. This normally takes 3 – 5 minutes and could simply be a continuation of the exercise you’ve been doing, jogging, cycling or rowing at a steadier pace.

7. Once this is done foam roll again (yes again!). If done daily it really needs not be painful or take up excessive time. As a general rule 5 rolls slowly on each body part should suffice. Search for tender spots and hold on these for 30 + seconds until pain decreases.

8. Lastly static stretches. Hold stretches for 30 + seconds. If one side is tighter than the other for example in a hamstring stretch hold the tighter side for longer to create left-right balance.

Get your head around this routine and you could save yourself weeks on the side-lines due to injury and reduce your injury rehab costs too.

Foam roll – dynamic stretch – CV warm up – activate – exercise – CV cool down – foam roll – static stretch

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