Gym Tips and Tricks to Maximise Your Workout

As a physiotherapist, minding my own business does not come naturally. My job is to analyse people on a daily basis, to try and identify potential injury sources. This may include alignment issues, strength deficits, muscle over-activity, simple technique errors or imbalances. Unfortunately this means that when I attend the gym in my own time I am constantly noticing training errors in the people around me, which has prompted me to write this article.

Training with intent

Research has shown that training with ‘intent’ can help to prevent injuries and produce better outcomes. This basically means focusing on the task in front of you; what is the aim of this session? What is the aim of this particular exercise? Which muscles am I supposed to be exercising?

Pain during/after training

Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is a normal physiological process whereby the muscles are recovering after a strenuous workout. This will be felt as a diffuse aching/stiff sensation 1-2 days after exercise. You should not feel any pinpoint pain during or after exercise. If you do, it is likely that you have a technique error or a muscle imbalance.

When an area of the body is overactive and painful, it is likely that another area is not functioning correctly and causing a compensatory effect. For example; if you are experiencing pain along the inner side of the knee, this may be because the knee is tracking inwards due to a lack of strength in the muscles responsible for turning the knee outwards  – the glutes!

Feature exercise: Squats

Key technique points

  • 4 point alignment from the hip, knee, ankle and 2nd toe
  • Send hips backwards
  • Straight line from top of the head, along spine to the buttocks.
  • Avoid the ribs flaring forwards; imagine your ribcage is connected to your pelvis throughout the movement.
Image of squat technique in action

Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. M Rippetoe. 2017

 Pre-activation

Often muscles become a little lazy due to inactivity, a classic example of this are the gluteal muscles after sitting in an office chair all day. Unfortunately these muscles have difficulty switching when we need them most during our training. Preactivation is a way of activating these muscles in an isolated way before performing a larger task.

For example:

  • To activate the gluteals (especially gluteus medius) before performing squats; tie a theraband around your ankles, squat to 45 degrees, walk sideways like a crab 10m x 4 reps. To increase activation imagine drawing your hip bone up into the hip socket, feel the muscle with your hands (it is located in your ‘back pocket’ area).
  • To activate shoulder stabilising muscles (serratus anterior) before bench press. Lie on the bench with a very light weight (10-20kg), elbows straight. Attempt to push the bar upwards towards the ceiling, then retract back down without bending your elbows, 15 reps.

Physiotherapists are movement specialist. They are ideally placed to assist you with any bio-mechanical issues. Speak to your physiotherapist today about ways to maximise your gym workout.

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