One of the first rules you’ll encounter any time you start a strength training regimen is, “Don’t get hurt.” Likewise, when you are utilizing physical therapy as part of a recovery program, you’ll want to avoid re-injury. When you speak with a physical therapist at our clinic, we can help ensure that you’re ready to start a strength training program and even recommend ways to maximize your training. Here are some tips for preventing injury while strength training.
1. Get a Basic Physical
Ever heard about the guy who started jogging for the first time in years, only to suffer a heart attack on his first day of training? That’s a cliché for a reason. Many people, especially as they hit middle age, still feel like they’re 25 and ready to take on the world. They jump into a strength training regimen and suddenly find themselves hurt. Get a physical that includes a treadmill test to ensure that your body is ready for a strength training program. You might have to start out with some dieting and extremely lightweight work to build up.
2. Work With a Physical Therapist
A physical therapist can guide and assist you in your exercise program, similar to a personal trainer. The proper form is one of the keys to avoiding injury. Your physical therapist will analyze your form to make sure you’re doing everything correctly in order to maximize results.
3. Proper Warm-Ups
Stretching and a proper warm-up are important for avoiding injury. Your physical therapist can teach you warm up routines that utilize light weights or resistance bands to get the muscles ready for lifting. Some light cardio and stretching are also important. The goal is to have your muscles warm and loosened up and to have your muscle cells oxygenated and ready to work.
4. Proper Fuel for Your Body
Utilize the proper nutrition to maximize your gains from strength training. The best method is to eat a nutritious meal about two hours before your workout. Your physical therapist can recommend the proper amounts of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbs to take in before your workouts. Likewise, you’ll want to stay properly hydrated for working out. Drink a 16-ounce glass of water about two hours before your workout and stay hydrated while you’re engaged in strength training. One last thing to note: Don’t eat a huge meal just because you have a workout coming up. It’s better to eat the proper amounts of healthy foods than to overdo it.
5. Start Slow and Build Up
If you’re getting back into a strength training regimen after a lengthy period of inactivity (months or years), accept the fact that your mind will betray you if you’re not careful. Start slow. As we mentioned earlier, your brain probably remembers what it felt like back when you were a champion athlete. If you overexert yourself in the early stages of a new program, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to injure yourself. You might only be able to handle three 20-minute workout sessions per week as you’re just getting back into the routine. Use this as a baseline to build up from. Don’t let your ego tell you that you can handle more than your body can take. A serious injury just as you’re restarting a program can be devastating.
6. Listen to Your Body
Some pain is normal during a strength training program, and some is not. If you feel any sort of pain that is just “not right,” back off. Switch to a lower weight or switch to a new muscle group. Trying to drive through pain can result in serious injury.
If you’re ready to start a strength training program and want to maximize your results, working with a physical therapist can give you a boost.
Contact Orthopedic and Balance Therapy to schedule a session with us and learn how physical therapy can help you take it to the next level.