One of the most common pieces of advice given to people in strength training programs is simply to “not hurt yourself.” Whether it’s a recovery program from a previous injury or surgery, or you’re simply trying to improve your physical performance, it is a common phrase that you’ll hear. While it may seem easier said than done, a physical therapist can help you gain strength by recommending ways to maximize your training, in addition to providing injury prevention treatments. Listed below are some tips for preventing injury while strength training:
1. Always get a physical.
Physicals help to determine where your body’s level of physical performance is. Many people, especially as they hit middle age, still feel like they’re 25 and ready to take on the world. However, that is not always the case. For example, if you haven’t gone on a run in 5 years and you decide to start training as a runner again, you need to prepare your body for the physical exertion you are about to make. If you jump straight into a training program, you can risk serious injury or health reactions. Your physical will let you know where you should begin in your training program, and will give you some dieting and light exercise tips to condition your body for the training it is about to embark on.
2. Warm up your body beforehand.
Before you begin any workout or exercise regimen, it is important to make sure you stretch and warm up your body. Your physical therapist can provide you with routines to prepare your body for weightlifting, such as utilizing resistance bands or light weights. Stretching and cardio are also important beforehand. A proper warm-up is essential for optimum performance, as it helps to loosen up your muscles, get your blood flowing, and keep your muscle cells oxygenated.
3. Build from the bottom.
Sometimes, you have to start off slow. Even if you were a champion athlete at some point in your life, any period of inactivity will un-condition your body quicker than you realize. It may be tempting to begin where you left off, but your body won’t be ready for that. 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. Start from the bottom and build up from there. This will help you create a baseline for where your training started, and it will make it easier to track your progress. A serious injury at the start of a new training program will be even more frustrating than starting at the bottom will be.
4. Fuel yourself correctly.
Proper nutrition is key in keeping your muscles healthy and strong while strength training. Your physical therapist will likely suggest eating a nutritious meal a couple of hours before working out. He or she can provide you with the proper amount of protein, carbs, fruits, and vegetables your meals should consist of in order to allow for peak performance. It is also to make sure you stay hydrated while training, drinking a 16-ounce glass of water a couple of hours before your workout, as well. Staying hydrated even when you aren’t working out will also help prevent your muscles from tightening up, and will provide you with more energy during the day.
5. Listen to your body.
A small amount of soreness when you first start training is normal, but if you are experiencing severe pain or discomfort make sure you consult with your physical therapist. You know your body well, and you can tell when something doesn’t feel quite right. If you feel as if the training program is moving too quickly for you, it is okay to switch to a lighter weight or even take a break for a day. Trying to push through pain can result in serious injury.
6. Get assistance from a physical therapist.
Your physical therapist will act as your guide throughout your training. He or she will analyze your form to make sure you are performing correctly and avoiding injury. A physical therapist will be there with you every step of the way, encouraging and supporting you as you reach your goals. 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. Call our office to schedule a consultation today, and we’ll get started on helping you take your physical performance to the next level!