5 Tips For a Safe and Effective Workout

Whether you are new to exercise or a seasoned enthusiast it is essential to keep your workouts safe!  Not only are exercise-related injuries painful, they will also slow you down, making it harder to achieve your fitness goals.  

As a physical therapist, exercise safety is an essential part of my job…I want to share some of my most important tips with you, so you can stay healthy and strong!

 Do an appropriate warm up:

I know, I know…the warm up is boring.  In our busy lives today there is not a lot of time to spare, especially when it comes to working out.  We all fall into the trap of hurrying through our workout before losing motivation.  Unfortunately the parts of the workout we typically skip are the warm up and cool down.  In my opinion the warm up is quite essential, especially before high intensity cardio (such as plyometrics) and resistance training.  Warming up allows your body to prepare for the exercise – your muscles and joints get “warmed up” and ready for the task at hand.  This not only helps to decrease your likely hood of injury, it also helps your muscles workout more effectively.

 Set your shoulders during upper body workouts:

Protect your shoulders during exercise by considering your posture during all upper body workouts.  Typically you want your shoulder blades to be in the down and back position during exercise.  This gives you the best shoulder stability for your workout, not to mention, it prevents you from recruiting the wrong muscles for your exercise.  

 Keep your knees behind your toes during leg exercises: 

When performing common leg exercises such as squats and lunges it is important to make sure your knees do not go forward past your toes.  For example, during squats you should sit back as if you are going to sit down into a chair, rather than letting your knees simply bend forward over your feet.  Doing this protects your knees and helps you focus your exercise on the correct muscles. 

 Remember to breathe:

Obviously, breathing is pretty important!  It is especially important when it comes to resistance exercise.  Whenever you are lifting weights or doing bodyweight resistance exercises, such as pushups or squats, it is important to exhale during the difficult part of the movement and inhale during the easier part of the exercise.  This helps you to engage not only the muscle you are exercising, but also your core in a very effective manner.  

 Speaking of your core:

We hear a lot about the core these days, and with good reason, your trunk is essential to the movement and stability of your entire body.  There are two important reasons to think about your core during exercise – one is safety and two is improved muscle recruitment.  Engaging your core during all exercise helps protect your spine and internal organs from injury or damage.  This is especially important if you have history of back problems.  Engaging the core will also give you more “bang for your buck” during your workouts – you’ll be working your trunk during all your other exercises!  

How do you do it?  Just think about keeping good posture throughout your spine – don’t stick your butt out or tuck your butt in excessively.  The other important part of core engagement is to keep your abs tight during your workout.  By “tight” I don’t mean sucking it in as hard as possible, I mean just a light engagement of the abs.  They aren’t pulled in so tight you can’t breathe, but they aren’t just hanging out either – somewhere in the middle is good.

Rachel Nieman is webmaster of the popular website Fit Mommy. Some of the most popular topics there include pregnancy, fitness, and healthy dieting. Rachel is also a licensed and practicing physical therapist with a special interest in women’s health and pilates.  

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