Maybe you’ve seen a Physical Therapist recently to recover from an injury, and now you’re back in the gym, ready to start lifting weights again. Did you know there are ways to support your joints and nervous system during your workouts? Mindful joint support and movement aren’t just for your PT exercises. *You can also incorporate physical therapy best practices into your gym routine.
Here’s how you can add physical therapy best practices to your gym routine:
- Add medial nerve glides before your workouts
- Test your mobility with a joint assessment
- Learn joint-friendly exercise modifications
- Use antagonistic muscle training
- Bring your body back to homeostasis after a workout with Shavasana
Add Median Nerve Glides Before Your Workouts
The median nerve is one of the main nerves responsible for sensation in your arm and hand. It starts from your neck all the way down to your hand and gives movement to your wrist, fingers, and thumb. Sometimes after long periods of inactivity, illness, or injury, your muscles, joints, and tendons can tighten. Similar to your muscles, your nerves can also become tight. Nerve flossing can help improve neurodynamics (nerve motion) and help you move with more ease. Nerve gliding (sometimes referred to as nerve flossing) may help increase your range of motion and relieve pain.
Adding median nerve guides before your workouts can positively affect your nerve motion. This is especially beneficial if you’re doing weightlifting, where you will be gripping heavy weights. If you currently feel any numbness or tingling in your arms, you should visit a Physical Therapist or Neurologist for an assessment of your neurodynamics!
Test Your Mobility With a Joint Assessment
Your mobility is incredibly important for keeping proper form and decreasing the risk of injury in activities. Mobility and flexibility aren’t the same. For example, hip mobility is the active movement of the hips within its range of motion, such as the ability to kick a soccer ball inside your foot by externally rotating your hips. Hip flexibility is the passive movement of the hips, such as a dancer doing the splits while pushing against the ground. By taking a joint assessment, you can better understand how your body moves!
Set for Set has a great assessment that you can follow here.
Once you have taken a joint assessment, you can use your results to understand where your body is less mobile. Look at how your results compare to mobility averages. Also, pay close attention to how your body feels on different sides. For example, if your thoracic spine rotation is much greater on your left side than on your right, you’ll want to take note. You can then choose mobility exercises that help increase your range of motion. We suggest that you start with your central body needs and move outwards. For example, if your spine, shoulders, and elbows are all limited in mobility, you should begin with spine mobility. This is because lack of mobility can move outwards, so if you increase the range of motion with your spine, you may be able to simultaneously increase your range of motion in your shoulders and elbows.
Learn Joint-Friendly Exercise Modifications
Many people know that improper form can lead to injury in weight lifting, but what if the way you’re working out is negatively impacting your joints?
As someone with bow legs, I’ve often struggled with irritation in my knees. I’ve been a long-fledged soccer player and marathon runner, and over time my knees have become more irritated (see patellar tracking disorder)! While increasing my strength through physical therapy, I still felt irritated when weight lifting. Doing exercises like curtsey lunges, burpees, and jump squats made my knees feel much worse. I then learned more joint-friendly exercises for my lower body, and it helped tremendously.
Learning joint-friendly exercise modifications can greatly improve your strength without adding as much stress to your joints. Here are a few different exercise swaps you could try.
*Evlo Fitness is an online workout platform with highly trained fitness instructors who are all Doctors of Physical Therapy. They’re challenging the way that the fitness industry portrays weightlifting and strength training. You can click the link below to learn more about what Evlo Fitness is doing in its strength training program.
About Evlo Fitness
“The ‘no pain, no gain’ methodology has normalized body-destructive fitness. Our mission at Evlo is to reverse that mindset by providing more joint-friendly fitness classes that drive lasting results.”
– Dr. Shannon Ritchey, PT, DPT
Dr. Shannon Ritchey has posted numerous Instagram Reels with full-length blog posts on how to modify your exercises to be more joint-friendly. You can also see her blog here.
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Use Antagonistic Muscle Training
Muscles in your arms, legs, and torso are in opposing pairs. For example, think of your hamstrings engaged in a hamstring curl. When your hamstrings are working, your quadriceps are relaxed. Antagonistic muscle training is when you take these pairs of muscles and switch between them, giving the other an adequate amount of relaxation time. Switching to the opposite muscle group, such as hamstrings to quadriceps, means that you can immediately move into your next exercise without a long rest break between exercises.
Take a Shavasana After Your Workout
Shavasana isn’t just for yoga class. Taking a rest after your workout routine brings your body back to homeostasis. “Exercise puts us in that fight-or-flight state. Those situations trigger the body to flood itself with adrenaline and cortisol. The body shuts down all but its critical functions.” says Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist, and yoga and meditation instructor. Resting post-workout counteracts the stress hormones that are released during your workout.
We hope that you were able to find a few ways to incorporate physical therapy best practices into your gym routine!
Interested in learning more? Learn how to foster muscle recovery after exercise.
*You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. Do not start any fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath at any time while exercising, you should stop immediately. This health, fitness, and nutritional information is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.