How to Stay Healthy in the Gym

How to Stay Healthy in the Gym

Andrew Berry / October 4, 2013

How to Stay Healthy In the Gym

Andrew Berry

When I was a kid my family didn’t have a lot of money. My parents being the type to get the most bang for the buck decided to sign the whole family up for a gym membership at the local health club. This club had weights, cardio, a pool, basketball courts, tennis, racquetball- pretty much everything you needed to keep a family of seven busy for hours on the weekends or after school. Being athletes who played every sport, we loved it.

After a while I started to hang out down in the fitness area where all the free weights, machines and cardio equipment was kept. I remember walking down there for the first time and seeing a huge guy in a tank top finishing his set of gut busting bench presses. Right then and there I decided that that was what I wanted to do. The only problem was that you had to be 12 to start using weights. When I finally did turn 12 I couldn’t wait to start emulating all the moves I had been watching the big guys do over the past two years as I pedaled away on the recumbent bike wishing I could trade the handle bars for barbells.

For the first half of my lifting career I would eagerly walk into the weight room and just start hitting what ever body part was on the days agenda. Now, almost twenty years later, I still can’t wait to train but throughout the years have developed some aches and pains from all of the workouts. One year it was a frozen shoulder, off and on there are bouts of tendonitis. Occasionally there is some back pain and recently I had a surgery to repair three hernias. Because of these piling injuries, I realized that I needed to develop a warmup routine to get my body in a safe position to train and help keep my body free from injury.

So why warm up? The purpose of this warm up is to activate all the muscles that were not active throughout the day so that they are activated and become ready to handle heavy loads.

My training preparation has taken on a workout of its own in a way, but to be able to handle some of the exercises and weights I need to stimulate growth, I do them. A few years ago I ended up with crazy pain in my right shoulder every time I tried a horizontal pressing type exercise. Barbells, dumbbells- it didn’t matter. It hurt acutely when I was training and was more of a dull ache throughout the rest of the day and even kept me up at night. Eventually, I stopped all chest training for about 11 months and focused on working my posture and loosening up my shoulders doing the drills I going to talk about. Spending the time doing these exercises is a small price to pay to be able to train my chest again.

Over and backs with a dowel or towel: I like to grab a long stick and go over and back over my head 20 times at a fairly slow pace. I strongly believe that this one exercise has kept my shoulders pain free over the last 4 years. I start every workout with 20 of them.

From there it is important to warm up your abdominals, obliques, lower back and spine. Put the dowel on your back as if you were going to squats and rotate about your hips.

Next, with the dowel still on my back. Is a squat and good morning medley to warm up the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Sometimes I will do 10 squats then 10 good mornings and other times I will mix it up and do some combo of each until I’m done 10 each.

Now that I am done with the dowel, it’s on to hip mobility work. Here, I continue with high leg kicks, kicking my foot as high as I can, progressively getting higher and higher as I loosen up. Try to kick your toes to your opposite side hand. After that, while still standing it’s on to hip circles. With this exercise, stand on one leg and with your knee bent; rotate your leg around the hip socket.

From there, it’s on to the ground to do some floor work. On the way to the ground, I like to do some inchworms to stretch out the posterior chain. I usually do 3-5 of these.

After that I get down into the pushup position to do the mountain climber stretch. On this one, I like to start out in a static stretch and then increase mobility with a dynamic motion. So, in the pushup position, take your right foot and bring it up so that your foot is flat against the ground while your toes are in line with the fingers of your right hand. At the same time, sink your left knee so that it is almost touching the ground. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then switch legs. On each subsequent rep, take a little less time in the hold position until you are doing a few reps for each leg just getting into the position.

Finally, its time for the most important piece of all, the foam roller. This useful tool allows you to do self myofascial release on yourself. What this means is that applying pressure with the foam roller and your body weight can reduce adhesions of muscle and fascia as well as reduce scar tissue accumulation.

Start with the glutes and hamstrings, rolling over everything five or more times. If there is a particular area that is “nervy” it needs special attention. Put the roller right on there and work the tissue out. From there move to your IT bands on each leg, then the quads and inner thigh. Finally, lay down so that it is hitting your lower back. If a regular roller is too “easy” for you. It’s time to move on to something a little tougher such as the rumble roller. It’s important not to spend too much time working out every little kink on the foam roller before training as it could decrease performance during the training. The goal here is to take the “edge” off from the previous day(s) training and facilitate blood to the exercising tissue. After training, spend a few extra minutes really working on the muscles that need it.

Normally at this point, the warm up is complete and has taken about 5-7 minutes. Some days I feel like I need a little more and will grab a light pair of dumbbells and do every exercise I can think of for 5-10 reps. For instance, I might grab the 15 pound dumbbells and start with curls, then go into a clean and press into a tricep extensions, down to a dumbbell row into a side or front lateral etc.

To Review:

  • Over and backs
  • Rotations
  • Squats
  • Good mornings
  • High Leg Kicks
  • Hip Circles
  • Inchworms
  • Mountain Climber stretch
  • Foam Rolling

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