Should I stretch before the gym?
The best warm-up for the gym is one that prepares you for the exercise that you’re about to do – this may mean that you need a combination of static stretching and a dynamic warm-up. For example, squats and lunges require a degree of flexibility. Part of your warm-up may therefore include stretching of your leg muscles to improve flexibility and prepare your body for what is to come. However, if you’re about to do a running based cardio session, a dynamic warm-up to ‘wake-up’ your calves, hamstrings and quads is a better preparation that static stretching alone.
In terms of injury prevention, here is little evidence to support the role of static stretching in preventing overall exercise-related injury. However, if you are prone to tendon or ligament injuries, there is some evidence that static stretching may help (Small et al, 2008).
How do I squat without knee pain?
A squat is a fantastic exercise to strengthen your lower limb muscles; however it does place addition stress through your knee. If you do have pain during a squat, modifying technique may help to alleviate your pain. Consider:
Squat depth: deep squats load the front portion of your knee more than parallel or above parallel squat depth. Changing your depth to staying above 90 degrees knee bend may help with knee pain
Foot width: slightly wider than hip width is considered a standard foot placement
Foot turnout: your big-toe should be pointing straight ahead, or turned slightly out
Knee tracking: your knee should track over your 2nd-3rd toe as you squat
Load: do you need to lighten your load to allow your knee joint and muscles to adapt to your routine?
If adjusting your technique doesn’t alleviate your pain, you should be assessed by your physiotherapist.
Should I avoid overhead exercises with shoulder pain?
Pain should not be a feature of overhead exercises. However, sometimes lowering your weights and rep number, and adjusting your technique may enable to you continue overhead exercise without pain. If you are in pain, a couple of things to consider are:
Hand placement: for overhead work, your palms should be facing forward and your thumb directed towards the ceiling
Elbows: Try not to lock your elbows in end range overhead work. This places additional stress on the shoulder and elbow joints
Have you chosen to lift too heavy a weight too soon? You need to gradually increase your load to prevent overuse injuries.
Have you increased your rep number too soon?
If modifying the above doesn’t alleviate your pain, its best to stop the exercise and be assessed before you continue.
Escamilla, R. 2001. Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports an Exercise. 33(1): 127-141.
Small, K., Mc Naughton, L., Matthews, M. 2007. A Systematic Review into the Efficacy of Static Stretching as Part of a Warm-Up for the Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury. Research in Sports Medicine. 16:3.