I often get asked when and how often people need to do prehab/rehab stuff for aches, pains and even old injuries. They ask how often they need to foam roll, stretch and even do activation exercises.
And my answer….
Before you have pain!
If you’ve had an injury or you know you are prone to aches and pains in certain areas, you need to take care of those areas before pain arises or before you do things that could lead to pain if those areas aren’t loosened and activated.
And if pain has flared up in an areas, you need to be extra diligent to do everything you can to alleviate.
How often you need to do the prehab/rehab will vary. If you stay on top of things, a few minutes each day may suffice.
If you wait till things start to flare up, you may have to spend more time on prehab activities.
But I would like to point out that if you have neck, shoulder or upper back pain from sitting at a desk all day, rolling out for one minute every other day isn’t going to do it.
Just think about how long you sit with poor posture….Does one minute of pain prevention (aka foam rolling, stretching, activation) really seem like it equals the time you sit with poor posture?
Does it really seem like that minute can counteract the 9 hours?
So why do we all expect results when we basically spend only minutes a day doing the right things and hours doing the wrong things?
The thing is we can’t.
While there is no exact amount of time we need to spend doing rehab/prehab exercises and stretches, we do need to consider just how much time we spend each day doing things to counteract all the good we do in the gym.
That one hour each day we spend there with our 5-10 minutes of warm up (foam rolling, stretching and activation) simply isn’t enough.
But that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours each day to see benefit. Five minutes when you wake up, the occasional stretch or rolling at your desk, 5-10 minutes before you workout, a few minutes after your workout and maybe a minute or two before you go to bed.
If you did that every day…WOAH!
At most, what I outlined above, is like 30 minutes out of your day…AT MOST.
And yet we can’t find the time for that?!?
Suffering from pain and injury is our alternative and yet we skip those 30 minutes and wonder why we never get better.
30 MINUTES a day! An excuse to get up and stretch while sitting at our desk all day! Or heck simply a stretch in the doorway when we get up to go the bathroom. (AHEM…Look at all those stretches you can easily do at your desk!)
Or some balancing and leg swings when we brush our teeth to keep our ankles strong.
This is seriously not hard stuff. Shoot it isn’t even as hard as finding 15-30 solid minutes to workout! Almost all of these things can be done while doing something else.
Watching TV? Sit on a ball on the ground to roll out your glutes, hips and low back to get rid of your achy low back!
Simple little prehab/rehab things can go a long way to keeping an area pain and injury-free.
Because even if you did the initial rehab after an injury, you are never done.
You ALWAYS have to take care of that area and make sure to maintain strength in the muscles up and down the kinetic chain from that disruption.
Because every day we do things to create imbalances and potentially upset old aches and pains or create new ones.
So to live pain free…What is a few minutes each day on exercises to keep you balanced?
Are you diligent about doing prehab activities – foam rolling, stretching, activation, balance and stability stuff?
How do you fit those things into your day?
Here are some great tips and exercises to help you prevent and alleviate minor aches and pains:
- 5 Quick Fixes For Wrist and Elbow Pain
- Alleviate Low Back Pain
- The Complete Foam Rolling Video Course and E-Book
NOTE: This is discussing previously rehabbed injuries and minor aches and pains. If you suffer from an injury, make sure to do the physical therapy rehab prescribed to you!
With the increased popularity of Olympic lifting and the fact that Crossfit has brought it to the masses, now more than ever, we need to consider how our day job affects our bodies and may actually be at odds with the exercises and workouts we may want to do.
We may want to do Olympic lifts. We may want to do gnarly, cool exercises.
Heck we may even technically be strong enough to do them.
But before we can, we have to make sure our body is mobile and ready to truly move through the range of motion.
Because if our body can’t truly do the motion, we are going to compensate and end up getting injured.
So on days where I don’t feel like doing yoga and my body isn’t really ready to do a full workout, I will do a “Recovery workout.”
These workouts are usually hard but focus more on postural strength and balance then on developing maximal strength or burning a ton of fat. They work on activating all the correct muscles as you work on perfecting form.
These workouts are the prep that most people need to do so that they can move well and really get the most out of their metabolic or strength training workouts.
The recovery workout below can be done on its own or shortened into a warm up for a full body workout day.
The good part about the workout too is that you can easily do it at home with no equipment even when you don’t have much time!
3-5 rounds of all the exercises below. Perform a 1 minute hold of each exercise. Try not to rest between each exercise. Try only to rest after each round is complete.
Balance on toes (So literally stand up on your toes and hold. If this is easy, balance on your toes on one foot for 30 seconds and then switch to the other foot. Stay as high on your toes as you can and don’t rock to the outside of your foot.)
Squat Hold (Squat down to parallel, not below, and hold. Focus on keeping your chest up and not leaning forward. Push the butt back and really sit into your heels. This is a great time to really assess and work on your squat form.)
Scapular Hold (So you will “lean” back against the wall with only your elbows touching the wall. The further out you walk your feet away from the wall, the harder the move will be. As you lean back with only your elbows against the wall, you really want to press your chest out and pull your shoulder blades down and together.)
High Plank Hold (So hold at the top of the push up from your hands and toes if possible. You can make this easier by doing it from your knees. Make sure to brace your abs by pulling your belly button into your spine and tucking your hips under. Don’t arch your low back or round your upper back. Keep the shoulder blades retracted and everything tight from your shoulders to your core, butt and quads.)
Glute Bridge (Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips up as high as you can and squeeze your butt cheeks. You shouldn’t feel this in your low back. You should feel it in your glutes and a bit in your hamstrings.)
With all of these moves, you should struggle within the first 20 seconds if you are really challenging yourself. Fight to squeeze as hard as you can as you hold the moves!
So yesterday I had a new client that I was assessing, lay on her back and raise one leg straight up toward the ceiling. I wasn’t looking at hamstring flexibility, I was looking for asymmetry between her two sides. Asymmetry puts people at greater risk for injury and means that there are some imbalances that need to be taken care of.
When I had her raise her leg, she said to me, “Oh I’m not very flexible.”
I told her it was ok…that I wasn’t looking at flexibility.
She said, “Ok, but still…it is embarrassing!”
I smiled and thought…It’s crazy that people worry so much about their flexibility, especially when there are really bigger fish to fry!
How important is being flexible really? I mean is it really important that you are able to touch your toes?
Honestly, being able to touch your toes really isn’t that important, BUT that doesn’t mean you should be locked up and immobile.
Mobility is WAY more important than flexibility. Mobility means how well we are able to MOVE..to squat, jump, push, pull.
Being able to touch the ground with your head while standing with straight legs doesn’t mean you are going to be able to move well. In fact, it could mean that you have potential imbalances that are actually inhibiting you from moving well.
So while being able to do the splits is cool and something that you may decide you want to master, being that flexible really isn’t essential to being able to move well.
What is essential to being able to move well is mobility of the joints.
And to have mobile joints means much more than having crazy flexibility. Flexibility can mean different things for different people.
You are flexible enough to be mobile if you take care of all shortened and tight muscles. So if you sit a lot, you need to make sure that your hips, which have been tightened and shortened by sitting all day, have been stretched and loosened so that proper length-tension relationships have been developed between all muscles around your hip.
And on top of needing good length-tension relationship between all the muscles around a joint, to be mobile you must also make sure that all the correct muscles are activated. That means that if you expect to have good hip mobility, you can’t have shortened and tight hip flexors and UNDER ACTIVE glutes.
So you must make sure that on top of making sure tight muscles are loosened and lengthened that overactive muscles are relaxed and under active muscles are ACTIVATED.
If you want to be mobile, stretching or flexibility is just a piece of the puzzle. You also need to do SMR (self-myofascial release aka foam rolling) and activation exercises.
While stretching is GOOD it isn’t near as important as most people make it out to be. You don’t need to be able to touch your toes….It may be something you want to do, but it isn’t necessary.
And even when people do spend a lot of time stretching, they usually stretch muscles they LIKE to stretch, not the muscles that are necessarily tight from sitting or doing repetitive movements day in and day out.
So instead of spending a ton of time stretching each day, focus on only stretching the tight muscles and use the rest of that time to do SMR and activation exercises! You will become more mobile and therefore GET MORE OUT OF YOUR WORKOUTS!
Just because you can pick the weight off of the ground, doesn’t mean you should.
While you technically may be strong enough to lift a weight, your body may not actually be ready to handle the loads, especially on a consistent basis.
So how do you build up so that your body can handle the weight?
- Foam roll – Foam rolling releases tight muscles and helps restore proper length tension relationships so that the correct muscles are recruited when you need them.
- Stretch – So if you’ve ever seen a competitive lifter, you will notice they are extremely flexible. While you may not want to do any static stretching BEFORE you workout, a good stretching program each day will help to prevent injury and increase range of motion around your joints.
- Activate – Too often people aren’t using a HUGE muscle when they do squats and deadlifts – their butts. Make sure before you work out that you have all the proper muscles activated – you will lift more that way. And part of having everything activated….Is warming up!
- WARM UP – Walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes before you lift isn’t a proper warm up. Sorry. A good warm up should loosen up muscles and active muscles so that they are ready to work. Band walks to activate your glutes can be a great part of a warm up. So can inch worms, side shuffles, skips and multiplanar lunges!
- Light first – So each time I start a heavy lift, my first couple of sets is lighter than the rest. Even if I’m trying to maintain the same heavy weight for 5 sets, I’ll do two or three warm up sets first to build to the weight. NEVER jump right into the weight you built up to last week!!!
- Steady slow increases – As you build up to heavier and heavier weights, you want to do it in slow, steady increases. While form may break down when you hit your true max, you don’t want it to break down as you slowly add weight. Track your progress and each time try to add just a little more.
- Work your weak points – You are only as strong as your weakest link. If your shoulders aren’t strong, you won’t be able to bench as much or do as many push ups as the rest of your upper body can handle. You don’t have to do isolated muscle movements to strengthen the weak points just choose exercises that allow them to be the main mover!
- Choose complementary exercises – Don’t just keep doing the same exercises over and over again. Sometimes variety can be key. While you don’t just want to do random exercises, you do want to make sure that you are strengthening your muscles from a couple of different angles. For deadlifts, kettlbell swings can be great. Glute bridges can also help. Plus the variety in exercises can keep you mentally interested.
- Fuel properly – Eating the right stuff can also help your body be ready to handle the loads. If you don’t eat enough, you may find your strength declining!
- REST – Yep. If you want to hit the big numbers, you need to get enough rest. This means days off each week AND it also means adequate rest in between sets. If you don’t rest enough between sets, you won’t be allowing your body to get ready to lift even more weight the next set!
So follow these 10 tips and start building up to the big numbers!