When training at home, there is so much more you can achieve. I’m not just talking about physical and aesthetic results, I’m actually referring to pre-workout and post-workout care. You are also in a position to treat any niggles you may have. Pre-workout routines should consist of warming the muscles up correctly, so they are ready to be used in an intense routine.
There is no value in getting out of bed and beginning your workout session without any kind of warm up. It is actually cruel to your body. Just think of it like this…you get into work and suddenly you are told that you have a presentation in front of 100 people, about a new product that you have never heard of. Yes, that’s how your body feels!
The main reason for a good pre-workout warm up session is to avoid injury. However, if an injury should occur, it is important to know what to do, so you can prevent it from getting worse. Depending on the severity of the injury, you can more than likely treat it at home with the right tools.
During my training life, I have had a few injuries. However, when this first occurred, I was not equipped with the knowledge to deal with it in a timely manner. I remember my first rotator cuff injury. I was training my back at home. I was performing a barbell pullover. I had done 100’s of these, but it only takes half a rep to get an injury. I went too far on the eccentric part of the movement, and felt a twinge. I carried on training, as it didn’t feel that bad. This was a mistake!
I should have stopped training and ran straight to the freezer to grab an ice pack. This would have saved me a lot of time in the recovery process. Instead, I made it worse by continuing to train. I felt it later that evening but still didn’t apply ice. It was just a total lack of education. I was raw and all I cared about was looking good. Eventually, I went to the doctor’s and was prescribed anti-inflammatory tablets, which cause their own problems. I am going to give you the benefit of my experience so that you do not have to learn the hard way. Remember, your body is your temple.
Pre-workout Warm Up
No matter what exercise routine you are undertaking, you should always ensure the correct warming up of muscles. Especially the smaller muscles that stabilise the larger and more superficial ones. My biggest issue was my rotator cuffs, so I had to develop a routine which incorporated the warming up of these important stabilisers. Growing up, it was all about physical image, so lifting heavy and bulking up were see as the ‘in’ things.
Having this kind of attitude, will not only lead to physical problems later in life but will also have a detrimental effect on your mental state of mind. Always trying to keep up with the ‘big guy’ at the gym is an exhausting way of life. Talking from experience, it is a route that I would advise against.
Alternatively, think about the bigger picture. Think about all the instabilities you will develop if you have the ‘just get big’ syndrome. That’s why many people are going down the Calisthenics road. Being able to lift and hold your own body weight is the ultimate test of strength. Not only do these athletes look amazing but their strength is unparalleled. They are able to maintain the longevity of this form of training due to taking care of all their muscles, not just the superficial ones.
To begin with I foam roll all the areas of my body that are tight. For me, it is imperative to loosen these muscles up before I start any form of intense exercise. The particular areas I roll are:
- Pec minor – If this muscle is tight, it can cause a rounding of the shoulders. This can eventually lead to back problems, due to bad posture – This is done with a spikey massage ball.
- Deltoids (shoulders) – The three heads of the shoulder (anterior, lateral and posterior) – This is done with a spikey massage ball.
- Feet – Our feet play a pivotal role in everything that we do, so I want to ensure they are fully warmed up and ready to go – I use a spikey massage ball for this.
- Hamstrings (back of upper legs) – Tight hamstrings are a recipe for disaster. They will pull the pelvis down, which causes mass instability – I use a La Cross massage ball for my hamstrings.
- Glutes (the bum) – This is probably the most important area for me. I have to ensure that any tight spots are massaged out. Due to having a back injury, my glutes can get tight, which will cause the pelvis to be pulled down. Hence, has a knock on effect. The end result is a lot of unnecessary pain – I use a La Cross massage ball for this area.
- Upper back – I do sometimes feel a tightness in my upper back. This is due to my past shoulder injury. Rolling this out before training definitely makes the world of difference – I use a basic foam roller for this.
- The IT (ilio-tibial) band – This is a silent assassin. Not too many people attribute injury to this. Unless you are a medical or fitness professional, you have most likely not come across this. The IT band runs from the side of your pelvis all the way down the outside of your leg. It tends to become tight in the area between your pelvis and knee. This tendon has the capability to stiffen up, leading to back problems. I can not over stress the importance of rolling this tendon out. You will feel the relief right away – I use a basic foam roller for this.
- Quadriceps – I had an issue with a tightness in my pelvis around 2 months ago. I was told that my quadriceps were tight. This spurred me on to roll my quads before every workout. It did the trick, and now that area feels great – I use a basic foam roller for my quads.
I then move on to the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff. They are:
- Infraspinatus – Helps rotate and extend the shoulder.
- Supraspinatus – Keeps the humerus (upper arm bone) in place and keeps upper arm stable. Also helps lift your arm.
- Subscapularis – Holds the humerus to the shoulder blade and helps rotate the arm. Also helps with straightening and lowering the arm.
- Teres Minor – This is the smallest rotator cuff muscle. It’s main job is to help with the rotation of the arm away from the body.
Once I have foam rolled, I move onto my rotator cuff. As you can see above, The RC is a complex group of muscles, that have one of the most important jobs in the body. If they are not given the appropriate care, you will have serious physical problems. Please see the following for a great rotator cuff routine:
If you missed it in the video, you are told you can use resistance bands, if there is no pulley machine available. Personally, I have always preferred bands, as I feel they incorporate the rotator cuff muscles more thoroughly.
After all the above has been completed, my body feels warm, supple and ready for my intense routine. Many people will perform the cuff routine at the end of their workout, however, I find that it suits me better to perform it at the beginning.
Now that your workout has been completed, it’s time to cool your body down. This is where static stretching becomes a big part of your routine. Performing static stretches at the beginning of your workout will be detrimental to your progress. Ballistic stretching is great at the start, as this type of stretching involves moving whilst performing the stretch e.g. arm circles.
Static stretching at the start of your routine will tire muscles out, leading to a fatigued workout. The risk of injury will also increase, as your body has not warmed up properly. However, static stretching after the workout will lead to enhanced muscular and flexibility gains.
As your muscles are still warm after your routine, their fibres are much more flexible than at the start of the workout. This in turn means that their range of motion has increased, leading to a deeper stretch. Increasing the flexibility of your muscles will not only help you to increase the intensity of your future workouts, but will also significantly reduce the chance of injury.
Remember, it is imperative that you consume the correct ratio of carbohydrates and protein within 45 minutes of your workout. This is the time period that your body is craving these marcronutrients, as it needs to repair and recover. To make it easy for you, prepare a protein shake (or smoothie) before your start training.
What to do in the Case of an Injury
Injuries can occur when we are not concentrating, or we are not performing the exercise with the correct technique. They can occur due to a lack of knowledge about particular exercises, or because you are pushing yourself too hard, too fast. In the case of an injury, such as a pulled muscle, you can use the well-known RICE method. Please see below:
Pain is your bodies way of telling you that something needs attention. As soon as you feel you have hurt yourself, stop the activity and rest for a couple of days. Do not try to train through it, as it may do you more harm than good.
Ice is the tried and trusted method to reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice pack (wrapped in a towel), to the injured area and leave it there for 15-20 minutes. Do this every 2-3 hours, for the first 2-3 days after you received the injury. Do not apply the ice pack without a covering, in order to avoid potential frostbite. Using ice right away will significantly reduce the time it takes for you to recover.
Wrap the injured area, to prevent swelling. Do not wrap it too tight, as you will restrict blood flow. It just needs to be wrapped comfortably. To save wrapping, you could use an elastic support bandage.
This involves raising your injured body part above the level of your heart. This reduces pain and swelling. This may seem like a difficult thing to do, however, it isn’t. For example, if you hurt your ankle, you can prop your leg up with some cushions, whilst relaxing on your couch.
Do the Above and You will Thrive
I have given you a comprehensive guide into my own pre and post workout routines. Take it from an old pro, looking after your body in this way will allow you to train harder and more intensely for many years to come. It took me a while to realise the importance of pre and post workout care, however when I did learn I stuck at it and am now reaping the rewards. Failure to have this kind of routine can and maybe will be very harming to your progress.
Those that train are likely to have experienced some sort of injury, so it is essential to know what to do. Treating an injury as soon as it occurs will help you to return a lot sooner. The RICE method has been around for many years, and has helped many trainers deal with an injury, in an efficient and effective way.
As I am currently rehabbing from a back injury, I always have an ice pack at hand. This is why I love training at home. Once I have finished my session, I can apply ice right away. It is almost as good as having an ice bath.
At the end of the day, you many not need a pre and post workout routine. You may be getting great results with the way you are currently training. However, as I have got older and wiser, I have realised the importance of the smaller muscles doing the hard work behind the scenes. That’s why I love my routine. I’m sure as I time goes by, I will discover even more to enhance my results because we are all always learning. By treating your body as your temple, you will give it the respect that it deserves. Keep this in mind next time you are pushing yourself.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have any comments, feedback and/or questions, please do not hesitate to leave them below. I will definitely respond. As always, it has been a pleasure having you here.