This week, our guest blogger is Brittany Davis, a physical therapist and a devoted member of our CAMP family. If you've ever had any aches and pains after class, this post is for you. Read on to find out how to prevent muscle soreness and so much more!
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that we’ve probably all heard the quote, “Knowledge is power.” You may not agree with that statement completely, but when it comes down to it, I think we can all agree that knowledge gives us the ability to make better decisions. This applies to everything, including our health and fitness. As a physical therapist, my duty is to help my clients feel and move at a optimal and pain-free level, and also to make sure they have the power (in terms of knowledge) to continue to do so.
The questions and answers I am about to share with you are the most frequently asked, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve wondered these things yourself… and maybe even during or after a killer workout session at CAMP. No need to fret, though! You’ll now have the information you need to keep making those gains.
Question #1 – Should I stretch before or after I workout?
The confusion regarding stretching comes down to the fact that many people mistake “stretching” with “warming up.” It doesn’t help that different stretching techniques add to the confusion. So, you should understand that it’s not so much a problem of “when” to stretch but more of the “how” that matters.
To start, a warm-up is very important and should be an essential piece of your exercise routine since it can help prevent injury. So, how should you warm up? The most beneficial warm-up routine would be made up of light aerobic exercise and dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching actually involves movement and is held for shorter periods of time, typically less than 10 seconds. The easiest way to perform this type of stretch is to complete your normal stretching routine with only six repetitions, holding each for six seconds. Stretching this way prior to your workout can actually increase your muscular performance.
What you want to avoid before exercise is the long-hold static stretches, where you sit in a stretch for 30 seconds or more. Because this type of stretch is meant to improve your range of motion, it actually causes micro-tears in the muscle causing decreased muscle performance. Ain’t nobody got time for that during Circuit! If you are looking to increase your range of motion though, try this type of stretch when you aren’t about to hit the weights… or the curved treadmill.
Question #2 – My hamstrings are always so tight, even with stretching! What gives?
Real talk… Until you figure out why your muscles are feeling tight, you will not resolve the issue. But, if you’ve been stretching consistently without change and you are wondering what the deal is, it may be that it’s actually not the hamstrings that need to be stretched.
Your pelvic tilt can play a huge role in how the muscles in your back and legs feel. Shortened hip flexors at the front of the pelvis pull the front of the pelvis downwards. This causes the back of pelvis, where the hamstrings attach, to be pulled upwards putting those hammies into extension! So, stretching the hamstrings wouldn’t be fixing the issue at all. You actually would need to balance the pelvis out by stretching your hip flexors so that your hamstrings could settle into their normal length.
Question #3 – I have pain during a certain technique/position, does this mean I should stop doing it?
The first thing to come to terms with is that our body’s ability to feel pain/discomfort is a very good thing. The reason you feel pain is because you did something that your brain perceived to be a threat. If you are training without focusing on technique and causing irritation, your brain may associate a certain movement with pain so that you avoid that positioning long enough for the area to heal.
Next time you are performing a technique that doesn’t feel so good, there are a few steps you can take to get back on the right track. Very rarely does someone need to completely avoid or stop a certain exercise due to pain.
· Grab your phone and take a video of yourself completing the exercise in question. Check out your form. What’s it looking like? Is there anything you can change or improve upon that may be contributing to the pain?
· Let your class instructor check it out too. Maybe they’ll see something that you are missing!
· Pay close attention to the movement to see if it’s at a certain range in the particular motion. If so, don’t push through that pain zone. The exercise can be performed, if applicable, without hitting that range until the irritation has calmed down.
· Lighten the load and focus on form!
· You want to be sure to figure out why the pain is there. If you have trouble figuring it out, get some help!
Question #4 – Is there a “right” way to squat?
The ideal squat form is individualized and depends on your unique anatomy. Gone are the days where everyone’s toes are facing forward! Even though proper form differs from person to person, there are things you should be mindful of.
Here are some pointers for overall form that everyone should focus on:
· The feet are your stable base. Your weight shouldn’t be shifting too far forward or backward. If there is instability, check out your ankle mobility to see if it’s lacking.
· The knees should track over your feet in a symmetrical position. If the knees fall inward or outward, this could be coming from a lack of control.
· Your spine should remain neutral.
· When coming out of the squat, your hips and chest should rise at the same time.
Adequate squat form is a balance between mobility and motor control. If you find that your form is out of whack, test your ankle and hip mobility first. To check ankle mobility, half-kneel with your front foot about four inches from a wall and try to bring your knee to the wall. Your hip mobility can be tested while lying on your back. You should be able to bring your knee to your chest. If you find that you aren’t lacking in either but your form isn’t the best it could be, it may be due to insufficient motor control. That’ll take some re-training.
Thank you for reading! Stay golden, y’all! If anyone ever has any questions or concerns, feel free to find me around CAMP or shoot me an email at Brittany.Davis.PT@levelupphysio.com! I’d love to help!
Brittany Davis, PT, DPT, ATC
Owner of Level Up Physiotherapy
Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer
*All content created for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing pain or looking to optimize your movement, schedule a free 15-minute phone call with me to discuss steps to handle this. Always seek advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read online.