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What should I be doing in the gym?

Part II:


Part I of this blog focused on elderly patients, part II is for the rest of you.


One of the most common things I find myself asking patients when they talk about going to the gym is WHY? It is an enormously important question to clarify. Are you working out for stress relief, injury prevention/recovery, training for a specific activity/sport, looking to lose/gain weight, improve your overall health, or maybe you just want to look "good" in your bathing/birthday suit. (I will do a future blog to discuss what looking "good" is really about and we can dive into body image, mental health, and the societal pressure/changes around that topic.)


For almost everyone, the answer to why they work out is some combination of those options and should be guiding what you're doing at the gym.


Bicep curls are one of the most common exercises performed at the gym but for most people are purely aesthetic, they are a "sexy" muscle and generally get far more attention in the strength training world than they deserve. Speaking with your local PT can help clarify what you should be working on in the gym rather than focusing on what is popular on Instagram or some random magazine or internet article.


A big takeaway that I try to impress on my patients regardless of their activity level or injury is to do what you're BAD at.


If you are really strong but can barely reach past your knees to touch your toes or struggle to get your shoes on, yoga and a stretching/mobility routine is likely to be helpful for you.


If you're a modern version of Gumby and place your palms on the floor bending forward and can do all the advanced pretzel poses in yoga, you should probably focus on stability and strengthening and may benefit more from Pilates.


One of the issues with really flexible people is they don't "feel" their body stretch much during the day and stretching is a pleasant sensation so they seek it out with activity because it "feels good". Typically injuries with those patients can't be resolved by stretching them out, they need stability.


If you have strong legs and love to squat or use the leg press, focusing on core and upper body will balance you out.


BALANCE is the key, the top of you should be equally as strong as the bottom... the front of you should be equally as strong as your backside. Many injuries happen because the body gets out of balance. That is why a Division I football player may have knee pain when the little 80 year old grandfather doesn't. One is clearly stronger than the other but the elderly individual's quads, hamstrings, and glutes may be better balanced and the football player overuses their quads with exercises. Don't gravitate to what you're good at in the gym, find what is challenging and try to improve it.


If you aren't sure what you struggle with, PTs are great at finding all the little imbalances in your body that create issues down the road.

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