Injury Prevention

You Did That Strength Exercise—Now Do This Stretch

Whether you’re quarantined or not, bodyweight exercises are a great way to get fit without the gym—do too many, and you’ll need these PT-recommended fixes.

Many of us have picked up some home exercises to stay in shape during this time but I’ve had several people ask me, “Am I doing this right?” or “Should I be doing anything else?” to supplement these movements. Below we’ll go over a list of common bodyweight exercises and some tips on how to avoid injuries that can happen by overdoing it or using less-than-ideal form.

Lunges

Do this stretch for that strength move: Kneeling hip flexor stretch

Why: As many of us have been spending more time sitting on the computer, naturally our hip flexors become shortened. If your hip flexor is tight during a lunge this will naturally cause pulling in the back that can lead to pain, as this muscle attaches from the low back to the front of the thigh.

How: Find a padded surface and get into a half-kneeling position. Tighten your stomach muscles, and very slowly move your pelvis forward until you feel a gentle pull in the front of the hip. If your core muscles are “switched on,” you won’t have to bring your pelvis very far forward to feel a good stretch. If they’re not, engage them with the activation below. Perform twice for 30 seconds, alternating sides.

When: Perform immediately before and after strength training.

Do this stretch for that strength move: Pelvic tilts/Core activation

Why: To go along with the above exercise, you need to be able to activate your core muscles, which is hard to do if you haven’t been using them since we usually sit upright with support. This is a great warm-up to further prevent pinching or pain in the low back with lunges.

How: Get in a split-stance position—the ending position of a lunge. Tilt your pelvis backward by tightening your stomach muscles; envision bringing your belly button toward your spine. Perform 15 repetitions, holding it for a few seconds each time, then switch legs.

When: Perform before a lunge workout.

Bench dips

Do this stretch for that strength move: T’s/Y’s with or without Swiss ball

Why: Bench dips are a great way to target triceps and lats but can cause impingement of structures in the shoulder without proper activation of the surrounding shoulder-blade musculature.

How: Lay with your chest supported by a Swiss ball, using a wide foot stance for good balance. Start by bringing your arms into a “T” or flying position, then squeeze your shoulder blades together, going up and down with thumbs pointed to the ceiling. Next, bring your arms to a “Y” position with thumbs up, going up and down slowly. Perform two sets of 15, alternating “Y’s” and “T’s”.

When: Perform at the start of your shoulder strengthening and conditioning program.

Do this stretch for that strength move: Lat foam roll

Why: Since many of us have been less active, we tend to keep our arms at our side which puts the lats in a shortened position. As the lats are a prime mover for bench dips, rolling them out will help to lengthen and stretch the muscle.

How: Lay on your side with your underarm supported by the foam roller. Roll with moderate pressure both lengthwise and from side to side for one minute on each side with the pressure along the side of your shoulder blade.

When: Perform prior to bench dips or similar exercises such as pull-ups or chin-ups.

Burpees

Do this stretch for that strength move: Squatting warm up with eccentric control

Why: Doing burpees requires coordination with proper muscle activation in order to perform the jumping portion of the exercise. To help wake the muscles up and ensure you have good form, do some warm-up sets to help prevent knee issues.

How: Preferably perform in front of a mirror to observe your form. Stand with feet shoulder width, moving into a squat for a 3 count followed by an explosive 1-second concentric phase, pushing up. Perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions with a short break in between.

When: Perform prior to burpees as a good dynamic warm-up.

Do this stretch for that strength move: Quad foam roll (with stretch)

Why: Loosening the quad before performing a high-impact activity will improve muscle length and prevent straining.

How: Lay in a plank position with one thigh supported by the foam roller. Roll with moderate pressure both lengthwise and from side to side along the top of the thigh for one minute on each side. To get even more out of it, loop a rope or strap around the foot to help bend the knee allowing for a deep stretch while rolling.

When: Perform prior to exercises involving squats or lunges.

Push-ups

Do this stretch for that strength move: Foam roll pec program

Why: Sitting for long periods of time can cause tightness of the pec muscles needed for push-ups. This is a great dynamic stretch to help loosen up the shoulders.

How: Lay lengthwise with your spine supported by the foam roller. With your palms up, slowly perform 10 snow angels, 10 bear hugs, 10 arms overhead, 10 alternating arms, like Frankenstein, and finish with a 30-second stretch with your arms out in a T position.

When: Perform prior to any shoulder exercise to help get loosened up.

Do this stretch for that strength move: Chin tucks

Why: Sitting on the couch or at a desk with bad posture can lead to a head forward posture especially when straining your eyes to look at a screen. Doing this can help bring your head/neck into a proper position to avoid neck pain during push-ups.

How: Simply sit upright looking forward. Try to give yourself a double chin making sure to maintain your gaze straight ahead. This isn’t a very big range of motion so a little goes a long way. Perform 10 before each set of push-ups.

When: Perform prior to any sort of push up or plank exercise.

Side planks

Do this stretch for that strength move: Piriformis stretch

Why: Our glute muscles can become stiff from inactivity. Planks are a great way to help strengthen, but it’s important to stretch before strengthening.

How: Laying on your back, bring one heel onto the opposite thigh, and pull the stretched hip toward your chest. To get a bigger stretch, clasp the hands around the other leg, and pull the thigh toward your chest to stretch out the opposite leg. Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds each.

When: Perform prior to strengthening and conditioning with planks.

Do this stretch for that strength move: Push-up plus (modified)

Why: Performing planks with improper activation of the surrounding musculature can lead to pinching of structures around the shoulder joint. Warming up by activating the shoulder protractors can help optimize positioning of the shoulder during a more advanced side plank.

How: Assume a regular plank position being supported by your knees and forearms. With your forearms parallel, push your chest away from the ground, and slowly let it fall back toward the ground.

When: Perform prior to strengthening and conditioning with planks.