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Your gym routine may have been based around the squat rack, deadlift platform and heavy machinery for quite some time before gyms were forced to shutter due to the coronavirus pandemic. Or maybe you suffered an injury and the doctor’s orders include a few weeks without touching any heavy iron.
Either way, once you get the go-ahead to set foot in your Iron Paradise again you’ll want to power out a few bench presses and overhead presses.
But before we do that, it’s important to get our muscles back to the place they were before our unplanned break.
Why is this important? When you re-enter a gym, you need to remain functional so you can perform the same compound exercises (exercises that target more than one muscle group) without feeling stiff and tight. Tightness in key areas such as the hips, shoulders, back, or other muscles in the posterior chain will strongly affect your performance.
Upon returning, you may find that your range of motion is limited and your joints/muscles feel weak and frail from months of inactivity. In this piece, we’re going to run through a short program that can help fix these issues.
This program is great for anyone who’s had to take a prolonged break from their Iron Paradise, whether that be due to a worldwide epidemic, injury, or any other reason. Follow along and you’ll be back to ripping your old 1-rep max before you know it.
We need to start a program to keep each individual muscle group loose, strong and flexible. We can do this by practicing simple “single movement” exercises with light to no equipment to maintain overall functionality. We’ll include resistance bands and the optional pair of dumbbells if available. This equipment is cheap, multi-purpose, and light in weight, if not weightless.
For this piece, we’ll be focusing on the lower body. We’ll revisit how to loosen up your upper half in a separate piece.
The hips are a significant muscle group for general and functional health. They play a vital role in performing all strength exercises for the lower body, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, snatch, and the clean and press. If your hips are weak then you’re going to experience a weak lift. When tight, they affect everything from keeping a neutral spine and engaging your core, to lowering yourself beyond 45 degrees.
As a result, your spine is forced to compensate for the load of most lower-body exercises. This concludes in injury as well as being unable to target the correct muscles and lift the desired weight. Tight hamstrings also have a huge negative impact on your form. If these large muscles are tight, they severely limit the motion of all your “sit muscles,” such as the hips, glutes, quads and core.
Without functional hamstrings, your explosiveness, strength, and balance all take a hit when performing exercises such as barbell squats and deadlifts. If the situation is bad, you may even feel like you’re going to fall backwards when squatting low.
In this scenario, the rest of your sit muscles are also forced to compensate, running the risk of hip impingement, muscle tears, and spinal problems.
So let’s take a look at six exercises that can counteract all these issues from arising before you get back into the gym.
Ben Walker is an Irish personal trainer and strength coach at Anywhere Fitness. Based in Dublin, he is a fitness specialist that designs personalized plans for strength and endurance athletes at home and online.
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