Physical therapists are usually the first group of people to suggest exercise as the solution to any injury. However, there are certain exercises that we try to steer people away from because they have a tendency to hurt vulnerable areas of the body. Read further to find out three exercises to avoid.
Crunches and Sit-ups
These are two ab exercises which formerly were a staple of any well-rounded workout routine. They seem like good options because you don’t need any equipment and you can easily measure your progress. However, these exercises put shear and compressive stress on the discs of the low back and can contribute to low back muscle strains due to the excessive flexion, or bending, of the spine.
For this reason, PTs generally recommend core stability exercises which have been scientifically studied and are known to elicit specific muscle activation. These exercises are also meant to train you to use the core muscles to resist specific movements such as flexion, extension, and rotation. This is similar to the way your core functions in real life – its job is to control and prevent excessive movement in the spine while your arms and legs are in motion. Furthermore, these exercises have been shown to have the same strengthening effects as crunches and sit-ups, but with fewer detrimental effects to your spine.
Ballistic stretching is a type of stretching that was once popular and has since been shown to be harmful by physical therapy research. Ballistic stretching involves stretching a particular joint or muscle, and then bouncing at the end-range of the stretch. This has been shown to cause damage to the muscle because ballistic stretching involves using momentum and uncontrolled movement to push past the limit of your mobility. Furthermore, it can be counterproductive because a quick stretch to the muscle can actually promote a muscle contraction, which will tighten the muscle instead of loosen it.
A better alternative is learning how to utilize dynamic and static stretching to your advantage. Dynamic stretching involves moving a limb or joint through its full range of motion, as opposed to a small range of motion at the end of your joint’s mobility. Dynamic stretching is a great method for warming up for exercise or activity because it utilizes the quick stretch to promote a muscle contraction similar to ballistic stretching, however without the risk of injuring a muscle.
Static stretching is a great cool-down method because it promotes muscle relaxation. Static stretching is similar to ballistic stretching except without the bouncing. The idea is to hold a stretch at the end-range of your mobility for 30 seconds or more for muscle elongation. This is also a great recovery technique to help reduce soreness the day after a workout. After exercising, use your foam roller on the muscles you worked (check out the video on our Instagram page). Then, perform static stretches for the same muscles.
Behind the neck lat pulldowns
When performing a lat pulldown, the bar should come to the chest and not behind the head. Some people perform this exercise with the bar behind their head in an effort to get better lat muscle activation, however this requires the head to crane forward and the shoulders to externally rotate excessively. This forward position of the head can cause neck strains and the shoulder position can cause rotator cuff strains.
Instead, lower the bar to the top of the chest, keeping the shoulder blades down as you pull the elbows into your sides. Think of squeezing the muscles in the back of your armpits. If the form is difficult to maintain, reduce the weight and focus on your awareness of where your shoulders are.
If any exercises cause you pain, stop immediately and consult with your physical therapist. The PTs at Potentia Therapeutics can help you create a program to meet your fitness goals, address pain with movement, and get you back to exercise. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.