11 ways to make your workouts more joint-friendly
Joint pain can stunt exercise progress in all directions. Follow the advice of sports medicine physician Guillermo Escalante for pain-free exercise.
Heavy repetitive resistance training is not designed for joint health. Sooner or later, you will find that something is hurting in your shoulders, knees, elbows or hips. Many of us just step back until something really stops hurting. This may be your first exposure to tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, and so on.
Instead of enduring the discomfort or turning to over-the-counter pain relief drugs, let’s instead focus on 11 ways from Guillermo Escalante that you can use to make your workouts more gentle on your joints.
Even if you are not currently in pain, using these guidelines can help you eliminate pain in the gym.
If it hurts, don’t do it. Look for alternative exercises like this.
Sports medicine physician Guillermo Escalante says if the exercise hurts, you shouldn’t do it. But this does not mean that you need to abandon this exercise model altogether. For example, people with shoulder problems often have problems with the barbell press. The shoulders, which are limited to one position, leave little room for pain management.
Multi-joint movements like the bench press can exacerbate a sore shoulder, so try isolation exercises like extension and convergence or convergence in a cable machine and see how you feel here. They activate the pectoral muscles, but alter the movements themselves. You can even change the angle at which you work.
But there are even more options. Instead of a top-down grip on the bench press, try a reverse grip. Dumbbells are also a great option because they offer more freedom of movement. Moving just a few degrees of shoulder abduction can also relieve pain.
In addition, new research shows that due to the greater instability with dumbbells, the muscles should be activated more. In order to stabilize the kettlebell, you don’t need the same amount of weight to reach the same activation level.
Use soft, controlled movements, avoid jerking
Any exercise that allows the body to create momentum also allows you to use heavier weights than usual. Nothing weighs down a sore joint more than being overweight on a barbell and then using poor form.
Whether you’re bouncing while doing squats, pushing yourself over your hip to finish lifting the barbell for biceps, or jerking a weight in the deadlift, you’re really testing your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Our recommendation: reduce the load and start working on your technique using smooth, controlled movements.
Consider using free weights
Cars have their pros and cons. A beginner athlete who cannot balance the weight very well can use machines to complete the movement correctly. However, the machine only forces you to work in one direction without giving your joints much freedom of movement. Try a similar step with a barbell, dumbbells, or cable.
Make sure your warm-up is appropriate for the tasks ahead
Warming up is like brushing your teeth. But this is wise advice, especially as you age. Warming up not only allows you to apply more weight in the gym. It gradually relaxes muscles and connective tissue, improving range of motion and flexibility.
Warming up increases the dilation of blood vessels, blood flow to the desired areas, and neuronal activation of all muscles that you recruit. Do 5-10 minutes of cardio warm-up to increase your heart rate along with some very light warm-up sets of your initial exercises, but without doing them too hard. Maintain static stretching for post-workout, but dynamic exercises can also be helpful.
Focus on time under stress, not training to exhaustion
If you constantly train to failure, even if it’s a light endurance load, you will have joint problems. This is why loading only to partial failure is a good strategy for at least some of your workouts.
Training to failure is often accompanied by moderate breakdowns in correct technique. The load itself cannot be problematic for the joints as long as you do not break the mechanics while lifting. For muscle building, however, too. Recent research indicates that hypertrophy is associated with time under stress rather than maximum exercise.
Limit Intensive Methods and Stick to Workout Cycles
Many lifters enjoy the hard lifts in every workout, and they use many methods of increasing intensity to do so. Lifting weights to your limit at all times will greatly affect your joints. Using a periodization scheme in which you alternate your loads is probably the smartest way to avoid this. You can still physically strain your body, but active recovery periods are also necessary.
Let the preliminary exercises ease the stress
In most cases, you start your workout with a basic exercise like squats, bench press, deadlift, or overhead press. But additional exercises before the main exercises (leg extension before squats) will tire the quads before you even start squats. If the squat was done first, you may need to use 180kg to get into the hypertrophy range. But, if you are tired beforehand, you can only use 140kg and still stay in the 8 to 12 rep range. This reduction in stress means less stress on the joints.
Choose methods that slow down speed and minimize momentum
Not all methods of increasing intensity require near maximum exercise. Slowing down the repetition rate is an easy way to relieve pressure on your joints. Each time you slow down the movement, you put more stress on the muscles, removing it from the joint itself. Controlling movement puts stress on the muscles, which also improves hypertrophy. It also reduces the impulse that often causes injury. Reducing the repetition rate usually means losing weight.
One well-known technique that does this is called reverse motion, which minimizes energy by pausing the bottom of the motion for a few seconds. This technique is especially useful for increasing strength in the lower range of motion.
Avoid blocking your joints
The challenge is to do the exercises with a full range of motion. But when you restrict the movement of the joint, which most often happens with multi-joint chest movements, as well as triceps and leg exercises, you shift the load towards the joint itself.
When you put all the stress on the actual joint, the muscles are unloaded. By stressing the joint, you get the maximum contact surface between two adjacent surfaces. This is especially unwise if you have, say, 200-400kg on your feet. It also cuts down on your time under tension, which means you do it through muscle growth.
Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and prescription drugs in moderation
It is not uncommon for lifters to take anti-inflammatory or analgesic medications before exercise to relieve pulling pain like tendonitis or joint pain. One disadvantage of masking pain is that you do not eliminate the cause of the pain and its further development without knowing it, at least until the medicine stops working. Another disadvantage is that the constant use of the drugs can be difficult for your liver.
Increase the intensity gradually
Most lifters looking to increase muscle size tend to train in the 8 to 12 rep range. This does not mean that they will sometimes not try to go up to the maximum rise. This could mean an extra 20-30kg on the bar. This greatly increases the strength of your muscles and connective tissue.
If you plan on making big changes in your professional training and muscle adaptation, give your body an adaptation phase. Increase your load gradually. If you get used to the growth in strength, tendons and ligaments grow more slowly than muscle tissue. They can become the weak link in the chain and be at greater risk of injury.