All machines need maintenance – your body is no different. The days of trainers advising you to train to failure every session are long gone – the constant pushing your body to the limit has been shown to be unhealthy. Over the years we have developed an understanding of neural and adrenal fatigue, tissue quality, flexibility and recovery, so the smart advice is to take the time every week to repair the damage, prevent injury and ensure smooth running the of the machine. This is known as ‘prehabilitation‘.
One of my sessions in the gym this week involved nothing more than some very basic shoulder rehab work, a gentle rotational session for the core and a thorough stretching and foam rolling session. This isn’t uncommon – every week I will do some sort of prehabilitation to help prevent injuries.
These sessions are vital to your overall fitness. Remember to achieve optimal health you have to take the time to look after your body – not just thrash it into the ground every time you get in the gym. Work on your weaknesses, rehabilitate the injured areas and maintain tissue health and flexibility.
I had been carrying a shoulder injury for a week or two, and due to travel, a few nights of disturbed sleep and working at both ends of the day, my recovery hasn’t been what it should have been. Although the quality of my diet has been maintained, there are many pieces to the health and fitness puzzle.
So what should I do for my prehabilitation?
I like a varied approach to prehabilitation. The aim to to use the muscles, almost ‘wake’ them, with a relatively low-medium intensity volume. In addition you can use the opportunity to improve your flexibility and get some extra foam rolling done.
In my own prehabilitation I focus on exercises that don’t typically form part of your routine as well as the additional rolling and stretching. Call them what you like – I tend to refer to them as supplementary exercises as they supplement my overall exercise programme.
My advice is to approach these sessions with a rough idea of what you are going to do, rather than a fixed plan. Each week you are working on the areas you feel you need to and these might change over time.
This week I needed to work on rehabilitating my shoulder, so spent time working on posterior deltoid dominant movements. In addition, I haven’t performed enough rotational work recently so spent time correcting that. Finally, I have been sat down a lot due to travelling up and down the country recently so made sure I was really thorough with my stretching and foam rolling of my hip flexors.
I have been incorporating these sessions into my training for a year or so now, after a spell of illness left me needing to reduce the load and intensity of my training as I worked myself back to full speed. I noticed the benefits instantly so have kept them as part of my routine and still enjoy the benefits now.
Don’t think of prehabilitation as an after thought to your training. These reduced load and intensity sessions provide an excellent opportunity for active recovery, allow you to work on stability and flexibility and act as a safeguard against injury.
The first rule of training is to do no harm to yourself. By adding a safeguard against injury measure to your routine you are doing your best to ensure you stick to this rule.