Holiday parties, spring renewal, bikini season, there are so many reasons and motivations to get in shape and look great. Every new season brings a new wave of motivation in hitting those goals that seem to always get away from us each year. Sometimes our patients decide to join a gym and give it everything they have. While exercising can be greatly beneficial towards one’s health as it combats harmful illnesses and can help improve our overall quality of life, are you ready to exercise? Let’s go over why it is important to be ready as well as testing if you are ready to tackle the gym.
While we applaud your motivation for the gym and we only want to hear of success, it can be very easy to hurt yourself when starting back up at the gym. A variety of doctors that talk about sports medicine also talk about the importance of consulting a physician if you’re a female over the age of fifty-five or a male over the age of forty-five. Those physicians are focused on cardiovascular health, to ensure that you will not suffer from a heart attack while exercising. But what about the rest of the body? When was the last time you went to a medical doctor and had a battery of physical tests done to really evaluate your musculoskeletal system?
Testing at Home – Knees and Hips
We are going to cover a handful of the things that are going to show you if you are physically ready to start exercising. You will need a mirror to grade yourself as we go along, an open space, and a broomstick or at least something similar. All these tests come from a book called Movement by a guy named Greg Cook, a fantastic book that’s geared towards practitioners, physical therapists, and of course chiropractors.
The first thing on the agenda is a deep knee squat. With the bar or broomstick behind the neck, we’ll take a wide stance and go all the way down as far as we can, and then come all the way back up. What we are looking for is how far down we can go and the positioning of the knees. If you are unable to fully go down, you will need to take care during leg exercises as there is not a complete range of motion. Meaning that certain ligaments or muscles will be prone to injury. Now let’s look at the knees, are they starting to go or outwards? What that means is that muscles are not ready to support our weight. This does not solely apply to the gym either, walking uphill you would need to be careful as the knees will have to work even harder.
Here is my argument, if you find these things difficult or unable to do them you should consider consulting with a trainer. While I understand wanting to do your own thing in the gym and that is less expensive than hiring a trainer. It is not a safe thing to do if you are unable to do these tests, you’ll need someone to at least help you get started.
The next test is the high step, we’re going to bring that knee all the way up and see how high it goes. This tests mobility of the hip and it tests the ability of your hip flexor to drive your leg forward. If we are going to be using a treadmill running or walking at an incline, we don’t want the hips to fail us. Take a second to grade yourself, if you can raise it nice and high or above your opposite knee, you have done a good job. If you raise your leg and you start to fall, it means that you have an insufficiency to muscle groups in your glutes.
Following this is the inline lunge. We are going to take that same stick and hold it to the right of us, taking a step forward into a straight full lunge. If you are finding yourself falling to one side of the other, you have failed the test. These are either pass or fail, if you are failing multiple tests you may need to start thinking about a trainer or physical therapist.
Testing at Home – Shoulders
Now we are at shoulder mobility, using that stick we’re going to try and slide our hands up and down trying to get our hands as close as possible. There isn’t exactly a good gauge for pass-fail here, we’re just trying to get our hands close. If you are getting close, you’re ready to tackle shoulder workouts and upper body.
There is also a clearance test, in which we are going to take one arm crossing it onto your opposite shoulder, raising your elbow all the way up. What we are doing is checking the AC joint in the front and your labrum, which holds the shoulder together, is able to do that motion so that you can do a bench press. It is very important to check this, especially before lifting anything heavy.
Testing at Home – Legs
Next up is a straight leg raise, this checks the mobility of your hamstrings. What you don’t want to do is tear a hamstring, you’ll have to sit out for a few weeks or even months in order to rehabilitate it. For the test we are going to lay down and raise your leg all the way up, we are looking for about ninety degrees. If you are not there, you will need to do more stretching or modified exercises in order to not pull your hamstring.
Testing at Home – Upper Body
This one is straightforward; we’re only doing a push-up starting from the prone position. We are making sure your shoulders can create power with your chest to perform upper body exercises. If you are unable to do so, try starting against the wall to build up.
Testing at Home – Rotary Stability
Our final test is the rotary stability test, we are checking our trunk motion, and our core flexibility and back flexibility can keep up with us while at the gym. You’re going to start in a quadruped-type position; go ahead and take your arm and leg on the same side. Hold them all the way out, and then touch your knee and your elbow together, and then reach all the way out again. We are making sure you have enough core strength to perform well at the gym.
The clearance test is to ensure that you have good back flexibility. Go back to that quadruped-type position, then lean all the way back. If you are unable to do it, you’ve lost some of the flexibility of your lower back.
I hope you take the time to do some of these tests to make sure that you’re able to get started in the gym. And if you DO end up hurting yourself at the gym, you know we are always here for you.