Exercise comes in a variety of forms. The first question that must be asked is the physical condition of the person who wants to exercise. What is the age of the person? Has the person had any health issues in the recent past? What are the goals of the person? Has the person had exercise experience in the past?
These questions and many others are of critical importance in deciding what type of program a person undertakes. For example, the older the person, the more the importance of pre-exercise stretching. Or I should say, the more important a longer pre-exercise stretch becomes. As we get older, the elasticity of our muscles, tendons, and ligaments reduces. It is very important, therefore that we stretch prior to our exercise routines. Let’s not forget something else…it is important to warm up BEFORE we stretch. Now wait a minute…how can we do that? How can we warm up BEFORE we stretch? Isn’t the stretch the warm-up? No, not really. For the purposes of this general discussion some form of mild aerobic activity should be performed to help the muscles warm up by increasing blood flow to the area. Examples would include jogging in place, faster than normal walking, a few minutes on the stationary bicycle to name a few. Then, and only then, should someone begin to stretch.
Stretching a cold muscle is a sure way to strain a muscle and end your exercise routine very quickly!
Now that the general warm-up is concluded, a person can begin to stretch the regions of the body that are planned to be exercised. There are many stretches that can be recommended for each body region. Feel free to ask the doctor for the stretch that would be appropriate for you.
It is critically important when beginning an exercise program that you start slowly and with lighter weights. Don’t get ahead of yourself. By slowly concentrating on good form you will maximize the resistance you place on the specific muscle group being exercised. This will also allow for maximum increase in strength and muscle tone. Start by using lighter weights with higher repetitions. As the days and weeks pass, you can slowly increase the weights to increase the resistance utilized.
Many patients ask what are the best types of weights to use. The answer is not that easy, although I will give general guidelines. There are many different types of weight lifting systems. Cybex, Nautilus, and Keiser are a few well known brands. Cybex and Nautilus utilize cams and pulley systems, whereas Keiser utilizes pneumatics to increase the loads. Also, free weights are very popular for those who are trying to increase the size of their muscles in a more significant way. Here are my general guidelines…For those patients who are returning to exercise from injuries to specific body parts, the weight lifting systems mentioned earlier are a good starting point. The real benefit of these machines is not in the amount of weight that can be used, but that the machines keep the weights “in control” allowing for a much more strict range of motion. This will help lessen the chance of re-injury in many cases.
Why then, would someone use “free weights”? One of the great benefits of free weights lies in the fact that the weight must be totally controlled by the exerciser. There are muscle groups that act as stabilizers when performing a certain exercise. Another name for these muscle groups are “antagonist” muscle groups. For example, when exercising the biceps muscle group, the triceps muscles stabilize the arm and shoulder to allow the biceps to be fully worked. In many cases people feel that they get stronger by using free weights. Feel free to ask me any questions on what would be the best program of exercise in your specific case.