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Australian Physiotherapy Association
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Physioworks Health Group

Many of us have been doing home exercise or have developed “a make shift gym” at home or in open spaces during the ISO period, but it is simply not the same as a full training work out in the gym environment. 

With many now returning to training & playing across numerous sports, and with the re-opening of gyms this week, Physiotherapist James Serong from Waverley Park Physiotherapy Centre (Physioworks Mulgrave) & the Box Hill Hawks (VFL), offers five injury prevention tips to help you successfully & safely return to training/play.


  1. Be Careful not to Overload

It may seem tempting to return to normal training regime immediately (whether it be classes per week, weight sessions, etc.), but a sudden spike in load puts stresses on multiple joints and tissues, which they may not be ready for.

Muscles may be the focus of what we are looking to train, but joints (bone, cartilage), ligaments & tendons all feel the full brunt of what forces any form of exercise puts on the body.

It is important to let these tissues adapt to the training volume, intensity and frequency in a safe and structured manner – so monitor your load; and build back to full training over time.

  1. You Need to “Load Monitor”

Monitor how your body is adapting to “load” – not just how much tightness/soreness you feel the next day.

A simple way to monitor how you are feeling from session to session is by rating your perceived exertion for each session. On a scale from 0-10, where 0 is no effort required at all and 10 is impossible, it is largely believed that training between 5-8 out of 10 (that is, hard to very hard) is the desired ‘zone’.  SO FIND YOUR DESIRED ZONE.

If you were to train in higher zones with every exercise at a maximal level (ie. not another rep could be completed), you would require longer recovery times.

Maximal training also places maximal stress on the body’s structures and tissues – if you are not careful, this can lead to injury.

Generally speaking, if you are doing training which results in a certain degree of muscle soreness the next day, you should not complete that session until the soreness has resolved and you have your normal joint range & motion.

  1. Key is to Focus on Technique

It is strongly suggested that when you return to gym/training, you focus on the key movements of the exercises you are completing.

Whether its squats or push-ups, burpees or bench press, always keep in mind what muscles you want to engage and what joints are providing the movement.

Stick to exercises that you know – don’t rush into new exercises upon returning to training.

In time, if you want to try some new exercises, have someone who knows the exercise well teach you – they know the ins & outs of the exercise; and can give you direct feedback regarding technique & performance.

  1. Make sure you do a suitable Warm-up

Stretching is very common, but maybe largely inadequate depending on your exercise routine. What you need is ‘activation’ – which is essentially low-level loading of body segments prior to the main exercise.

If you are training lower limbs, it may be a good idea to do some lower level warm-up exercises for the hips/glutes, quads, hamstrings & calves. These warm-up exercises should make the muscles feel engaged, but not fatigued.

Common warm-up exercises for the upper body may be rows, chest flys and/or rotator cuff exercises with a theraband (stretchy band) prior to using free weights, machine weights, etc.

  1. Recovery is Vital

Recovery between training sessions is arguably just as important as the session itself.

Making sure you eat well, stay hydrated & get adequate sleep seems logical, but are often largely over-looked.

Eating foods with some carbohydrates & protein help replenish the energy stores you’ve just utilised; and assist with building muscle & improving joint health.

Other additional strategies include doing a light-to-moderate aerobic activity the following day (i.e. swim, bike, walk/jog), and for some wearing compression garments may help reduce the post training muscle soreness you can get the following day.

The Physiotherapy team at Physioworks Health Group can assist you in your safe return to training, the gym & playing your sport this summer. Contact your preferred Physioworks clinic today.

Tips to return safely to sport & gym