More and more people are taking to the gym - that's a good thing right ? So long as you're exercising intelligently ! There's far to many people mindlessly exercising because they've been told to by their doctor or they've read an article somewhere. But often, if you're body is out of balance, you could be simply damaging yourself and shortening the lifespan of your joints and spine if you don't know what's right for you. Here's some tips to help you put together a safe and effective exercise programme:

  1. Train the whole body, predominantly the largest muscle groups, with 3 dimensional, multidirectional functional exercises. For the biggest ‘bang-for-buck’, when designing your workout, either select one or two exercises from each primal movement pattern in each session or if you can train everyday focus on one primal movement per day. The Primal Movement Patterns are: Squat, Push, Lunge (or single leg work), Pull, Bend, Twist and Gait (walking, jogging + running).
  2. Fitness is a combination of endurance, strength, speed, power, balance, co-ordination, agility and flexibility. If you play a sport, consider which elements of fitness are most important to your performance and prioritise them. If not, do at least 3 x 20mins of cardiovascular exercise and include some resistance training each week.
  3. Don’t forget to stretch, work on your posture and do some core work too ! Swiss balls and foam rollers are handy tools to help with this. Improving your posture can really improve your appearance as well as reduce wear and tear of your spine and joints.
  4. Try to choose exercises which you enjoy and are more likely to do regularly as part of your routine. Look into taking up a sport or group exercise activity on a regular basis to supplement your training.
  5. You’re only strong as your weakest link so train your weakest areas as a priority. If you can’t, you must. Improve your posture to reduce physical stress during your day and minimise general wear and tear on your body. Be specific, by only stretching what is tight and strengthen what is weak.
  6. Listen to your body and respond to any aches, tension, niggles or pain – they are messages from your body that something isn’t right. The ‘no pain no gain’ approach isn’t necessarily the best, especially when dealing with rehabilitation from illness or injury.
  7. Balance your exercise routine – If you’re feeling run down, tired or tight then working out could make it worse and actually be quite detrimental to your fitness and health. When you feel like this try a little ‘working-in’ to balance your training and thus your body. Work out (strength, endurance, power, speed training) and Work in (flexibility/mobility, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises).
  8. Vary your exercise and periodise/cycle your training in order to constantly improve your levels of fitness. Even athletes don’t train maximally all the time. Steadily build up your programme’s intensity leading up to important events and include periods of rest and recovery to optimise performance.
  9. Overload and progression is vital to improvement. Calculate your maximums periodically to ensure you’re training at the ideal intensity
  10. Keep it personal - If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing – get reassessed at regular intervals. Remember everybody is different, so what might work for your friend doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you
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