There’s nothing like a bit of summer sun to get people wanting to try something energetic, whether that’s having a go at a new activity on holiday or going back to a sport you stopped playing. After a period of inactivity, however, your body might need a bit of time to adjust to new demands, so it’s advisable to spend some time beforehand getting in better condition rather than doing yourself a mischief early on and watching the summer pass you by. Instead, prepare your body with these prehab exercises from Dr Luke James, medical director at Bupa UK.
“As the term suggests, prehab is all about preventing injuries from sports or exercise before they occur,” says James. “If you’re starting a new fitness regime or trying out a new sport for the first time, prehab can be a good way of getting your body ready for action, helping you avoid pulled muscles, sprains and strains.”
“For people looking to get back into running, squats can help to strengthen the muscles supporting the knee, as well as the quads, glutes and hamstrings,” says James.
“Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forwards. With your back straight, chest proud, and shoulders back and down, slowly squat downwards. Aim to lower until your thighs are parallel with the ground but only go as far as you comfortably can. Straighten your legs to return to the starting position and repeat for three sets of ten reps.”
“Weak calves are among the most common causes of running injuries, such as shin splints and achilles tendonitis,” says James. “Strengthening your calf muscles will help reduce the chance of injuries in not just your calves, but also your ankles and hamstrings.
“Start by standing on one leg – you can position yourself by a wall if you need to for balance. Raise and lower the heel of the foot that is touching the floor for 30 reps, performing one raise roughly every second. Aim to do the routine twice daily.
“If standing on one leg is too tricky, try lifting both heels at the same time for better balance. Or if you’re looking to make it more of a challenge, you can add weight.”
“With sports like rugby and hockey, your hips and lower back can often feel the strain,” says James. “Strengthening your hip adductors only takes 90 seconds, but can reduce the likelihood of joint and muscle injury significantly.
“Starting with a wide stance, lunge to the side, bending your leading leg and keeping your other leg straight. Keep bending the leading leg until you can feel a stretch on the inside of the opposite thigh. Hold the stretch in each leg for up to 45 seconds to loosen up your hips.”
“The glute bridge is a lower-body exercise that tones the quads, glutes and hamstrings while also working your core, hip and lower back muscles, and stabilising the spinal cord,” says James. “A strong core is important for almost all forms of exercise, from running and rowing to swimming, so the bridge should be included in any prehab routine.
“Lie on your back with knees hip-distance apart and bent, with your feet under your knees. Squeeze your glutes and buttocks as you lift your hips off the ground to form a bridge. Share your weight between your shoulder blades and heels. Hold this position while continuing to squeeze your glutes and buttocks tight, then lower yourself back to the ground under control. Aim for three sets of ten reps.”
“Planks not only strengthen your core, but can also be beneficial for shoulder muscle and joint support,” says James. “They are particularly important for those doing weight training, or getting back into tennis this summer. Planks with a protraction – where you pull your shoulders backwards and away from the spine – can build strength in the larger shoulder muscles, which is critical for pain-free upward arm rotation.
“Lie on your front, then raise your body, supporting yourself on your forearms and toes, with the core muscles in your stomach drawn in. To add protraction, keep your spine straight and let your shoulder blades move away from each other behind you, as if you’re trying to push the floor away. Hold this position for 30 to 90 seconds.”