Getting Back To Exercise? Don’t Hurt Yourself!

Getting Back To Exercise? Don’t Hurt Yourself!

A client came into the clinic recently wanting to start at the gym in the New Year. He had back pain earlier in the summer but we were able to help using some repeated movement exercises, strengthening, and lifting education. His question;

“How can I get back to the gym, stay healthy, and avoid injuring my back again?”

My answer…

  1. Build up intensity and volume slowly – The tissues in our body are built to withstand a certain amount of activity. Our bodies are extremely adaptable to whatever stresses we put it through as long as it happens gradually. If you want to exercise, great! Just make sure your first session is not exactly the same as where you left off last year. It will take time to adjust to this new stress, so be nice to your body. This comes down to being disciplined and self-aware and knowing what is too much. It’s ok to finish your workout feeling good instead of thinking you’ve made a terrible mistake.
  2. Avoid using machines for core – There are many ways to train the core. I am not saying that core machines are all bad, but if the goal is simply to get a stronger core, there are much safer alternatives. Machines use weight to overload the spine in bent positions. I often suggest using exercises like planks, bird dog, dead bug, mountain climbers, etc., as good core exercises that are relatively safe and challenge the core and spine in a neutral position, without using extra weight.
  3. Challenge your body in multiple planes – When it comes to movement of the human body, there are very few straight lines and right angles. Most of our everyday movements involve some degree of bending to the side, twisting, and even doing things on one leg (e.g. going up the stairs). It only makes sense to incorporate some single leg or rotational movements safely into our gym routine. This can be simple: do an overhead carry or single arm overhead press, lunge in different directions, do step-ups, and/or pistol squats.
  4. Switch your exercise routine every month – I’ve had people come to me with injuries who told me they’ve been doing the same gym routine for 3-4 years without changing the exercises, sets/reps, etc. Doing the same exercises for this long can lead to developing muscle imbalances that can be difficult to correct. Have some variety in your program to keep your body healthy and to spice up the routine. You can adapt to different stresses consistently, making your body well-rounded. Also, it keeps the excitement in your gym relationship!

Use these concepts with your gym routine and enjoy avoiding injuries while training. If you already have an injury or pain while exercising, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or massage therapists today by clicking on the book and appointment link.

About the Author:

Jordan Gillis is a physiotherapist at Advanced Health and Physiotherapy. He has worked in several different settings including The Moncton Hospital and with local sports teams doing training and event coverage. He has taken many continuing education courses in Advanced Orthopedics through the National Orthopedic Division of CPA, Selective Functional Movement Assessment, McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment, and others. For any questions or feedback, please e-mail

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