Want to come back from an injury faster, fitter, and stronger than ever? Discover the best low-impact exercises to help you get back to your best.
Injuries suck! There I said it. And unless you’re a high-level athlete, there’s a good chance you don’t have a team of medical experts nursing you back to health, which means you probably have to navigate your return to exercise by yourself.
Well not anymore. In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the best forms of low-impact exercise that you can use when returning to the gym after injury.
Pain Means Stop
Before we dive into the best low-impact exercises for post-injury training it’s worth taking a quick look at the injury itself.
People get injured in all sorts of ways. Some are relatively small, such as tweaking a muscle or turning an ankle, whereas others are far more serious such as dislodging a disc in your back or tearing a muscle.
We’ve made sure to highlight low-impact exercises that can benefit you in a range of ways, from improving your strength to helping you improve your cardiovascular ability, however as each injury is different, you must use the exercises that are right for you.
When returning to exercise after an injury, take it easy and be careful, and if you do feel pain and discomfort, stop.
Now with that being said, let’s take a closer look at some of the very best exercises which you can use to work your way back to optimal fitness.
Resistance training (lifting weights) comes in two formats. Free weights refer to using dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells that aren’t attached to anything, whereas ‘fixed weights’ means using a stationary machine.
Fixed weights are usually better for beginners, as they allow you to train in a much safer way and when you’re recovering from injury, training in this way could be hugely beneficial.
It’s the ideal way to continue training your body and building muscle, without putting too much stress and pressure on your body.
When training with free weights, your entire body often has to engage to help support you during the exercise which can be dangerous if some muscles are weaker than others.
However, when using machines, you don’t have that problem. You can solely focus on the muscle you’re training, and you won’t have to worry about anything else.
A bent-over row is a perfect example. Performing the move with a barbell could expose a weakness in your core, which could result in a back injury. However a seated row would allow you to still target your back muscles, but your back and core would be much more protected during the exercise.
You’ve likely heard about the benefits of swimming for general health and fitness, but it’s also an amazing way to get back into shape without putting your body under too much stress. If your gym has a pool, or you have access to one, you should seriously consider the role swimming can play in your post-injury exercise.
The good thing is about swimming is you can adjust your workout depending on your circumstances. For example, swimming by itself is a great way to burn calories, and work all your muscle groups as you enjoy a low-impact workout, so if you were simply looking for an exercise that burns calories without leaving you feeling too beat up and sore, swimming would be a great choice. But in addition to this, swimming and ‘underwater training’ can also be used to help more serious athletes train, rehab, and recover at a higher level.
There are plenty of intense, challenging workouts that you can do in the pool, and because you’re underwater you won’t be putting any unnecessary stress on your body, even though you’ll be working your muscles extremely hard.
We’ve grouped Yoga and Pilates here as a way to include all forms of stretch and mobility work, and while we’re aware they aren’t all the same, we didn’t want to split hairs over which one might be better. In our opinion, all forms of stretch and mobility work are crucial and they should play a huge role in your life.
Once you’ve had a bad injury, this only becomes more obvious. You’ll notice that your muscles get tighter, that your range of motion might become more limited and your ability to move as freely as you did before might completely disappear, and that’s exactly why you should include more stretch work in your daily routine.
Putting yourself through a good stretch workout is a fantastic way to ease the muscle back to health while also taking care of the muscle, and protecting it against future injuries.
When your muscles are tight, cold, and weak, you’re far more likely to pick up an injury, but by working on your mobility and range of motion, you can drastically reduce the chance of you getting injured again.
If you want to work on your aerobic ability and get back into the swing of doing cardio, then cycling could be a great way to ease back into regular exercise.
The great thing about cycling is how you can put the legs through quite an intense workout, without putting too much pressure on the joints. There’s also a good range of options available which means you won’t have any trouble finding a bike that meets your needs, whether you’re looking for a recumbent bike that allows you to step through as you take a seat or a spin bike which allows you to make your workout much more intense.
Once you’ve found a bike that works for you, you’ll be able to perform a variety of workouts, including short fast-paced sprint sessions to longer, more testing rides.
The elliptical is a calorie-burning beast, and possibly one of the best low-impact exercises you can do. What gives the Elliptical an advantage over other cardio machines is it gives you a true full-body workout. So you can use the Elliptical and work your legs, arms, and core all at the same time without any extra stress or pressure on your joints.
The elliptical is extremely easy to use, and as we mentioned, it’s one of the better ways to burn calories, but it’s also a great way to improve your cardiovascular endurance. So if you’re looking for a way to get back into shape, without beating your body up, the Elliptical could be the ideal choice.
When coming back from an injury, it’s always important to pace yourself. No matter how strong or capable you may feel, your body will take some time to get going again. There’s no need to rush anything, be patient, give yourself time, and just take it one day at a time as you try to get better. Depending on the injury, you should also consider speaking or working with a professional to give you a little extra support. Whether that’s a doctor, physio, or personal trainer, it’s always important to make sure you’re taking care of your body and not risking any further injury.
Getting back into fitness after an injury can be challenging as there’s a lot to consider.
You have to figure out how strong and mobile you are, assess what you can and can’t do, and depending on what stage of recovery you’re at, you’ll need to select your workout carefully.
The good news is, with this guide, you now have a great starting place before getting back into the gym.
Whether you build up your confidence on the Elliptical machine or start to lift again with some fixed weights machines, the exercises outlined above are some of the best options available to you when recovering from injury.