Preventive maintenance leads to better workouts

May 4, 2013

Anyone who owns a car or truck knows that proper maintenance is essential to keeping your vehicle on the road and out of the shop, but how many of us take the time to tune up our bodies to ensure peak performance? Just as your vehicle needs a little tender loving care, so does your body, but how do we make sure it’s fine-tuned and working properly? Try adding these four techniques and you’ll be off to a good start.

Get a deep tissue massage

One way to ensure your body will perform at an optimal level is to get a deep tissue message. A deep tissue massage is an aggressive, firm massage that will get deep into the belly of the muscles, releasing tightness, muscle knots and toxins that can cause injury, soreness and poor performance. It’s the same concept as the foam roller, but instead of rolling out the muscle with a piece of foam, an experienced and skilled set of hands will massage the muscles, identifying and working out tight areas and trouble spots.

Foam rolling for preventive maintenance

Another great way to prevent and treat muscle tightness and trigger points - muscle knots - is to use an inexpensive device called a foam roller. A foam roller is a 6-inch piece of tubular foam that allows you to roll or massage the affected areas, flattening and lengthening the muscles and causing the trigger points to release and return to their regular shape. You can start by resting a portion of your body weight on the foam roller and progress to resting all of your body weight on the roller for best results. Key areas to roll are hamstrings, It bands, hip flexors, glutes and shoulder blades.

Take periodic breaks from your diet and the gym

Regardless of how great your program is or how well it works, there will come a time to take a break and switch things up so you can recharge your battery. Don’t wait until you’ve run yourself into the ground, but rather pick a time when you’re still making progress and take a week to do nothing but rest and enjoy doing the things you love. Then create a new program, get back to the gym and start the process all over again. I always suggest taking two to three breaks a year so you remain mentally and physically fresh and ready to take your workouts to the next level. I also suggest a cheat day once a week to relax your diet and eat some of your favorite foods to keep from getting burned out and to spark your metabolism to new results.

Incorporate active recovery into your program

Taking several breaks a year can be help prevent overtraining, but active recovery can relieve soreness, speed recovery and aid in muscle growth. Active recovery means doing light activity such as weight lifting, cardio or other exercises on off days to force blood through the muscles and flush toxins and stress hormones that slow us down. This technique works great and can speed recovery by 50 percent, but it’s important to understand it should be activity that’s short in length and light intensity to get the full benefit. I first came across this concept 20 years ago when I was playing college football, and long practices and games made my muscles stiff and sore, but doing a brief weight training workout at 50-65 percent intensity made me more mobile and instantly eliminated the soreness.

Just as a vehicle requires proper care and maintenance, so does your body if you want it to perform at an optimal level and remain injury free. The above techniques are four great ways to accomplish these goals. Give them a try, but be sure to do them at the rights times for best results.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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