Monday, January 26, 2004

Dumbbells provide options while healing

By Dave Patania
Personal trainer

Question: My fiancee is looking to do some basic toning up, but she has a mild but nagging injury. It has something to do with the cartilage by her sternum, and most pushing and pulling type movements seem to aggravate it. Are there any exercises that might target the main muscles of the upper body, while putting minimal or, better yet, no strain on the chest area?

Answer: Whenever people have existing injuries such as your fiancee's and they still want to maintain their conditioning, take time out to do what I call "exploratory exercise." This means that she should go into the gym, try out numerous exercises and find out which causes the least discomfort.

She obviously should use lighter weights with flawless form, slow her speed of movement and pay attention to proper breathing. Pushing air out of her lungs while pushing or pulling weight can help to reduce the amount of pressure within the chest cavity as she exerts force. She should avoid lifting a lot of weight when working with nearly all of her upper-body muscle groups.

She should continue working her legs and let pain be her guide as she chooses her lower-body exercises, as well. I have had a bruised sternum, and I know it is possible that standard squats or heavy leg press movements may aggravate that area because considerable pressure on the chest can sometimes occur when doing these movements.

I used light dumbbells when I had my injury and slowly worked up to heavier weight as I healed. Dumbbells will allow her to move the weight around into various positions that cause less pain rather than being stuck in a fixed position on a piece piece of equipment.

She should also focus on isolating each muscle group that she is working, thus placing less stress on her sternum area.

These are just general suggestions because every particular body and every injury is different. With that in mind, use the exploratory exercise technique and stay in touch with her doctor and/or physical therapist for guidance as she works through this injury.


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