Project GYM – Keeping Fit and Staying Active
For a long time people with haemophilia were discouraged from doing much exercise or physical activity. Now, for those taking effective treatments, the benefits of regular exercise has been recognised. Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is important, especially when it comes to preventing injury and promoting joint health.
Working out at a gym is an excellent way to build up your strength and fitness, but it can be a daunting path to start down if you’re new to it.
For Project GYM, Haemnet worked with the fitness experts at YMCA Club in London to see how physiotherapists can work with personal trainers to develop a gym-based exercise programme for young men with haemophilia.
Being active and participating in exercise helps us to stay physically and mentally well and to feel better. This can mean simply moving more or working with weights to strengthen and build muscles – and it is particularly important if you have a bleeding disorder.
Here, Trisha White from YMCA Club has put together some expert tips on strengthening and building muscles. Whether you’re new to this type of exercise or want a refresher, this is an educational resource with hints and tips for strengthening and building your muscles effectively and safely.
Remember, though, it’s best to start slow and to speak with your haemophilia team if you have any questions about physical activity and exercise.
Strengthening and building muscles
The key to building strong muscles is to push your body to work harder than it does day to day. This is known as “overload”. To help you achieve this, you can perform resistance exercises using dumbbells, barbells and your body weight.
We’ve also included some foundation exercises to support your workouts as well as some pointers on technique to help reduce the risk of injuring yourself.
Below you’ll find a selection of exercises but together by Trisha that will help strengthen and build muscle.
- Mobilising before exercising
- Resistance exercises (using weights)
- Bodyweight exercises
- Stretching after exercise
It’s also important to understand how your body responds to exercises like these. You’ll probably find that your muscles are quite sore after a workout. This isn’t something to worry about – in fact it can be a good sign, as soreness comes from working the muscles harder than usual or performing a new exercise.
Muscle soreness can occur 24 to 72 hours after your session. The term used for this is DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). The soreness can cause some discomfort but you should still be able to perform your day-to-day activities, and it should ease after two to three days.
Whenever we exercise there are some basic principles that are important for staying safe. These are the foundations on which you can build your muscles.
Good posture is important in all of the exercises as it helps to protect against joint or ligament damage, especially in your spine. It can also mean you have better and stronger movement quality when you’re exercising.
Good posture simply means good body positioning, whether seated, standing, walking or exercising. To maintain good posture, aim to keep your spine neutral, shoulder blades back and down, abdominal muscles gently braced, and if standing keep your knees soft rather than rigid.
Deciding on which weights to start with and how often to train is important. It’s always good to start with a lower weight to practice your technique and alignment. Once you’ve practiced you can move gradually to lifting heavier weights to improve your strength.
Ideally, you can weight train two to three times per week. It’s vital that you give your muscles time to recover after each session. The exact amount of time will vary depending on the intensity of your training session – 24 to 48 hours rest is recommended.
How do I progress with my training?
To achieve more training gains (increased strength and muscle size), your exercise sessions should become progressively harder as your body adapts to the intensity. It’s important that you maintain good technique throughout. You can achieve gains by:
- increasing the number of repetitions
- increasing the resistance/weights (but remember this must be a gradual process)
- decreasing the speed of movement – slowing down can make the exercise harder