Injury Prevention Tactics
Written By Alex Janis, CPT at Prescription Fitness (Cleveland, Ohio)
What is a primary reason people fail to reach their goals? Often fear of future injury or previous injury discourages an individual from taking the first steps towards reaching a fitness goal. Luckily, there is a lot that can be done when working with a trained professional with regards to working around injuries and decreasing the risk of future injury.
First, all personal trainers are required to abide by physician orders such as adhering to exercise release forms and physical therapist protocols. Therefore, it is important to come with documentation that can be given to the personal trainer so that he or she may know of previous conditions and current precautions in order to properly design an exercise program. While working with your personal trainer, it is also crucial to communicate any discomfort that may arise during exercise. A trainer should be able to modify the exercise to make it painless and, if reoccurring, may request that you see a physician before you continue exercise as a precaution.
There are also steps you can take on your own to prevent injury in the gym, at the park, or wherever you choose to exercise. Making stretching a component of your daily activity has been shown to help alleviate the risk of injury in a physical fitness setting. The American Council of Sports Medicine (ASCM) sets recommendations that adults should stretch at least 2 to 3 days out of the week, including pre-exercise and post-exercise stretching. Pre-exercise stretching is considered dynamic, plyometric, or ballistic, all of which are actively engaging the body through movement. For example, skipping is an example of a dynamic warm up and rebound jumps are an example of a ballistic warm-up. Typically pre-exercise stretching lasts for about five minutes. Post-exercise stretching is static in nature, or performed without much active movement. For example, bending over to touch your toes and holding it in that position would be considered static stretching and usually lasts five minutes post-exercise. The benefits of stretching are numerous but primarily are focused on relieving muscle tension especially at the joint, where pain can usually be felt if there is muscle tightness. The excess force produced by the tight muscle coupled with the increased physical demands of exercise can result in direct damage to the muscle tissue or to the joint that the tight muscle performs work on.
Performing an exercise through the full range of motion (ROM) also helps to prevent injury. This is due to the fact that when performing partial reps of an exercise, many people overload the weight. For example, someone may do a 225lb squat but only go a quarter of the way down, whereas the same person can do a 155lb squat for below parallel reps. Due to sheer force placed on joints at impartial ROMs alongside the increased weight load, form can begin to degrade and injury may occur. A personal trainer will know how to implement proper form on these exercises but can also track weights and will be able to progress a client appropriately.
Providing your body with a variety of exercises is extremely impactful in reducing the risk of injury. Instead of running everyday, or bench pressing everyday, find times to swim or perform back exercises. This will help eliminate any muscular imbalances that can occur from performing the same exercises that recruit the same muscle groups over and over again. Furthermore, performing the same exercise repetitively can both overwork a muscle, not allowing for recovery, and also overuse a joint that will create inflammation and lead to discomfort. Performing a well-rounded series of exercises throughout the week that incorporate the front and back of the upper and lower body in all the planes of motion will serve to create a strong, healthy, and injury free body.