- Brian Tully, MS, EP-C
Don’t Get Injured By Your Workout
A workout should be focused on making you stronger, relieving aches and pains, and in general help you to move and feel better all day long. Many times in an effort to achieve this we find ourselves with more aches and pains then we started with…or even worse…injured. Leaving you sidelined for the weeks or months ahead. No one ever reached there goals sitting on the sideline. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Here are the elements I recommend that you include in your programming to diminish your odds of being injured by your workout.
Progression (or regression when needed)
When starting out, begin with the easiest version of a movement and gradually progress as the challenge diminishes. At first you may progress quite quickly, but don’t rush it. Allow your body the time to adapt and get proficient at engaging the correct muscles to stabilize and generate the appropriate amount of force required to efficiently complete the movement. Just as important as knowing when to progress an exercise, you should know it is also ok to regress the exercise if the body is not able to keep up with the demand without compensating (cheating) to complete the movement. Be sure to track your progress during each workout, so you don’t end up doing the same exercise, with the same number of reps, and the same amount of weight for too long. When you can repeatedly meet your goal counts with ease for a specific exercise, this is when to increase the challenge to insure you keep moving towards your goals. If you have already reached your goals, and you love the exercise you are doing, you can simply maintain your program…as long as it is meeting all the other criteria outlined below.
A good workout program should address balance. While being able to stand up without feeling unstable is important…this is not the kind of balance I am specifically referring to here. What I am talking about is balance within your body’s joints and musculature. Your workout program should work all planes of motion; front to back, side to side, and rotational. Too often this aspect is neglected, causing imbalances of the musculature around the joint, forcing the body to have to compensate to function from a bad position. This compensation will ultimately lead to injury.
Identifying & Treating Imbalances
While it is important for your workout to address all aspects of movement; it is also important to understand where your current imbalances exist. By performing self assessment tests or working with a professional, you can identify the areas of your body that are weak or under-active needing engagement and strengthening…and the areas of the body that are tight or over-active needing stretching or a proper recruitment pattern. This is how you make the workout more specific to you and your individual needs. After identifying these areas, you can insure your workout will not aggravate these imbalances further, but even better can actually improve these imbalances. Removing or lessening these imbalances will allow you to move more efficiently and with greater ease.
Proper Warm-Up & Cool-Down
While walking on the treadmill for 5 minutes may begin to warm up your core temperature, it really doesn’t do much to warm up the joints and muscles about to be worked. You should always consider the workout about to happen and your personal imbalances in these areas. A good warm-up will begin to engage the muscles and mobilize the joints about to be worked. In the same fashion, your cool-down should begin to flush the blood back out of the muscles worked to allow fresh restorative blood to flow back in. With the muscles still warm from the workout, the cool-down is also a great time to work on stretching to increase range of motion in your over-active (tight) muscles.
Form & Execution of Exercises
To get the most out of each exercise it is important to understand the purpose of the exercise, how is it helping your particular needs. Don’t just include an exercise you saw on YouTube or Instagram because it looked cool, or because you want to look like the person performing the exercise. To insure the proper execution, you should understand what muscles are being engaged to execute the movement; you should know where you should feel it and equally important, where you should not feel it. To fully understand the execution of the exercise; you should know the proper starting position and end position of the movement. This will insure proper muscle recruitment, stabilization, and control. It is important to listen to your body during the exercise, you want to challenge the appropriate muscles not hurt the joint. If you are feeling pain in a joint, most likely your form is off or you need to select a different exercise for your specific needs.
Last but not least, the time spent recovering from your workout is when the body adapts to the demand of the exercise program. Without the necessary recovery time to get stronger, the body will likely keep getting further broken down. To allow this recovery and strengthening to occur you need to get quality sleep, the necessary nutritional building blocks, proper hydration, and enough recovery time before excessively challenging the same muscles again. The real progress is made between the workouts, not during. A good way to check if you are allowing for adequate recovery is to look at your workout tracking discussed earlier in the article. The next time you perform your workout, check that you are able to meet or exceed your last performance. If the answer is no, you may not have allowed your body the appropriate recovery needed.
Consideration and implementation of each of the above elements will greatly reduce your chances of injury from your workout. Actually if implemented correctly and consistently, this approach will not only decrease your odds of injury during your workout, but in every day life as well.
If you have additional questions regarding this month's article or have a topic you would like to see covered in future articles, please reach out to me via email.