Ironic, but strength training can prevent many joint and muscle injuries. Yet, many people get hurt at the gym. You can protect old injuries and prevent new ones by changing the way you exercise.
This joint-by-joint guide will show you how to improve your daily routine and avoid pain in the most common areas.
Problem area: Shoulders
Your shoulder joint is a vulnerable area due to its structure. Up to a third weightlifting injuries happen here.
Dr. Ronald Karzel is an orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist at Southern California Orthopedic Institute, Santa Clarita, California. Women are more flexible than men and have looser shoulder joints. This can make them more vulnerable to heavier lifting.
Your arm and shoulder move together, allowing for more motion. If your shoulders are too tight, such as in your chest or back, or your shoulder blade is not in the right position for a move, it can cause irritation to your muscles and tendons.
Solution Strengthen your rotator wrists with Y and T's. Learn how to "pack" your shoulder blades correctly with Pull-Ups Plus. To increase the range of motion in your upper body, you should stretch your chest and back muscles regularly.
T's and Y's
Setup Lie facedown on the stability ball, with your trunk and chest supported. Your legs are extended behind you and your feet are shoulder-width apart. Grab a dumbbell with one hand and extend your arms toward the ceiling.
Lift your arms slowly to form a Y. Next, glide your shoulder blades downward and together. After a while, lower the weights. Next, raise your arms straight up to the sides and then lower the weights.
Tip Push your abs against a ball. This will prevent your back from becoming strained and allow you to breathe easier.
Setup Grab a pull-up handle with a shoulder-width grip. Your bodyweight should pull you up and make your shoulders shrug. Then "unpack" your shoulder blades.
Press your lats down to compress your shoulders and back. Next, drive your elbows down to lower your chest and lift your chin above the bar. Slowly lower your arms by extending your arms. Then, unpack your shoulders and do one more rep.
Tip Do not swing your legs or let your body "kip". The entire movement should be controlled and slow.
Problem area: Back
Your spine is designed to absorb shock. However, the discs between each vertebrae are sensitive to torque.
"Low back pain is quite common," states Sarah Ehrsam (MA, Certified Athletic Trainer at College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita, California. Repetitive movements such as twisting or flexing can cause damage to sensitive discs and eventually lead to them bulging or pinching. If you lift heavy, improper lifting techniques or a round back can cause a spinal injury.
Solution Your core muscles are designed to protect your spine through resistance to movement. This cable anti-rotation exercise will test those muscles, while the barbell dumbell deadlift will strengthen your posterior chain to prevent injury.
Setup Position your knees in a semi-knel position parallel to the cable machine. The cable should be at chest height. Grab the handle with both your hands and place it in the middle of your chest.
Move: Pull the cable handle towards your chest and move in a straight line. Then, pause and slowly return to the beginning. To maintain balance, your core should feel the pull of the cable. To create balance in your midsection, you should work both sides.
Tip To prevent tipping, tilt your front foot forward to increase your support base. Because the low back and abs are engaged all day to maintain posture they should be trained to endurance using high resistance.
Setup Place your feet slightly wider than your hips and place your toes under the barbell. Take an alternate grip or an overhand grip on the barbell by squatting down. Your shoulders should be pulled together.
Move: Drive through your heels to extend your legs and keep your back flat. Then, pull the barbell straight up towards your front until you are standing. You can return to the beginning and go back up.
Tip Keep your neck aligned with the spine. Don't look at the mirror.
Problem Area: Hips and knees
ACL tears and knee injuries are more common in female athletes than they are in male athletes. Experts believe this could be due to hormones, wider hip angles, poor form when performing moves such as squats, or varying hormone levels.
Reba WekLake, CSCS and NASM-CPT, owner of Kinetic Spark Fitness, Valencia, California, says that "the knees can collapse inwardly, the heels might come up off the ground, one hip may rise above the other, and the chest sometimes pitches forward,". Your nervous system can become accustomed to incorrect movements over time, which can cause damage to your hips, knees, and back. If you train in one plane, such as forward-only, like a runner or cyclist, it can cause problems such as the iliotibial syndrome (IT), which is characterized by tightness and pain on the outside of your hip and knee.
Solution The one-legged squat isolates each hip and trains your brain and muscles to work together correctly. While the treadmill shuffle strengthens deeper hip muscles, it corrects improper form.
Get started: Stand on your left foot and extend your right leg out in front of your body.
Move Bend your knee to the ground and lower your glutes towards the floor. Keep your knee in line with your toes. Keep your form intact and lower as far as possible. Try to aim for parallel. Stand straight up and extend your leg. Perform all reps on the same side before switching sides.
Tip If you have difficulty balancing, keep your hand on a steady object like a bench or machine.
Stand on the treadmill with your knees bent and face forward.
Start the treadmill at a slow speed (1.0-2.0 MPH) and start moving sideways. Maintain your athletic stance while keeping your feet shoulder width apart. You can do one side for up to five minutes, then switch sides.
Tip Increase your speed gradually as you become more comfortable. But not too much that you trip. To avoid stumbling, you should not cross your feet.
Problem Area: Wrists
There is a reason that humans can't walk on their hands. If you have ever had wrist pain while doing push-ups or planks, you will know why. Chronic conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome can be exacerbated by prolonged, weight-bearing hyperextension.
You should avoid any moves or equipment that could cause wrist pain. For example, straight barbell biceps curls can be painful. Instead, kettlebells should be used to strengthen your wrists. By keeping your wrist straight while performing a move such as push-ups or dips on a machine that has a neutral grip, you can reduce overflexion and extension.
Solution: Mountain climbers do so on a stability ball at the elbows. This removes the wrists completely but still challenges your core.
Stability Ball Mountain Climbers
Setup Start in a plank, with your feet together and your elbows elevated on top of a stability board. Your shoulders should be locked and your abs tightened.
Hold the position for one to two second. Continue to alternate sides, returning to the original position.
Tip If you feel the stability ball is unstable and you are prone to slipping or rolling, place your feet against a wall or use weight plates to brace.
Flex your Muscle
Static stretching and foam rolling can improve flexibility and mobility, which in turn helps prevent injury. But when do you need to do each one? It is likely that it is the opposite of what your mind thinks.
Foam rolling can be done right away, even before you do dynamic stretching or warm up. Foam rolling relaxes the Golgi tendon, the nerve receptor that requests a muscle contract. It also helps your muscles stretch out preworkout to make them more ready for work and less likely to injure themselves. You should also roll out any areas that are bothersome or chronically tight. You can roll along the muscle belly until it reaches a tender area. Then, pause for 60 seconds and repeat. Note: Do not roll on bones or joints.
Postworkout, you should do static stretching. This is where you stretch your muscle to its longest length. After a hard workout, you can gently stretch your muscles to their resting length. This will help improve range of motion and speed up recovery. You can stretch all large muscle groups by holding each stretch for between 30-60 seconds and deep breathing.
Oxygen Mag's first article was entitled How to Injury-Proof Your Exercises
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