As a trainer and an athlete, I feel it is so important to address the issue of injury prevention. Too many people train for their fitness and physique goals while discounting the fact that implementing injury prevention training will help get them there faster and, most importantly, safer. If you get hurt because your secondary “helper” muscles are not strong enough then you are actually hindering the process of achieving your goals since now you have to heal first and then rehab the area to get back into action. This is something you definitely want to avoid at all costs!
Some of the most common areas of the body that are ignored include the postural muscles, knee stabilizers, hips, lower back and the transverse abdominals. Focusing your attention on these key areas will greatly help in improving your general health along with enhancing your success in the gym.
You also want to keep in mind that when you are training for injury prevention you will want to utilize lighter weight when using dumbbells, barbells and machines. You can also use your own body weight and you should train with higher repetitions. Proper form and technique must always be followed and it’s important to use a slow tempo at all times to insure safety.
Postural muscles include the rotator cuff and rhomboid muscles. The rotator cuff is also known as the “SITS” muscles given by their names which include Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Supscapularis. People with very weak rotator cuffs will usually have shoulder weakness and pain when performing exercises like the bench press and military press. Fully stretching after every chest and shoulder workout is also vital for helping with injury prevention and to recover from the training session.
Internal and external rotation exercises are the most common movements for strengthening the rotator cuff. You can use an exercise band or a cable machine to perform these movements. If you’re using dumbbells, you can position your body on a bench by lying on your side and making sure your spine is straight before starting these exercises. Below is an example of internal rotations using an exercise band:
The standing rotation exercise is also a very popular movement. Hold onto a light dumbbell or medicine ball and position your arms straight out in front of you. While keeping your hips secure, rotate your upper torso and arms to the right as far as you can comfortably go and then move back to the left as far as you can to complete one repetition.
The next exercise is a twist on a favorite machine in the gym. Find a “Pec Dec” machine and position your stomach against the pad which is exactly the opposite of how you would normally position yourself in this machine (back against the pad) when working your chest. Doing a reverse pec dec is an ideal way to hit the rhomboids which are the muscles found in the upper back of the torso and lie underneath the trapezius.
The stabilizer muscles of the knee include the medial and lateral tissues located on either side of the knee (inside and outside of knee). Working on a slide board is a great option but for those with no access to that piece of equipment, you can simply do inner and outer thigh work using a cable or an exercise band. The photos below show cable inner thighs pulls which targets this area very well.
Hip hikes are great for targeting the hip and lower back area. Stand on a step at least four inches high with one foot hanging off the side. Make sure your hips are square and facing forward while keeping your shoulders level. While keeping your standing leg straight, slowly raise your free hip directly upward and then carefully lower your leg back to the starting position. Shoot for 12-15 repetitions and then switch legs. This movement is entirely directed by the hip so focus your attention on that area when performing this movement.
The transverse abdominis muscle is the deepest innermost layer of all abdominal muscles and is widely used in Pilates exercises but some simple exercises you can implement at home include pelvic tilts while lying on your back and reverse crunches which are great for this area along with targeting your lower abs.
Implementing these injury prevention tips and exercises can help prevent or reduce common issues that can arise from training hard at the gym. This will allow you to keep working out pain-free so you can reach your fitness and physique goals faster!