How to avoid common injuries associated with resistance training
Get Proper Training
Everyone has had the experience of realizing that they desire to be in better physical shape. You know, that not so pleasant wake up call. Whether the motivation comes from wanting keep up with kids, continue cherished activities, improve health, or simply wanting to fit into some article of clothing people often find themselves participating in some form of resistance training. There are many different types; calisthenics, plyometrics, Olympic style, power-lifting, and Russian kettle-bell to name a few. You can use dumbbells, barbells, kettle-bells, Swiss balls, medicine balls, or just your own body weight. All of these are great and there is a growing popularity of blending multiple, different types of resistance training into structured, group, circuit training classes such as boot camps or Cross-fit classes. This is wonderful because you are getting a variety of exercises to build strength, these exercises are performed back to back keeping your heart rate in the cardiovascular and fat burning ranges, and provide needed variety to keep your workout from becoming stale or boring. Whether you are in a class like these or in a self guided workout at home or in the gym, there are proper training techniques we will discuss that will help you avoid the most common injuries associated with resistance training.
The first thing to do before any workout or physical activity is to have a good, slow, proper warm up. Static stretching has recently fallen out of favor and is not recommended to be performed before activity. Instead, a gradual warm up that focuses on the muscles of the legs, hips, and shoulders is best. Exercises such as lunges, squats, jumping jacks, and wall sits are a great place to start. Muscles work more efficiently and are more elastic when they are warm than when they are cold, this property is called thixotropy. So a proper warm up will allow muscles to stretch further during activity without tearing or being strained. You should already have worked up a sweat and be perspiring before you engage in any strenuous or dynamic movements.
Work Your Core
Next make sure that you train your “core.” This is an often used but rarely understood term. Your “core” is not the muscles on the front of your stomach region. Therefore having a “six pack” of abdominal muscles is not indicative of true core strength. Your “core” refers to the muscles that are primarily responsible for moving and stabilizing us throughout the day. These muscles actually tend to be on our back side and are not seen in the mirror, they include your hamstrings, gluteals (max and medius), lumbar erector/paraspinal, obliques and abdominal muscles. Examples of good core training exercises include squats, lunges, dead-lifts, hamstring curls, bridge, plank, and wood chopping exercises. The muscles of our “true core” are often overlooked and not trained as much as they should be, likely due to not being able to see them in the mirror. Unfortunately, if we do not keep these core muscles strong our body compensates with an overuse or reliance on muscles of the low back and and quadriceps (muscles on the front of your thigh). This causes improper movement of the body which increases pressure on the joints of the low back that will lead to eventual low back injuries and degeneration of the joints. Not all exercise or activity is good for our bodies, many common training methods will contribute to and reinforce these improper movement patterns that will speed osteoarthritis, which is the irreversible degeneration or damage to our joints due to wear and tear.
Cool Down and Stretch
My final suggestion is to take the time after exercise to stretch. Where as static stretching is no longer indicated as part of a proper warm up, it is necessary after physical activity. While we are active our muscles are contracting and shortening to move us around. Resistance training causes our muscles to have to contract with more force than it is used to causing microtearing in the muscles. Micro tears are actually responsible for our muscles growing stronger and increasing in size as a response to the demands put on them. That stiff and sore feeling from physical activity can be minimized and we can feel much better after a workout with a short, effective stretching session. Stretching should be static, no bouncing, just go to the point where you first feel the stretch, do not push into pain, hold it for a count of 20 as at least 10 seconds is needed for the nerves in our muscles/tendons to relax, stretch both sides, and make sure to breathe. An effective stretching routine can be performed in as little time as 3-5 minutes, which goes a long way. Frequent, shorter stretching sessions are more effective than less frequent, long duration, arduous ones.
By implementing these healthy training principles you will be setting yourself up for success with resistance training and any form of physical activity or exercise. You will be able to train or play better, longer, and with less pain. Remember to make sure to include a proper warm up, train your core to provide stability and promote proper movement of your body, and end with an effective stretching session to avoid that stiff/sore post activity feeling. If any of these concepts do not make sense to you, if you need more help, or if you want to learn more see a licensed professional in your area. Many chiropractic physicians, physical therapists, athletic and personal trainers are experts in being and staying active.