Most high intensity workout programs contain great components for successful weight loss and better fitness. One lost art in these workout programs is injury prevention. Most people criticize Crossfit for the high injury risk, but kickboxing, P90X and Insanity also have a high injury risk. Instead of avoiding these programs for that reason, we can be proactive about preventing a common injury. Usually time can be a limiting factor when we talk about injury prevention. This article narrows down the key components used to make warmups, active rest periods, and cool downs.
- Ankle Mobility
Squatting, pressing overhead, and even lunging requires a lot of ankle mobility. Lacking enough range of motion in the ankles can cause a lot of compensation by another joint and generally can cause some severe injuries, most commonly in the knee.
- Hip Mobility
I would even include the hamstrings in this section. Lack of hip mobility can be the root cause of low back pain after squatting. Not being able to keep an upright torso when squatting puts a lot of pressure on the low back, this can commonly be caused by tight hips. Lack of hamstring flexibility can restrict a good setup position in our Olympic lifts as well. An athlete that shows a “buttwink” when they squat generally has tight hamstrings.
- Shoulder Mobility
I’m going to include the thoracic spine or mid back in this category as well. Having a tight thoracic spine can limit front rack positioning and overhead positioning which causes more strain on our low back and shoulders. Limited T-spine rotation in rotating athletes like golfers or baseball players can put a lot of strain on the low back and spinal cord. Most athletes I see can externally rotate their shoulders pretty well, but lack the internal rotation for common movements like running and dips. Lacking that rotation can set our shoulders up for impingement or rotator cuff and labrum injuries.
- Core Strength and Activation
No, I’m not talking about doing 1,000 crunches or situps. I’m talking about core stabilization exercises such as planks and side planks. This is an area that is too commonly confused. When most people say they need to strengthen their abs, they generally resort to sit-ups or flexion based exercises. These exercises will strengthen your abs, but not in the desired position we need for functional movement/injury prevention. If our core is strong, our chance for injury to our joints is dramatically decreased, especially in our spinal region. Most people who have back injuries generally have a weak core.
- Glute Strength and Activation
This is probably the most overlooked area for injury prevention. Most people do not activate their glutes prior to an athletic event. This can cause more strain on their quads and more importantly their knees. Glutes are especially important in sports and movements that require a lot of balance such as lunging and one legged movements. This is even more important in women, who deposit more fatty tissue around the hip-glute area.
- Shoulder Activation
To protect our shoulders, stretching isn’t the only thing needed. Activating and strengthening the muscles in and around the shoulder blade and rotator cuff can take a lot of strain off of the joints we don’t want to use. Activating the lower trap, middle trap, and rhomboids prior to exercise can prevent a shoulder impingement.
There are other factors that can cause injuries, and these techniques can’t account for traumatic injuries. This is simply a guideline for preparing and recovering our bodies from exercise. Time is almost always against us, so preparing a routine before and after exercise including these principles is important. If your exercise program includes a part with prescribed rest such as 5×3 back squats with a 3:00 break between sets, this rest period can be an opportune time to include some injury prevention exercises.