When most athletes think of workouts, they tend to concentrate on performance. What can make me go faster, kick the ball harder, or throw farther? But sometimes performance training isn’t enough. Weakened muscles surrounding joints, and smaller muscle groups left untrained, can lead to injuries just waiting to happen! There are some exercises you can include in your workouts though to help prevent the most common sports injuries.
The most common places injured during sports or even everyday lives are the back, shoulders and knees. Back injuries are among the most common and can be very dangerous – even causing lifelong problems. The knees and shoulders are surrounded by so many ligaments and joints; they can easily be pulled and dislocated during a workout or game. These injuries can all halt your ability to perform any activity for a while, as well as cause aches and pains or handicaps they will stay with you for life. Even getting a number of smaller injuries repeatedly in the same area can cause big problems. That is why it is so important to dedicate a portion of your training time to strengthening these areas so that they are better protected against injuries.
One of best things you can do for your back is maintaining proper form throughout the day. Paying attention to how you carry yourself will not just keep your back in proper position, but can actually strengthen the core muscles that hold it. Try keeping your stomach slightly pulled in, shoulders rolled back and chest out. To help you get into this correct posture position, try this mini stretch exercise every morning, or whenever you need a posture check:
- The Posture Check Stretch: Start by stretching your arms over your head and slightly back. Reach behind you, stretching your core as well, Bring your arms down and roll your shoulders forward three times, then backward three times. Now do three neck rolls in each direction, then stretch your neck slightly back by keeping your face facing the ceiling for 10 seconds. Then, relax into a natural posture.
There are also some exercises you can include during your workouts to keep your back strong, protecting weaker joints with strong supporting muscles. Here are some suggestions:
- Dead Lifts
- Abdominal Crunches
Keeping knees strong is a matter of strengthening the muscles around them, keeping the sensitive joints in place. Also pay attention to how you walk. Your stance can be crooked, causing your knees to turn out or in unnaturally which can make it easier for you to trip or weaken knees. If your feet or knees do go out or in, consider seeing a physical therapist like those at Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Here are some exercises to keep the surrounding, muscles strong.
- Duck Squats – stand in a squat position, feet shoulder width apart, legs bent halfway to ground. Lower enough do your seats almost touch your feet (or does) then rise back up to the halfway squat?
- Walking Lunge – Step into a front-lunge position, but instead of rising up and back to your starting position, step your other leg forward into another lunge, as if walking. Repeat, alternating legs.
- Polymeric jump – Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend down into a squat, then with as much force as you can, jump up in the air from squat position. Land back down into squat and repeat.
Your shoulders support your neck and help in keeping great posture too. But they are also susceptible to injury, especially the rotator cuffs that allow you to move your arms freely. Improving these muscles will help your shoulders and upper back as well. Try these exercises:
- Shoulder Rotations – standing with feet hip width apart, a weight in each hand, lift the weights into a halfway biceps curl. Keeping the weight there, rotate the weights and lower arms out to the sides. Bring the weights back, and repeat.
- Dynamic Plank – get into a plank position on palms of hands. Carefully bend one arm and lower it so you are on your forearm, then repeat with the other arm so that you are supporting yourself with your toes and forearms. Rise back up onto your palms one arm at a time. Repeat.
- Diamond Push-Up – this is a regular pushup with your arms in a different position. Get into a push-up position, and then put your hands together so your thumbs forefingers touch and form a diamond. Lower down and push up. Repeat.