Dr. Loni here, bringing you some seriously awesome advice on reducing your risk of activity and sports-related injury. The main focus on this content surrounds strength training and its benefits. Research has shown us that strength training is paramount in the reducing the risk of injury.
That being said, there are very strong people who still get injured. We have to look at strength training as something that we can do to REDUCE injuries, not prevent them. Injuries and pain are also multifactorial and strength training CANNOT eliminate injuries from occurring.
I like to use the analogy of driving in a car… We wear seatbelts to reduce our risk of injury if we are to get into a car accident. Wearing a seatbelt doesn’t PREVENT the accident, it just keeps us from getting injured or worse. Think of strength training as a the seatbelt…
Onto the tips…
Tip #1 Become strength “trained”
One of the best methods to prevent sports-related injuries is to become “STRENGTH TRAINED”
To become “trained” is to achieve a level of fitness such that you become resilient to the demands of that said activity. For athletes, this means being able to handle what the sport hands them at any given time during competition.
But, why do we want to be “STRENGTH” trained if we aren’t a weight lifter? Even though strength training movements are not seen in competition (unless you are a barbell athlete), they have amazing effects on athletes of all sports.
To be strength “trained” we need to be doing it CONSISTENTLY, for LIFE! Even in season (more on this in future posts)
What are the benefits?
- Has shown to decrease rate of injury three-fold among soccer players (assumed to be considered to other field sports like lacrosse for example)
- Reduce running related injuries
- Improves tendon and ligament size (you know, that ACL?)
- Improves confidence!
Tip #2 Keep lifting
If you don’t keep lifting, you can slowly lose your gains!
Did you know that if you participate in a strength training routine for lets say 6, 8 or even 12 weeks and then STOP, you will regress in strength?
You will begin to lose the benefit of all of the hard work that you put in! This is a phenomenon called “Reversibility”, or reversing your gains. This is especially important and meaningful when we are talking about athletes.
It is important to maintain a strength training routine mid-season!
Yes, IN SEASON strength work is KEY! It is all about how it is programmed, just enough to maintain the gains, but not too much to tire them out.
Even one day per week is enough with a competitive athlete!
Tip #3 You have to practice more than just bodyweight exercise
What’s the overload principal?
It’s the basis of how you make gains with strength training.
Simply put, to make changes you must stimulate your muscles so they have to do more than what they are comfortable doing at baseline. This is weight training somewhere between your baseline and what your maximum capacity is.
- You have to start slow and build up over time
- Starting point depends on your baseline… did you know that most runners (who do not strength train) have pretty low baselines?
- You must begin to add external load or WEIGHTS to your program
Why do we want to overload? The changes made with overloading can be extremely beneficial when talking about reducing injury risk and becoming super strong!
Here are the benefits of “The Overload Principal”
- Increases tendon capacity
- Improves flexibility
- Trains you to take on the strenuous activities you enjoy
Tip #4 Use only the most important exercises for YOU
Variability is important in some cases, but when you are looking to make improvements in strength even in specific areas, less can be more.
One major injury risk reducer is monitoring how much volume you are doing.
If you keep the same volume, but adjust the intensity of the activity you can create progress without increasing your total volume by training numerous, less-economic isolation exercises.
So… What is volume? The accumulation of how many reps per session
If we are adding a bunch of accessory work, aside form our major multi-joint movements (like squats, deadlifts, lunge variations), in attempts to help our pain, deficits, etc… We may actually be adding MORE volume and be more taxing to the body.
Before you add MORE, think about prioritizing the effectiveness of what you are doing.
Try keeping the same compound movements (ie. Squats, deadlifts, lunges) and making them more challenging.
- Tempo (slow the movements down)
- Pauses (pause in the bottom of the squat or just before you touch the plates to the floor in a deadlift
…just to name a few.
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