Tag Archives: injury prevention

An Injury Prevention Program for Athletes

10 May

The physical demands of sports increase as the frequency and intensity of participation increase.  A structured injury prevention program should be a component of every athlete’s strength and conditioning training.  And, while it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (among others) supports preventative training as a way to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of sports related injuries.

Balance training can be performed, in socks, on a stable (floor) or unstable (Airex balance pad) surface.  Athletes should balance on one leg, with no knee flexion (and no movement in the upper body), for 30 seconds, then switch leg after 30 seconds.  Balance training should progress by increasing the amount of time spent balancing on each leg or adding an activity like catching and throwing a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg.

Functional (movement-based) strength training for athletes should incorporate agonist-antagonist paired sets (opposing muscle groups) to strengthen and stabilize joints.  In addition to more traditional lower-extremity exercises, like the squat and leg press, posterior chain exercises that focus on the lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings can easily be added to any athlete’s strength training regimen.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we favor bilateral exercises like the glute-ham raise (Nordic hamstring curl) and unilateral exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.

Core stability training is useful to develop strength and stability through the entire core — shoulders through hips.  Exercises like the 4-point plank, 3-point plank (arm or leg raised), and side plank can be performed with minimal space and do not require any equipment.  We also like rotational exercises like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings; and anti-rotational exercises, which require dynamic limb movement with isometric core contraction.

Mobility training is important to develop and increase range of motion, especially through the core and lower-body.  Exercises like linear and lateral leg swings, forward and backward walking lunges, and hurdle walks (alternating legs, forward and backward, over a hurdle) are recommended as an adjunct to traditional strength training.

A well-designed Yoga program can incorporate all of the aforementioned training components, improving balance, functional strength, core strength and stability, and mobility.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Is the Upright Row Exercise Dangerous?

24 Apr

The upright row exercise (pictured) is popular with bodybuilders, athletes, and general fitness enthusiasts.  It is usually performed to increase upper-back and shoulder muscle size.  The upright row also tends to increase neck girth, making it especially popular with football and rugby players.

Although it is a common strength training exercise, the upright row is not particularly functional, from an athletic performance (movement) training perspective.  Additionally, there are concerns about the short- and long-term safety of this exercise.

The problem occurs when you raise your arms and add resistance in that position.  Every time you raise the weight, a small tendon in your shoulder gets pinched (known as impingement) by the bones in the shoulder.  This  may not hurt immediately.   It may not even hurt for a long time.  The problem is, the tendon can gradually become worn down and damaged.  You may not even know you have a developing problem until serious injury occurs.

The upright row involves considerable medial or internal shoulder rotation. This action creates significant torque within your shoulder joints. This torque, in turn, places a potentially injurious load on the small muscles that control the stability of your shoulder joint, specifically your rotator cuff. Some exercisers find that upright rows place their shoulders in a mechanically disadvantageous position that can result in shoulder pain.

Use a wider grip and limit the range of motion of the upright row exercise by not lifting your upper arms past parallel to the floor, since this increases your risk of shoulder impingement and injury.  If you find upright rows hurt your shoulders, perform lat raises or shrugs for your trapezius muscles instead.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Boost Your Performance with Contrast Training

19 Apr

There are various differences in the physical demands of sports, based on factors such as the sport, itself, and positional differences among and between athletes.  Different sports require athletes to move through unique movement patterns which, for training purposes, can be categorized into vertical, linear, and lateral.  Exercises that focus on strength and power development, in these three areas, should be at the forefront of every athlete’s training program.

One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase the athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time.  Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes

24 Mar

If you read my blog regularly (and thank you if you do!), you know I’m a proponent of the development of – and importance of – core strength and stability.  Whether you’re an athlete or not, a strong, stable core facilitates everything you do, and every movement you make.

Over the years, I’ve published articles promoting the benefits or core training, including the rationale for core training; core strengthening exercises and workouts; and the implications of core strength, as it relates to virtually every sport movement – running, jumping, throwing, kicking, etc.  (to access more of my Core Strength & Stability articles, simply type the word “core” in the search box at the top of this blog page)

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at Bridge Athletic – authored by Megan Fischer-Colbrie – titled, The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes.  In her article, Megan discusses advantages of core stability for athletes; the role of core training in injury prevention and rehabilitation; and the advantage of building a strong foundation that starts with the core.  She also provides some useful core strengthening and stabilizing exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Injury Rates Higher for Athletes Who Specialize in One Sport

10 Feb

1407870284000-xxx-concussions-hdb2641-421535871Here’s an article – and a worthwhile read – from Bruce Howard and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) titled, Injury Rates Higher for Athletes Who Specialize in One Sport.

No new news here, just more support for multi-sport participation and cross training as an injury prevention strategy.

Please also see related article:

Should Kids Play One Sport Year-Round?

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Think Positive, Avoid Injury

16 Dec

136973873_crop_650x440[1]One of my favorite quotes (attributable to no one in particular) is, “Work hard, stay positive, and good things will happen.”  I truly believe that, in order to achieve success, you must first expect success.

Recently, the power of positive thinking has been further supported by new research from the United Kingdom.  According to this research, optimistic athletes are less likely to become injured, and they bounce back faster if they do get hurt.

Researchers believe that positive thinking athletes may simply be more conscious of injury-prevention practices, or they may experience less stress during competition, reducing their susceptibility to injury.

Try turning your negative thoughts into positive, performance-enhancing ones.  Don’t let your pre-game jitters overcome your mental preparation.  Instead, interpret these feelings as a sign that you’re excited to play.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s the Best Time to Exercise?

30 Nov

gym-weight-plate-clock[1]Generally, the best time to exercise is anytime you can drag yourself to the gym.  Life can be hectic, and most of us have to coordinate and manage schedules that include family, work, school, and other responsibilities and obligations.

However, depending on your training goal(s), there may be some logic to scheduling your workout based on the benefits you wish to achieve:

  • If you have a stressful event scheduled, like a test or meeting, exercising just before it can lessen your body’s physiological reaction to stress by helping your brain turn off its stress response.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, try exercising before bed.  Although some believe exercising before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, new research shows that people who exercise at any time of day or night sleep better than those who don’t (yoga seems to work best).
  • For injury prevention, exercise in the early evening.  If you’re prone to strained muscles and soreness, your “cold” muscles may not be ready to jump out of bed and workout.  Try exercising between 4 PM and 8 PM, when your core temperature is generally at its highest level.
  • If you want to lose weight, get your workout in before breakfast.  People who exercised before breakfast burned about 20 percent more fat compared with a group who ate breakfast first, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
  • If you want to improve your muscle tone, try exercising after dinner.  The increase in core body temperature later in the day can translate to an improvement in exercise performance.  Muscle strength increases slightly, coordination is better, and your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen delivered to muscles) rises.  It’s a small improvement, but these factors my enable you to work a bit longer and harder.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics

1 Jul

bootcamp-jump-squat[1]A few weeks ago I posted an article about jump training, which generated some commentary, particularly in the area of landing mechanics.  To clarify, at Athletic Performance Training Center, we incorporate landing mechanics training into all of our plyometric (jump) training.  Research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  There is a higher prevalence among female athletes, especially those who play sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion (knees should be bent and not extended/straight upon landing); knee alignment (knees should not point inward or outward upon landing but, rather, point straight ahead); and hip motion (jump should begin with hip flexion — hips back; extend hips through the jump; and flex hips upon landing) should be closely observed.

There are also some neuromuscular considerations, as strength and conditioning professionals must ensure that athletes possess adequate quadriceps and hamstrings strength to accommodate muscle co-contraction and balance in force.

Plyometric training involves multi-directional consecutive jumping.  Technically correct posture and body alignment are emphasized, and athletes are instructed to land softly with knees and hips flexed while immediately preparing to jump again.  However, plyometric training alone may not reduce the risk of ACL injury, but it may be more effective when combined with other types of training.

Resistance/Strength training increases strength in the muscles that support movement of the skeletal system, specifically joints.  When muscles are consistently and progressively overloaded, the result is an increase in muscle size, increased motor unit recruitment, and improved coordination — all of which influence muscle strength.

Neuromuscular training, a comprehensive approach that incorporates plyometric training, strength training, balance training, and proprioceptive training (the body’s reaction/response to external stimuli), is a sound training strategy for athletes.

Training should begin with a movement-based warmup and conclude with appropriate stretching and flexibility exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strength Training Reduces Injury Rate in Young Athletes

13 May

youth_big[1]Participation in sports can induce several beneficial effects in youth athletes, including improvements in cardiovascular risk profiles and bone health.

In contrast to the beneficial effects, participation in sports may also induce an inherent risk of injuries, especially in high-intensity sports with frequent changes in movement, velocity, and direction with high impacts and contacts between players.

Obviously, injury prevention is important, and it’s necessary to implement preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury and support the health benefits associated with playing sports.

“Strengthening muscles through resistance training will increase the forces they are capable of sustaining, making them more resistant to injury,” according to a recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Zouita, S., et.al.)

“These effects include strength enhancement of supporting connective tissues and passive joint stability, and also increased bone density and tensile strength.”

“… regular participation in an appropriately designed (and supervised) exercise program inclusive of resistance training can (strengthen muscles and connective tissues, and) enhance bone mineral density and improve skeletal health and likely reduce injury risk in young athletes.”

When incorporated with sport-specific skill training, strength training can improve physical performance and reduce injuries.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strength Training as an Injury Prevention Strategy

6 Apr

24-pro-foam-roll[1]While it’s impossible to prevent every injury, research shows that strength training can help individuals reduce the incidence and severity of injury.  Here are a few tips that can improve your odds of making your body injury-proof.

Fuel Your Workout

Strength training requires energy.  Everyone’s different but, as a general rule, you should eat a balanced, light meal or snack 30-90 minutes prior to working out.  Aim for a carbohydrate to protein ratio of about 3:1.

Warm-up

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we prefer a dynamic warm-up (no stretching) to prepare for our workouts.  Using light-to-moderate weight, try doing kettlebell swings or a barbell (or dumbbell) complex.  Body-weight exercises — like burpees — will work, too.  You can also do a lighter warm-up set prior to any exercise in your regimen.

Do It Right

Don’t cheat by only pushing or pulling half-way, and don’t get so enamored with the amount of weight you lift that you sacrifice proper technique in the process.  Lift and lower the weight (or your body) through the entire, intended range-of-motion.

Push and Pull

Agonist-antagonist paired sets help to ensure that you’re developing muscular balance and joint stability, in addition to strength, by exercising opposing muscle groups (for example, the bench press and row).

Stretch… After

Post-workout stretching helps to relax and elongate muscles.  Stretching also facilitates oxygenation and nutrient uptake in muscle cells.

Foam Roll (pictured)

If you’ve never tried a foam roll massage, it’s a must.  The foam roll uses your body weight and position to deliver a deep-tissue massage.  They’re available, inexpensively, and most come with an instructional DVD.

Refuel

Post-workout nutrition should be consumed within 30 minutes of your workout.  Your body needs carbs to replenish muscle glycogen stores (think of glycogen as stored energy) and protein (preferably whey) to rebuild muscle.  16-18 ounces of chocolate milk is a great choice.

Rest

It’s the rest days between workouts that help your muscles grow bigger and stronger.  Allow a rest day between training days.  Rest (including adequate sleep) is essential to the recovery/regeneration process.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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