Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Better Safe Than Sedentary

71 adolescent powerlifters were surveyed over a 17 month period in this study. The lifters averaged about four workouts per week. Injuries sustained during workouts led to a total of 1,126 days of missed training. Now, I could go on to talk about the dangers of powerlifting, but if you are reading this blog, you probably aren't a regular powerlifter. There is a more relevant message here: Regardless of training method, if you hurt yourself during your workout, you will likely be doing less exercise in the near future. Each trainee in the study missed an average of 16 workouts due to injury over about a year and a half. According to the average workout frequency, injuries robbed each individual of four weeks worth of exercise.

Illnesses, schedule changes, work, and a host of other reasons already force us to miss workouts on occasion, so why would we want to add another reason to the list? Here are some tips for avoiding injuries in exercise:
  • If you feel joint discomfort or a sharp shooting pain during an exercise, inform your instructor immediately or stop. It's possible that you are aggravating a pre-existing condition, or at the very least, your seat setting/exercise position is incorrect (which could lead to an injury).
  • If you find yourself hurting (pain, not soreness) a few hours or a day after your workout, think back to your workout and what could have caused it. If your form is generally solid, it could have been just one exercise that caused the pain. After the pain goes away, try a similar workout without that specific exercise.
  • Have a spotter if you are using free weights that hover over some part of your body during the exercise (i.e. a bench press). Also, try to use barbells over dumbbells for such exercises. Dumbbell exercises, for example, a chest press or overhead press, leave twice the risk of a serious accident occurring and twice as much responsibility for the spotter.
  • You don't have to move at a snail's pace when lifting weights, but keep the speed steady throughout the exercise. Don't accelerate when transitioning from negative to positive or positive to negative.
  • Avoid high force activities such as plyometrics, jump rope, powerlifting, and running (unless, of course, you are a competitive runner or powerlifter and need to improve proficiency in your skill). In addition, stay away from exercises that involve the load transferring through the spine. Squats and standing calf raises that involve a barbell or pads resting on the shoulders are examples of this. There are many variations of leg presses and seated calf raises that would agree much more with your lumbar spine.
Many would probably add "too much weight" to the list, but if you have good form and breathe through your mouth constantly during the exercise, having a heavier resistance than intended will likely mean that you only accomplish less reps than you hoped for. If you are in an exercise where the weight moves in a controlled fashion, such as a strength training machine, having a heavier weight actually decreases your ability to produce a spontaneous high force movement.

If none of these suggestions helps you with a specific issue you are having with your workout, you could always ask the fitness specialist at your gym or email me (spreuss40@yahoo.com). The worst problem you could have is to become injured, because then you may not be able to workout at all!

Work hard and stay safe.

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