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Four things you can do to avoid those pesky injuries

We’ve all been there... we’ve got all the boxes ticked. Motivation - check, exercise buddy - check, alarm set - check, “dream body program’ of the internet - check.

But after a few sessions an unwanted niggle or two accompany us to our workouts. A niggly shoulder here, an achy back or knee there. Here are some rules that could help you reduce your risk of injuries to make sure you reach your goals.

1.Joint mobility

Stretching before your training sessions releases the tension around your joints and helps you move with ease and comfort and puts the joint under less stress and compression.

Remember to do stretches that will compliment the training you are about to embark on. If it’s strength training that is more static, hold that stretch for about 20-30 seconds, if it’s getting ready for a run, turn your stretches into more dynamic movements. Always remember to stretch after your session, especially after weight training. Stretching afterwards is as important if not more than stretching before the session.

2.Tendon strength

In short: Tendons attach muscle to bone and when not strong enough to handle the load it can cause those pesky injuries like tendonitis (inflammation in the tendon). Before going really heavy and repetitive on your training, it’s always a good idea to load these tendons (with the right amount) to be able to withstand load. One way to do that is through eccentric training. Eccentric exercises is when a muscle is loaded in it’s lengthened position. For example: When you are standing on your toes your calve muscle shortens, but when you go down it lengthens while controlling your descent. To make sure that your movements are controlled it’s helpful to do a slow countdown (while you move) of at least 4 seconds.

3. Core strength

Weak core muscles can lead to poor posture and a higher risk of injuries. A strong core doesn’t only help us tone those abs, but it helps us with stability and balance, and assists with doing other activities with more ease. For example, having a strong core assists with taking the load of your back when lifting heavy weights, improving your control on your swing on the golf course or running down hills. Core exercises are more than just crunching and is much more effective when you can manage to use the muscles in your abdominals, lower back, pelvis and hips in a synchronised way. Keeping your spine in neutral (not arching too much nor pushing it flat) while doing your exercises and getting your core more involved, can help a lot in protecting your back. Ask your Biokineticist, Physiotherapist or Pilates instructor to teach you the principles of activating your “inner core”.

4. Strengthening stabilisers

When moving, our body makes use of mobilisers (the muscles doing the majority of the moving) and stabilisers (muscles that stabilises and supports the joint as well as the rest of the body so that we can maintain good biomechanics and the mobilisers don’t get over worked), thus, helping to keep injuries and strains at bay. I always like to explain it like this: Your mobilisers are the bricks of your wall and your stabilisers are the cement that keeps everything together.

Exercises that challenge our stabilisers are things like using free weights, unstable services and doing multi-directional movements. What goes hand in hand with this is our Neuro Muscular Control. It’s the unconscious response of muscles to assist with joint stability whether the action is static, dynamic or reactive.

Start off light and then work your way up. It’s best if you can have a Biokineticist, Physiotherapist or exercise specialist to look at your biomechanics and that you are using all the right muscles!

If not, ask a buddy or use a mirror to try and see whether you can maintain proper form right through your entire range of motion. Never sacrifice proper biomechanics for the sake of just lifting more weight or doing more reps.

By CORNÉLL PEEK (MA Biokinetics, NWU)

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