Strength Training For Injury Prevention
Strength training for injury prevention
Strength training has been associated with athletes and the fitness industry for decades. The primary reason being to improve strength, performance and overall health. In this article we will show you just how much we believe strengthening plays a key role in preventing injuries. Strength is defined as the ability to exert force against resistance. This could be expressed in three different ways:
- Maximum strength
- Elastic strength
- Strength endurance
Maximum strength relates to the ability to express the greatest force possible through a single contraction. This is often defined as power or complete strength.
Elastic strength is the ability to express force as fast as possible. This is defined as speed.
Strength endurance is the ability to express force many times over. At Response Physiotherapy this is the category of strength we are most concerned with as physiotherapists and actualy is the main reason we wanted to start a group fitness class in Toronto. One of the main reasons we are most interested in strength endurance is because the majority of injuries we treat occur as a result of fatigue and lack of endurance i.e. when a specific area reaches failure. By training weak areas of the body, injury can be prevented. Strengthening exercises are therefore applied to improve the ability of a specific muscle to contract and work many times over so that failure is reduced and injury is prevented.
Strength training has an attributed stigma of being used either for sport training, lifting heavy weights or for getting those big t-shirt beach muscles for the summer! Of course big toned muscles are desirable, but we believe strengthening exercises can be used by almost everybody in some shape or form to improve their overall function and quality of life. Lifting objects, walking up and down the stairs, gardening, even standing from a low chair are all examples of simple daily tasks that can be improved through strength training. The most effective exercises, therefore, are the ones which are based on functional movement patterns and transfer to your daily abilities.
Functional movement patterns involve squatting, bending, lifting, pushing and pulling. These movements can be trained in various ways. Bodyweight is the best and safest place to start as you learn the correct movement pattern and technique without any additional load. Some find bodyweight exercises challenging enough and can improve strength endurance using high repetitions and several sets. However, for others there is not enough load, and therefore stress, to cause changes and adaptations in the body.
To apply enough stimulus to the muscles and areas of the body you are targeting, resistance machines and free weights are required. Each has their pros and cons, so you have to decide on what your goal of the exercise is. For example, machines often provide safety to specific movements, but because machines are fixed in specific movement patterns then key stabilising muscles are not trained. Free weights express functional human movement, but poor technique can often lead to problems. Training under supervision of a coach or physiotherapist is important to begin with to ensure the correct muscles are worked and effective technique is utilised to prevent injury.
Your current level of strength and previous experience training should give a clue on which exercises and weight is right for you to begin with. The main goal though is to be able to train with free weights and work on fundamental strengthening exercises. These involve exercises such as the squat, deadlift and overhead press. These exercises are important as they allow expression of the fundamental movement patterns.
The squat is often referred to as the “king” of all exercises. This is due to many reasons, but the main being that a well-performed squat trains the entire body. The ankles, knees and hips move whilst the upper body and core stabilises the spine. Squats also teach how to use your hips rather than your back to lift objects from low and standing up from a chair. Squats are shone in a bad light however. It is not because of the movement I don’t believe, but because of the poor technique associated with squatting. If performed correctly, squats can prevent back pain and knee pain; if performed incorrectly, they can do the opposite! Check out the link below which demonstrates what is considered good technique and further builds upon the benefits of squatting.
If the squat is referred to as the “king” of all exercises, then I believe the deadlift is the “queen”. The deadlift is effective at strengthening the posterior chain, the muscles of the back of the body comprising of the hamstrings, gluts and spinal erectors. Importantly, training the deadlift teaches being able to control and stabilise the lumbar spine whilst the legs pull the weight off the floor. The ability to control the lumbar spine whilst moving from the hips is called the hip hinge. Mastering the hip hinge can prevent injuries in the low back. The picture below demonstrate what it looks like to maintain a neutral spine and hinge from the hips to lift.
Other key exercises that could be used in a general strength training programme are pressing movements, such as bench pressing or overhead pressing, and pulling movements like chin ups and rows. These exercises, if performed correctly, can prevent common injuries we see at our clinics, such as shoulder pain, knee pain and back issues.
With the exercises covered today, technique and therefore safety is priority. Moving safely and efficiently outweighs the total weight lifted or reps completed. If you feel that you are compensating or if pain occurs during or after the exercise, reduce the weight or reps and review your technique. If you are still struggling, come and get an assessment by one of our physiotherapists or seekout chiropractic services to resolve your issue.
Reference: Summit to Shore Chiropractic.