Nov 17 2015
Few events in our lives are more humbling than an injury. One minute you are getting involved in the action in the middle of the pitch, the next minute you are laying on the floor in agony – so quickly we go from feeling completely invincible to feeling like a…
Few events in our lives are more humbling than an injury. One minute you are getting involved in the action in the middle of the pitch, the next minute you are laying on the floor in agony – so quickly we go from feeling completely invincible to feeling like a boy, with our bodies limitations brashly slammed in our faces.
Injury affects not only our self confidence, but also our careers and pass times. As a coach I meet men every week who have had to change their whole lives after a serious injury, whether it’s a prolapsed disk, tearing a knee ligament or blowing or out an achilles on the field or in the gym. Often these men have undertaken impressive physical feats, yet sadly these achievements are long behind them. Activities they could once do with their eyes closed are now off limits due to the damage that has been done through injury, and what is so saddening is that these injuries are generally avoidable. If you’re not in an accident or collision, then there should be no reason for you to injure yourself. There’s no point treating the injury after the fact, we simply need to get better at bullet proofing our bodies. So here’s a few things you can do to make sure this isn’t you.
- Warm up. Most of us do this, but usually is entails jumping on a treadmill for five minutes until we feel the first drops of sweat on our brow. Jogging is a great warm-up for sports that have a running component. Other than that, it’s really of little use to you in terms of an efficient or effective warm up. For example, if you are going to train your chest, then you need to get the blood into your chest. If rotation features heavily in your workout, rotate. An appropriate warmup warms up the muscle you are about to work and gets your nervous system ready for the movements you are about to undertake. It is especially important to warmup as we get older, or if you have a desk job. In fact, the time you spend warming up should be in direct relation to these two factors; the older and more sedentary you are the longer you’ll need priming your body before exercise.
- Tips – Foam roll the muscles you’ll be training – don’t stretch as this turns the muscle off and reduces your power output (you’ll get slower at contracting that muscle). I recommend doing this for 2 minutes for each muscle and causing yourself as much discomfort as you can in this time period. Secondly, you should perform the exercises you are using in your workout with a lighter weight, and ramp up to your first working set. For example if you are squatting three sets at 100kg, perform a set of 50 & 65kg beforehand.
- Choose your exercises wisely. What’s fashionable isn’t always the best exercise to perform; a prime example is olympic lifting. These are possibly the most technical set of lifts that require genetic superiority and application when it comes to mobility and motor control. Starting Olympic lifting is like attempting synchronised swimming before you can tread water! To build an athletic, strong body requires you to be proficient at the basics. Go and speak to any pro level coach and ask them what their players are doing to win their next Super Bowl or cup game. Their program will be built around the bench press, squat, deadlift and pull up; anything else is purely accessory or rehab work.
- Tips – Don’t be in a rush to add new exercises and skills to your routines. In any sport, those that do the basics the best are World Champions. Keep to set routine for a few months not weeks, then when you max out or can perform the drill with your eyes closed, then it’s time to move on. But always come back to the basics. If you are dying to try a certain movement then get someone to teach you what to do, don’t discount others knowledge. When I train myself I’m often asked for tips, I and I’m sure most others don’t mind this.
- Get strong. The best indicator of injury is past injury. If you have twisted an ankle playing football, you are probably going to keep twisting it over and over again. An injured limb will never get back to full strength – indeed the connective tissue due to it’s poor blood supply will only ever go back to around 70%, and that’s if it is rehabilitated properly. You need to ensure you strengthen your muscles and tendons so that you get as close to that 70% as possible. A prime example is using squats to rehab your knee. If you build your quad muscles, then the joint will be stronger for next time you are in a crunching tackle.
- Tips – See a physiotherapist and followed by a rehab specialist – these generally aren’t the same person. Strengthening a muscle post injury is terrifying for most, and knowing where to start is a skill in itself. Having someone there will give you the confidence to go out of your comfort zone in a controlled manner, giving you the piece of mind that you are progressing safely.
- Listen to your body. No pain, no gain is a male mantra when it comes to exercise. Many a foolish man has subscribed to this and paid for his machismo. Pain is a sign there is something wrong and you should stop, discomfort is generally a sign to keep pushing. In sport the more discomfort you can handle, the more your rivals will fear you. But, if they see you are in pain, they know you’re there for the taking. All those time you’ve had to ice your shoulder or hobbled from seat to sofa trying to relax your back are all clear signs of something being wrong. If you push anything too hard it will break.
- Tips – Rest, “bah” I hear you say, “I don’t have time!” Think about it as taking time off now, so you can have a longer active life. If you can take time off, go and see an expert, you’ll be back quicker but also stronger. I once stopped Crossfitter from squatting for a few months and when he went back he smashed many of his PB’s by becoming a more stable, well rounded athlete. What’s the point training with the hand break on – that just makes you mediocre.
Prehab work is not sexy, you’re not going to get any respect from others carrying a foam roller around with you, indeed you may even get some funny looks. Don’t worry about them, being an athlete, team mate, a man, requires taking responsibility, and not asking others to look after you. Just a little common sense and structure to your training will keep you from injury – enriching your whole life and not just your sporting one. Make sure that when you do have to cut back your training it’s your choice, it’s not forced upon you by a broken body.
When You’re Ready To Get Serious
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