Avoiding Injury

Last week we saw some of the effects of over-training and also how to avoid them. Today we examine why proper technique and equipment are so important and also why your training programme needs to be tailored to both your goals and your posture.

Training-related injuries tend to result from either a direct trauma caused by heavy knocks which are usually seen in contact sport, or else they can be caused by bad programme design.

There’s not much you can do if you’re unfortunate enough to catch a bad tackle or fall awkwardly, but you can certainly ensure that your training regime is not the source of your injury.

The problem with a lot of training programmes is the fact that they are unbalanced and they tend to overwork certain muscle groups and totally ignore others.

If you go to the free weights area of most gyms you will see lads do endless sets of chest exercises, usually in the form of bench presses. You will also tend to see a lot of bicep and abdominal exercises being performed.

These are known in the industry as the T-shirt Muscles. They’ve also been referred to as the Mirror Muscles because they’re the ones you can see as you admire yourself in the bathroom mirror. Unfortunately there seems to be very few individuals who balance this amount of work with an equal volume of training on the opposing muscle groups: the upper and lower back and the triceps.

This may not seem like a big deal until you realize that the muscles act like giant springs on the bones and joints to which they are attached. When all the “springs” are of equal strength and tension the joint will work smoothly and efficiently.

However if one muscle is over-trained it will become stronger and tighter than it’s opposing muscle and will cause a change in posture and usually a lot of pain to go with it.

If we take the typical Mirror Muscle Man, you’ll often see rounding of the shoulders,(tight chest muscles) a constant bend at the elbows (tight biceps) combined with the palms turned backwards ( tight chest) and a general forward-head, slouched posture (tight abdominals).

Faulty technique is a major culprit when it comes to training injuries and it can be caused by lack of knowledge of correct movement or, more commonly, by attempting to lift too much weight.

The first one is easy enough to correct if your programme is designed by a qualified instructor who can demonstrate how each exercise should be performed and who can correct any mistakes you might make. When it comes to weight-training the 3 most important items are Technique, Technique and Technique.

Once you can execute the exercise with perfect form you will greatly reduce the chance of injury while strengthening the target muscles. The problem arises when faulty technique is used because muscles are often worked using less than their full range of movement and other muscles that should be acting as stabilizers are recruited as main movers. All of this is usually done using too much weight.

Having mastered proper technique in your custom designed programme, all that you now need is for your equipment to be up to standard. Most gym equipment is perfectly safe as long as it is adjusted to fit you. If you’re using a machine with adjustable parts, make sure that it fits you and allows comfortable, full range of motion for the working joints and limbs. Take note of the numbered settings and ensure that they’re at the correct settings every time you use them. A badly adjusted machine can cause joint pain or postural misalignment so it’s worth the extra effort to get it right.

By being patient and making sure you’re using a well-designed programme with appropriate exercises, weights, and technique, you will help avoid injury and maintain steady progress in your training.

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