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Protecting yourself from injury

By now most people are aware of the benefits of exercise. However, many people begin a program, only to have it interrupted by an injury. Fortunately, preventing an injury is easy, if you follow these simple guidelines.

Use Good Form
Precise and fluid movements yield better results than movements performed in a haphazard manner. There are two phases to an exercise; the concentric and the eccentric. In the concentric phase, the muscle shortens as it contracts. During the eccentric phase, which is usually the return movement, the muscle lengthens. It’s important to use control during both phases of the exercise.

On weight training equipment, form can be compromised by using incorrect settings. Most machines can be adjusted according to your height, leg length or torso length. If the machine is in an incorrect position, the exercise may cause joint strain, which leads to injury. A certified fitness instructor can teach you how to use proper form.

Posture Please
Faulty postural alignment during exercise may lead to injury. Keep your knees unlocked and your pelvis and neck in a neutral position. Your knees should be in alignment with your ankles, and your ears aligned with your shoulders. Some people, especially gymnasts or “old school” ballerinas, have a tendency to jut their ribs forwards. This creates stress on the lower back.

Engage Your Core
Studies performed by Paul Hodges at the University of Queensland resulted in a link between lower back problems and core activation. The researchers found that people without lower back problems activated their core muscles a fraction of a second prior to using the muscles required for the movement. Since the deep core muscles are stabilizers, these folks are less likely to injure their lower backs.
In contrast, people with back problems activate their core muscles a few seconds after the exercise has begun, thereby compromising spinal stability. If you have a tendency towards back problems, you’ll need to concentrate on engaging your core muscles prior to performing the movement.

Use Proper Sequencing
When training with weights, always perform large muscle group exercises prior to performing those that work the smaller muscles. For example, on an overhead press, the deltoids are the primary muscle group. The triceps, one of the weakest muscle groups in the body, assist the movement. If you perform a triceps dip prior to the overhead press, you’ve fatigued the assisting muscle group, which will require the deltoids to engage other muscle groups, such as the muscles around the neck. This can result in injury.

Warm-ups
Stretching is not a warm-up. In fact, no studies have proved that stretching prevents injury. However, some studies have shown stretching prior to exercise or athletic activity can weaken the muscle, which may lead to injury. A warm-up is actually a low-intensity dress rehearsal of the movements performed in an activity. Save the stretching for after the workout.

Perform a Balanced Workout
Think of muscles as a corporation. If one person overworks, the others feel that they don’t need to participate. They become lazy and apathetic, whereas the overachievers suffer from burnout. The same thing happens in your body. If you overwork some muscle groups, they burnout and suffer injuries. The under worked muscles become lazy, and eventually atrophy. People often perform more chest exercises than back exercises, more quadriceps exercise than hamstrings and more biceps exercises than triceps. Balancing muscle groups is crucial to injury prevention.

Don’t Subscribe to the “Too Much of a Good Thing” Philosophy
When weightlifting, be sure to give your body 48 hours for recovery. For cardio, vary your routines, so that you are using different muscle groups. Gradual progression yields better results.
To prevent injuries, exercise smarter, not harder.

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