In meeting with new clients during their initial fitness assessment/intake, I pose the question “What is your main goal and what would you like to accomplish?” One of the most common answers (other than gaining strength) I hear is injury prevention.
Depending on whom you’re speaking with, you will get vastly different definitions. To an elite level athlete, it means being able to stick to an intense regimented consistent training schedule without any setbacks, always progressing and peaking on the big event or race day. To a somewhat sedentary grandmother, it may mean being able to play with her grandkids without fear of hurting herself. And to an active mother of four, it may mean staying “functional” to balance her kids’ hectic activity or sport schedules with her own exercise, work and social schedule.
Our normal daily activities involve multiple muscle groups through many different movement patterns. And although regularly performing full body strength training workouts with strict form, slowly moving through a full range of motion is not an iron-glad guarantee of not sustaining an injury…but it comes darn close. If not, you’re creating imbalances or “weak spots” in the movements thereby shortening the muscles as opposed to lengthening them. It’s the same reason why women who regularly wear high heels have higher instances of lower leg injuries.
Any strength training movement can be classified as a “push” exercise or a “pull” exercise. Simply stated, push exercises primarily work what you see in the mirror and pull exercises work the posterior of your body. To prevent imbalances, push muscles must be equal in strength to its opposing pull muscles. However, this is rarely seen…even in some of the most advanced weight lifters/strength athletes. And the greater the imbalance, the greater the potential risk and severity of an injury.
But these imbalances are not only limited to the musclebound bodybuilder; our normal daily activities can be the culprit of creating some differences. These imbalances are the source of poor posture, stress/tension in the neck and lumbar area and many other ailments. Excessive driving, genetics, computer work, carrying a purse/infant or lack of exercise all can play a part in creating imbalances.
From an exercise perspective, the weaker unworked muscles cannot stabilize the joint properly and handle the quantity of resistance coming from its stronger opposing movement/muscle. This is where a fitness professional can identify your muscular, structural or postural imbalances and properly design a “balanced” strength training program to keep this from happening or correcting it, and in turn, preventing injury.
Overtraining, Supercompensation & SAID Principle
When we strength train properly and intensely, we’re creating minute tears in our muscles—breaking them down. Over the course of the next 48 hours, we must rest and recover, i.e., eat, sleep and hydrate. If this occurs, your body will enter a period of “supercompensation” during which the tears will repair themselves and gain strength to prepare for the stress of the next workout.
The SAID principle similarly states that the human body will have Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. If there are no further workouts, this strength level will slowly decline back toward (and eventually, below) the initial strength level. However, if your next workout takes place during the recovery period before adequate rest, overtraining may occur. If your next workout takes place during the supercompensation period (48-72 hours), the body will perform at a higher level of fitness and strength.
Get eight hours of quality sleep…every night! Sleep deprivation increases cortisol and reduces anabolic hormones making it more difficult to lose body fat and gain lean muscle. Stretching, practicing yoga and using a foam roller on the days you’re not strength training are excellent ways to actively recover quicker, reduce soreness and prepare for your next workout!
Everyone Can Use Help
Establishing a recurring appointment with a personal trainer is a great method to hold yourself accountable and ensure consistent results without overtraining. Your personal fitness coach will not only closely monitor and critique your exercise form but keep strict records of each workout, documenting the order of the exercises, the settings/seat heights, weights and repetitions performed. This is crucial to progressing safely.
Resistance training not only strengthens the muscles but also strengthens and adds stability to the ligaments and tendons around the joints. Injuries may occur, but knowing how to properly exercise and prevent injury is key to getting lasting, long-term health and fitness results, being more “functional” and improving your quality of life.