You know the standard routine to prevent injury:
· Always do a warm-up and cool-down.
· Start with a few minutes of dynamic stretching before tackling the weights.
· Begin with light weights and work up to heavier ones.
· Give your muscles time to recover and cross-train so you avoid repetitive motions.
· Use impeccable form.
Sound familiar? Despite doing these things, it’s still possible to get injured and it’s more likely to happen with some strength-training exercises than others. According to physical therapists, these are some of the exercises that are most likely to lead to injury.
Strength-Training Exercises: Deadlifts
Deadlifts are an excellent total body exercise and one that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. In fact, almost all of your muscles get in on the action when you do a deadlift using proper form. Yet, physical therapists know that deadlifts performed incorrectly also carry a high risk of injury. Why are deadlifts so risky? It’s easy to round your back as you place the bar back on the floor or pick it up and the risk is multiplied when you’re using a heavy weight. Even when performed correctly, deadlifts place force on your lower spine.
The key, of course, is to use perfect form and that means holding your lower back in a neutral position at all times. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to increase the weight you use too soon. Perfect your form first so you’re not putting your spine at risk. One injury could put you out of commission for a while. Yes, deadlifts are a compound exercise that builds strength and muscle size but it’s not one that you should do without focus and attention to the movement. Of course, that’s true of any exercise.
Strength-Training Exercises: Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings are a dynamic exercise that builds upper and lower body strength and power. The dynamic nature of this exercise also makes it a calorie scorcher. It’s gratifying to be able to tackle so many objectives with a single exercise – but technique matters. Kettlebell swings are a ballistic movement and ballistic moves carry a higher risk of potential injury. Most physical therapists recommend strengthening your core muscles before attempting kettlebell swings since the movement should come from your core. A strong core helps “brace” your lower spine as you swing the kettlebell upward.
Also, work on your form with squats. You need strength in your posterior chain, particularly your hamstrings and glutes, to safely do kettlebell swings. The power and force should come from the glutes and hamstrings, not from your shoulders, to lower the risk of a shoulder injury. It goes without saying that you should work with a lighter kettlebell until you’ve mastered the art of swinging with good form.
Strength-Training Exercises: Crunches
Crunches target the abs but because you’re flexing your neck and upper back, they’re also an exercise with a high risk of injury. The bicycle crunch is especially high risk as it’s dynamic and involves flexion and rotation, a combination that places excessive force on your spine. If you use poor form, you could end up with a back spasm or, worse, a herniated disc.
One way to avoid injury when doing crunches is to slow the movement down and stop using momentum. Also, avoid pulling on your neck when you rise up off the mat. Your hands should be placed behind your head for light support, not to pull your neck up. Too often, people pull on and crane their neck when doing crunches. Also, take some of the force off your spine by replacing some of your crunches with planks. Planks have the benefit of working your entire core, not just your abs. When you’re bored with a traditional plank, try one of the many plank variations.
Strength-Training Exercises: Overhead Squats
Squats can be challenging in and of themselves to do with proper form but when you add an overhead lift to the movement, your form can easily break down. Before attempting overhead squats, work on mastering basic, deep squats without the overhead press.
Overhead presses without the squat can be problematic for people with shoulder issues. Doing overhead presses too often can lead to inflammation from the muscles in the shoulder rubbing against the tip of the shoulder blade, called the acromion. If you do them incorrectly, you could also end up with a rotator cuff tear. So risky is this move that some trainers don’t recommend them.
If you include overhead squats in your routine, work on each portion of the movement separately – the squat and the overhead press before trying to put them together. Use lighter weights on this exercise as well and don’t try to go deeper on the squat than you’re capable of doing with impeccable form.
Strength-Training Exercises: Upright Rows
The problem is this move can place your arms in an unnatural position, one that puts some users at risk for shoulder impingement. Remember, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint and one that’s susceptible to injury. Even though it works the lateral head of the deltoid, there are safer strength-training exercises that do the same thing. If you do upright rows, lower your risk of injury by not using a heavy weight and by not raising your elbows above shoulder height. You can also work your lateral deltoids with military presses and lateral raises.
Strength-Training Exercises: The Bottom Line
Now, you know some strength-training exercises that are more likely to cause injury. As always, approach every exercise with light weights and higher reps until you’ve mastered form. Then, slowly increase the weight. If possible, have someone knowledgeable critique your form on these strength-training exercises. The last thing you want is a painful injury that limits your ability to work out. Work hard – but work smart.
CNN.com. “The Exercises Physical Therapists Know Lead to Injuries”
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