How Strength Training Can Help Prevent Sports Injury
While cardio and aerobic exercises can help build endurance, strength training is just as important (if not more) to work into your routine. Strength training can help improve speed, strength, agility, and muscular endurance, making it extremely beneficial for athletes.
Additionally, one often overlooked benefit to strength training is injury prevention. Read on to learn what strength training is and how it can help you prevent sports injuries.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training is the performance of physical exercises designed to improve strength and endurance. It strengthens muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments, as well as increases muscle mass. Strength training can be done using a variety of resistance, with or without equipment such as:
- Machine weights (weight stacks, hydraulics, resistance rods or bands)
- Free weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, etc.)
- Body weight (plyometrics, push-ups, pull ups, abdominal exercises, jumping rope)
How Strength Training Prevents Injury
We know strength training helps make you stronger, faster, and more agile, but it also helps to prevent injury both in the on- and off-season. A few ways it does this include:
Resistance via free weights, machine weights, or your body weight all help build muscle. Strength training promotes strengthening growth in ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, connective tissue, and muscle. Stronger muscles and tendons help keep the body in proper alignment and protect bones and joints when moving or under impact, and strengthening the right muscles can decrease risk of injury and improve performance.
It also helps build lesser-used muscles so they remain strong enough to work well with other muscle groups and prevent pain or injury.
Improves MUSCLE FUNCTION
Muscles that are weak and stiff don’t function at their prime, which can cause joint slippage, misalignment, and imbalances, increasing the risk of injury. Targeted strength training ensures the body is working the way it should be improving muscle function, and it can also help with stability and balance. When your muscles function as they are supposed to, you reduce risk of injury.
Increases Range Of Motion And Mobility
When your muscles, bones, and joints are operating most effectively, their range of motion is enough that using them during strenuous activity will not cause injury. Strength training increases efficiency and performance as well as reduces fatigue, ensuring the parts of your body move the way they are supposed to. Balancing muscles can also decrease abnormal pulling, which would cause the joint to move in an unnatural pattern (causing chronic pain, wearing of bones).
Eliminates Weak Areas
When a part of the body is used less during an activity, it can become weak when compared to other areas. Weakness can be caused by overtraining, undertraining, improper training, or not training the right muscles. When that weakened part is called into play during an activity, it can’t handle the stress placed on it and an injury can occur.
Strength training can help eliminate these areas and balance the body for all the activities it needs to do.
Improves Body Alignment
When the body is aligned, it can more easily engage in physical activity without injury. However, if muscles/tendons/ligaments/bones are misaligned, they can no longer work together properly. Strength training involves movements that promote alignment, helping to reduce injury risk.
Tips For Starting Strength Training
- Start slow. Starting out strong or with heavy weights can actually do more harm than good. If you’re just starting out strength training, consider simply using your own bodyweight. This can help you become familiar with the movement patterns and start teaching your muscles how to train properly.
- Use proper form. Without proper form, your body can quickly become injured. Before even lifting a weight, you should ensure you have proper form. A personal trainer can help you master the movements which set the stage for success later in your training program. They can also suggest corrections as you go so you’re functioning safely and effectively.
- Rest between sets and between sessions. Strength training isn’t about going hard for hours at a time, every day of the week. Inf act, it’s important to incorporate rest in your sets and between sessions. A trainer can help ensure you are doing the right number of reps with the proper rest times between lifting to give your body the chance to recover while building endurance. Then, resting between sessions can help prevent muscle fatigue or additional injury.
- Warm up and cool down properly. Dynamic stretches and movements can help improve flexibility, increase blood flow to your muscles, and allow you to recover faster. Starting a strength training session with muscles that aren’t properly warm can increase your chances of injury, so it’s important to prepare your body properly both before and after your session.
Why Train with A Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists (PTs) and strength coaches aren’t just there to help those who are already injured. They can also help you train to prevent injury. PTs can help spot weaknesses and determine where they are stemming from, ensure accuracy and help you understand how to work your body properly and prevent injury, and help you use training to recover from injuries and manage pain while preventing injuries from reoccurring in the future. Contact a strength coach/physical therapist today to get started with your strength training routine.