Training Focus Post-Injury: My Top Five
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
If you're a serious, competitive athlete then varying levels of pain in training and competition are somewhat normal and expected.
If you're an average joe & washed up meathead like me who then we have a different strategy for pain in training than just push through it.
If you're constantly stuck in the cycle of train hard, get injured, rest, and repeat then this post is for you.
Here are the top 5 things I focus on with clients and athletes coming back from an injury to be stronger and more resilient to injury than ever before.
Maintain Neutral Spine with Moving Limbs
While muscles of the abdominals and lower back have actions (like spinal flexion or extension) the main function of the core as a unit is to maintain spine neutrality to act as a conduit for strength, stability, and power transfer from the limbs. In inability to keep a strong neutral spine could be a cause or perpetuator of injury and is one thing I focus on with a lot with my clients, athletes, and patients regardless of the injury. The core and pelvis stay rock solid while there is an uneven torque on the body into rotation, lateral flexion, extension, or flexion (anti-movement training). This kind of training goes a long way and is always a staple in my programs at various parts of the recovery process through performance enhancement. Try UNILATERAL KB FRONT RACK MARCHES or RENEGADE ROWS to get this done.
Get Really Strong and Stable on One Leg
I am always surprised when I go through an assessment with an athlete and they can barely stand on one leg. I see it often, but it still surprises me. Most sports involve a significant amount of time on one leg and so does most of life. Yet, the vast majority of people's training is on two legs. I like to get people really strong and stable on one leg before progressing to heavy loaded bilateral variations. Try a SKATER SQUAT WITH DB COUNTERBALANCE as a strength movement and STANDING BANDED HYDRANTS as a solid warm-up.
Breathing Behind the Brace
Believe it or not, most people suck at breathing. Static postures that limit lung and ribcage expansion, muscle imbalances favoring upper crossed syndrome, painful musculoskeletal conditions, anxiety, and a variety of other things can predispose people to breathing dysfunction. Learning to brace the core is a great thing, but we can't be so rigid that we don't breathe at all and walk around like robots all red in the face. It is crucial to be able to stay tight in a variety of positions but still be able to breathe comfortably in that position without losing stiffness. I call this "breathing behind the brace." Farmer's walks variations for 30-60 seconds are a great way to learn to do this because they force you to brace your core while carrying a heavy load but breathe normally. Focus on keeping a strong posture and expanding the ribcage 360 degrees with each breath. These HIGH LOW FARMER'S WALKS are a great way to train this and neutral spine with moving limbs at the same time.
Establish Full & Controlled Range of Motion
We should strive for putting our joints through a large, complete range of motion with exercise as best as we can. That means full squats, chest to deck push-ups, and knee to floor on split squats. More importantly, we should strive to control every single part of that range of motion. It is often a lack of control, stability, and muscular recruitment through these big ranges of motion that we find ourselves injured as we rely on the passive tissues of the body (ligaments, bones, joint capsules) to create that stability instead of the active tissues (muscles). Try performing 3-5 second eccentric reps of exercises with pauses at various parts of the movement. These LANDMINE GOBLET SQUATS are a great way to train a pain-free full range of motion squat pattern after an injury. Try adding a 5 second eccentric each rep and not only will you get a great workout but you will learn to control every part of the big range of motion.
Multi-planar Power Production
When I work with most people for the first time it is no surprise to me that they hardly get out of the sagittal plane in their training. Most traditional exercises work primarily in the sagittal (front and back) plane like walking lunges, bench press, bicep curls, leg curls, deadlifts, etc. These are all fine exercises and most of my clients do all of those as well, but it is important to train other planes of motion to ensure the body can function well in all directions as life and sport happen in more than just the sagittal plane. Try these SPEED SKATERS for power production and COSSACK SQUATS for strength and mobility in the coronal/frontal plane.
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