Prehab
How to Prevent an Injury

Instead of correcting existing fitness injuries, let’s prevent them from happening. Prevention can be integrated into your workout and it starts by understanding a new word – prehab.

Prehab: The exercise, fitness and range of motion to ensure an injury does not occur. Simple additions to pre-existing workout regimens that, when added, significantly reduce the risk of developing injuries. If an injury does occur, having a prehab base will increase the speed of recovery.

The Cumulative Injury Cycle

Prehab focuses on creating muscle balance and reducing overuse injuries. No amount of training will ever be able to protect against an accident or slip-and-fall, but incorporating prehab into your workout will help decrease injuries on the things you can control. Most tendonitis and repetitive strain injuries come from muscle imbalances. Muscle balance ensures joints move properly, and tendons are not compressed, which causes irritation. Take for instance the knee pain felt after running or participating in a Boot Camp class. Both of these workouts have you lunge as the basis of the program – overusing the quad, but hardly stimulating the hamstring. The muscles in the front of the leg get stronger, and often pull the knee joint out of alignment. This creates knee pain when the kneecap rubs along the bone, or the tendon becomes inflamed.

We can deal with the inflammation, but the underlying cause of a misaligned joint is still there, and the pain becomes a “nagging injury”. Had we been doing hamstring stability exercises and ensuring the hamstring was at least 80 percent as strong as the quad, we could have avoided the cause.

The goal in your workouts is to increase stability, and ensure you work the muscles you don’t see. Stand in the mirror. Everything you see has an opposing muscle that is just as important to work on. Your workout plan should be focused around balance: work your quad, work your hamstring; do a bicep curl, ensure you work the tricep to balance the elbow; and if you push, pull to balance. Every stretch, push, and lift has a partner. If you do one movement, always remember to do the adjacent.

Maintain Balance

The second part of prehab is rest and periodization. If you have been sitting on the couch for a decade, intense exercise tomorrow is a bad idea. You need to build into everything you do. If you are looking to start, or get back into something like weightlifting, periodization is the key to avoid injury and maintain muscle balance. When it comes to periodization, your workout routine will consist of five phases.

Preparatory Phase: This is when you prepare your body. Keep your workouts basic. Use light weights and only do a few sets of each motion. Try starting with 1-4 sets, each with 10-15 reps with a 90 second rest between each.

Transition Phase: This is when you start to push your body. Increase your weights, do 4-8 sets per movement still with 10-15 reps. Decrease to a 60 second rest between each.

Competition Phase: Push your body even further. Increase your weights again; still do 4-8 sets per movement still with 10-15 reps, but only rest for 30 seconds between each.

Peak Phase: This is when you want to push your body to its limits. Lift your maximum strength weight, doing 6-8 reps per set of 15-20. Have a 120 second rest between each, so you can lift maximum strength.

Active Rest: Let your body recover. Do the same as you did in the preparatory phase.

Periodization

Weight loss comes in the kitchen, not so much in the gym. What you eat will affect weight loss more than your fitness program. So don’t feel you need to become an athlete your first day back to the gym. Slow and steady makes this life-long.

This is also the reason it is critical to work with a trainer for the first three to six months of your training. Make sure you learn the basics, work back-smart, and become healthy. It will also allow a professional to constantly change up your program so you never adapt and you ensure muscle balance. In addition to the proper build-up is rest. Respect the fact that your body needs to rest: that’s when it does most of its recovery. You need to stop every once in a while and enjoy the fruits of your labor by doing nothing physically demanding at all.

Staying injury-free will keep you enjoying an active life. That active life will ensure you stay stress-free, and lower major risk factors for chronic disease and illness. There is nothing better than the feeling of living healthy and knowing your body is in peak physical condition, and that all starts with prehab.

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