A good mixture of ego and eagerness will almost always be the reason for getting hurt. Every coach/pt/athlete I know has been there. Chasing weight/reps/time instead of form. Whilst it’s obviously infuriating because you’ve failed, and are paying a price in terms of not being able to do what you want, the lessons are always sitting ready to smack sense in to you. The amusing thing is, the lessons almost always seems to be the same things that cause the injury to happen; not having the orthopaedic profile for the exercise (I’ve discussed this many times from a joint, muscle, and pain perspective), or you don’t have appropriate control/tightness. How many people have you heard say “ I was doing X when I just lost concentration/tension/tightness, felt my knee drop in, shoulder pop up, etc”. I’ve found that the rehab process is always a lesson in re-establishing tension, and is a tool for educating how to dial up/use appropriate tension.
Here's my system/checklist to bullet proof against injury or to utlise when rehabbing injury:
#1. If you don’t have the mobility/stability to meet the demands of the hardest position required in any movement, STOP DOING IT! This is the fastest way to create pain. Admittedly some people just aren’t aware. Hopefully your coach is switched on enough to see these issues. Once you’ve identified that you either don’t have the mobility or stability required to do a movement you are trying to do you have two options. Never do it again, or, work on your problems. Obviously you’ll need some guidance from a good coach, or other health professional.
#2. Realise that all your work in the gym is ruined mostly by your daily habits. So check that you are building good posture, stretching, and movement in to the majority of your day. Not just 5min before you train and then hope for the best.
#3. Finally, realise pain is the fastest reprogrammer in the body. Your finger can hurt for a few weeks and the end result be your squat pattern changes for the worse. Realise pain is not in the injury site but in the brain. Pain is our alarm system, stop doing that! Every time you repeat it you are just creating a stronger message in your body that that movement equals pain. This can become so strong that even when an offending injury has healed your system can still signal pain with the movement. Do yourself a favour, listen to your body. Get someone to check your movement pattern to identify the source of the pain, redirect the ego and eagerness to fixing any errors!
#4. Your process should look like:
- Mobilise - joint and muscle. Foam rolling if used correctly can work well. Spend 1-2min tops. Otherwise use bands, barbells etc. Respect your systemic mobility. If you're a hyper-mobile person with jammed ankles, it’s not going to take much to get the ankle to change. Don’t go holding the mob for 2min like the muscle bound dude next to you who can’t move to save himself.
- Stretch - use short holds to prevent loss of power, unless the muscles you’re working on are facilitated, in which case, use longer holds. So think 5-6 x10sec holds. Unless you're muscle is facilitated and you want it silenced, then you can hold for 60-90sec or more.
- Activate - muscles involved in providing control/inhibited or lazy muscles. Think usually glutes, vmo, core, mid foot, rotator cuff and scapula adductors.
- Integrate - This is the make or break piece of the puzzle. I all to often see people mobilise and do nothing about integrating, the sad thing for them is all that mobility work means nothing! It’s incredibly important that you build the new mobility and activation in to a functional movement that mimics the your end goal or is the end goal movement. Keep it light initially but you can push these.
- A side note on this part, this is a great place to (re)learn tightness.
- My favourite exercise for this are:
◦ Halos (all variations)
◦ Hot potato squat
◦ Around the world
◦ Fig 8's
◦ Z press
◦ Single leg SLDL
◦ Single leg DL
◦ Sots press
◦ Overhead squat
◦ Goblet Squat
◦ Farmers walk, Rack walk, Waiters walk.
◦ RKC plank
Think unilateral, bilateral, kettlebells, dumbells, barbells, etc.
- Train - note I didn’t say workout. A lot of peoples problem is that they approach each session as a workout. Change your mentality. I know you aren’t trying to be a world champ, but the mentality of a professional is the best for all. No professional is walking in just to workout. They are there to pay attention and genuinely improve as much as possible every session. The aim is consistency and perfect practise, not sweating and dying. Perfection, longevity, then performance.
We’ll all be guilty at some time of letting ego and eagerness get the better of us. But if you make a habit of following the above, you’ll never have an issue. Having said that a lot of coaches don’t have the knowledge to pick up mobility or stability issues correctly. And even if they do, you can lead a horse to water… This can all be summed up by saying the difference between where you are and where you want to be is called ACTION. If you’re not willing to take it, you need to accept the consequences. Look after yourself!