Want to keep improving in the gym? Don’t get injured. If you stay healthy and train consistently, you’ll almost certainly improve. Simple enough, right?
Here’s the thing: Most injuries don’t happen by colliding with a tree or a 300-pound defender. They’re usually non-contact, meaning they result from doing too little physical activity, too much of the same activity, or just doing the wrong things in the gym.
In other words, most injuries are avoidable, but you need to work at avoiding them. No matter how busy your schedule, there are some simple things you can do every day to help prevent pain and injury—and keep making strides in your training program.
If you have no extra time during your day...
Do this: Pay attention to posture.
Better posture will properly position your ligaments, joints and muscles to decrease stress on your body. It doesn’t take any extra time, just body awareness and the occasional self-reminder.
6 Keys to Better Posture:
1. Your spine should have natural curves in it, not be completely straight.
2. Your head should be a natural extension of your spine, with your ears aligned with your shoulders.
3. Keep your breast bone lifted, with your shoulders relaxed so your palms are facing the outsides of your thighs, not back behind you.
4. Engage your torso.
5. Keep your knees soft, not fully extended or locked out.
6. You should feel all four corners of your feet on the floor.
If you only have 5-10 minutes during your day...
Do this: Self massage.
You can use a foam roll, baseball, tennis ball or massage stick to work out all those “knots” in your muscles. Check out this self massage workout and focus on these areas:
-Mid and lower back
-Bottoms of feet
Releasing knots will help restore the natural length and resting tension of your muscle. And the more supple you make your muscle, the better you’ll be able to tolerate other forms of soft tissue massage that can further reduce pain.
If you have 20 minutes during your day...
Do this: Injury-prevention exercises.
Work on pre-habilitation, aka “prehab.” Prehab movements bolster your most injury-prone areas, which not only protects you from pain but also provides a solid and stable foundation upon which you can make greater strength and conditioning gains. It doesn’t have to take a long time.
Try this example:
-Alternate an upper body prehab day (YTWL and rotator cuff work) with a lower body prehab day (side-lying hip series or mini band moves).
-Perform 1-2 sets of 10-12 repetitions of each exercise. This will help activate the oft-neglected stabilizing muscles of your shoulders, hips and torso.
If you have an off day...
Do this: Treat your feet.
Go get a manicure and pedicure. You, too, guys. Your hands and feet are the most undertreated parts of your body and yet they’re the most abused. Reflexology researchers believe every body part can be traced to a spot on your hands or feet, so working these areas can have total body effects. Many athletes get manicures and pedicures, especially baseball pitchers. A seemingly small thing like a blister or infected hangnail can cause a pitcher to miss his start. Bottom line: Treat your hands and feet nicely to reduce stress and decrease pain all over.