Training to Prevent Injuries
Powerlifting, like all other sports, will produce injuries. Granted, our injury rate is lower than contact sports, but almost all lifters will have some kind if injury during their career. Injuries occur in two types, progressive and traumatic. A progressive injury is one like a sore joint or back that just gets worse. A traumatic injury is one that happens all of a sudden without warning, such as a torn muscle. Sometimes an injury , like rotator cuff injuries may take on the characteristics of both. Certain changes in routines can help prevent both kinds.
Just training the power three without any assistance exercises, for an example can lead to progressive injuries. I high load on just one exercise can lead to quicker wear and tear on a part of the body. For example if a bencher only benches, and if they haven’t paid any attention to the supportive muscles, the shoulder joints will be less stable leading to arthritic build ups which eventually cause rotator cuff problems, and even a traumatic injury such as a rotator cuff tear. If a squatter always squats with just one stance, they will wear their joints out just like a person will wear out one part of a shoe sole. Doing the deadlift alone can be dangerous unless you are a natural born deadlifter . Often a lifter will have powerful glutes, quads, and middle back from squatting . When they deadlift, the lower back is often the weak link . Many a lifter has lower back pain due to a lack of strength in that area or lack of hip flexibility. Too much pressure on this area can cause progressive injuries. Many traumatic injuries occur due to muscle imbalance. Sudden back pain, torn pecs, torn hamstrings, and even bicep tears can be due in part to muscle imbalance. Lack of flexibility can also cause injuries , especially to the hip, lower back, and shoulders. Poor flexibility can also cause knee problems due to too much loading on the knees. Yes, stretching can help prevent injuries. Assistance exercises are not meant just to make one look good, but to prevent injuries.
Not let’s look at some common injuries and some exercises that may help prevent them.
- Rotator cuff : Side raises, lateral raises, seated dumbell press, narrower grip in the bench, using bands for benches, stability ball work and lots and lots of lat work.
- Pec tears: Dumbell bench press low to armpits, lat work
- Misc. bench press injuries : Lat work because the lats are the “launch pad for the bench”
- Bicep tears : hammer curls and generally keeping the biceps up to speed with the triceps. Do not attempt deadlifts on tight or sore biceps from heavy bicrp workout.
- Torn hamstrings : stretching, hip-ham-glute work, stiffleg deadlifts and anything to ballance the hams with the quads.
- Knee problems : stretching, leg ext, leg curls, and pulling the sled..you need to tighten the joint. Box squats will also show you how to lessen pressure on the knees.
- Torn quads: stretching, leg ext, leg curls, and pulling the sled,
- Lower back :stretching. good mornings, good mornings with bands, reverse hyper, hip-ham-glute, and making slow , even progression in squatting and deadlifting. AB work and lots of it.
- Mid back: stiffleg deadlift, seated rows, lat pulldowns behind neck.
- Stretching: Stretching will help lower both progressive and traumatic injuries. The body must have the proper flexibility to get in the exact position to fully utilize your power. If not, too much pressure can be placed on joints, causing certain wear and tear problems. Overly stiff muscles can tear. Stiff hips can lead to a rounded back in the squat and deadlift and that is one of the leading causes of back pain. Yes, stretching can make the difference.
- Progressive injuries in general : Rotating exercises every two weeks or so. This is made famous by Louie Simmons. This makes a lot of sense as continually doing the same thing will only make your strong points stronger and your weak points weaker. You need to keep working your weak points before they contribute to an injury. Exercises with bands , chains or bungees, can put less stress on joints at the beginning ov the movement.
Conclusion: I am no Doctor, I have no certifications. All this information here is common knowledge. What I have done here is to gather all the information from experience, interviews, and other sources and re-packaged it to help the average lifter. What I have outlined will not totally prevent any injuries, but may lessen their amount and severity. Most lifters need to spend more time on their “core stability” . This is the area around the mid section. Lower back and ab work are essential. A strong trunk is essential. If your lower back or abdominal area is weak , serious back problems can arise. Joints such as the shoulder and knees can be “tightened” Weak links must be worked. The body must be able to place itself in the proper position to work. The keys here can be
- You must have proper flexibility
- You must have good “core” or trunk strength. Abdominal strength is important
- Rotate exercises to avoid progressive wear and tear and weak spots.
- Always concentrate on weak spots
- Include a variety of assistance exercises and rotate them.
All this information here isn’t new, but in putting it here in this form, I can prevent one minor injury, then it was well worth it.
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