Participating in a fitness program is one of the best things a person can do to improve overall quality of health. It is therefore important not to wreck everything you are trying to accomplish with unnecessary injuries. Most workout injuries can be prevented by paying attention to proper positioning, technique and using challenging weight resistance rather than going too heavy. So, if you want to enjoy a toned physique without ruining your knees, back and neck, pay attention to the tips for the following exercises:
Squats – Squats are great for toning thighs and bums, but, if done improperly, they can destroy the knees and lower back. Rule #1, never rise up on your toes. Keep your feet flat on the ground with back in a natural position, not hunched over. If you use a bar, bring your hands in close to the sides of your head. For some people, especially beginners, body squats with no added weight are sufficient.
Shoulder Press/Lateral Pulldown – If you want to ruin your neck and set yourself up for rotator cuff injuries, go ahead and do them behind your neck. If you want to perform these exercises safely, do so in front of the neck using a challenging weight, not so heavy that you over-arch your lower back.
Kettlebell Swing – The kettlebell swing is a high reward exercise that is equally high risk because so many body parts are involved. A proper kettlebell swing has complete body movement that involves strength, balance, timing, posture, breathing and positioning, all working together to deliver results. Proper alignment is crucial and this is an exercise movement that requires skill to get it done right.
The key to a proper kettlebell swing is found in the hips. Starting with feet placed a little farther out than shoulder width, bend at the waist by slightly pushing hips back, but do not bend the lower back or knees. You may want to practice this movement until it comes easy and natural, then start adding the weight, start light and work your way up to a challenging weight.
Bicep Curls – Improper posture results in improperly performed curls. Don’t hunch the shoulders, roll them back. To minimize the risk of rotator cuff injury, exercise one arm at a time with your opposite leg slightly elevated by placing your foot on a step or stool. This helps get your back in proper position.
Rowing – To prevent shoulder injury, don’t perform an “upright” row that elevates shoulders as they rotate inward. A better choice is to use a machine with an arm pull feature. Place hands on the underside of the pull-bar, elbows tight to sides, and perform an arm curl rather than an upright row.
Leg Lifts – This is a popular exercise to strengthen abdominal muscles performed by lying on your back and raising and holding the legs above the ground. To avoid neck and lower back strain, do not hold your head above the ground while holding legs above the ground at a 45 degree angle. The safer leg lift is to lie flat on your back with legs straight up in the air and slowly lower them to the ground, and repeat.
Knee Extension – A popular machine used at the gym that targets the muscles of the front of the thigh is the knee extension machine. It also is a high risk exercise for knees because of the extension when heavy weights are involved. This is an easy way to strain knee tendons or compress the cartilage of the knee. Squats and lunges are safer alternatives that will work the same muscle group targeted by the knee extension machine. If you absolutely must use the knee extension machine, don’t use too challenging of a weight and don’t do a complete extension, rather a half extension.
These are just a few exercises that can be mentioned. As you exercise, consider the following tips for each exercise as a guideline to help prevent injury:
- Movement should be natural
- Movement should not cause pain
- Movement should not cause imbalance
- Movement should not extend beyond natural range of motion or flexibility
All exercise movements have an element of risk. Some exercise movements are not safe at all. Take the time to evaluate your own limitations and techniques and you should find yourself enjoying your workout benefits rather than nursing workout injuries.