Improve your performance with INJURY PREVENTION!

Today, I want to talk to you about injury prevention and what that means here at Training For Warriors Portland.

I've been in the physical fitness world for a long time and I've observed a lot of different “focuses” come and go in the fitness industry. I really like to focus on injury prevention because I believe it is:

#1. A requirement for long term vitality in terms of feeling really good in your body day in and day out.

#2. The gateway to performance enhancement. I'm going to show you what I mean by that after we get through a few fundamental ideas around injury prevention and how we use it here.

So far we've got stability, mobility, giving us the ability to move through a complete range of motion. Remember, the order is important! We wouldn't want to have mobility first and then stability. This might mean we can move further than we can stabilize, then be susceptible to injury.

TFW Portland Training Spectrum

Here is a common training spectrum in the strength and conditioning world. It goes from “stability” on the left to “power” on the right. This is "the order" of approach for taking care of one's body and progressing people through increasingly intense training. HOWEVER, it doesn't always mean these are different phases in a program. Sometimes, these types of movement are all done at the same time.

To summarize these elements quickly:

  1. Classically, there are power exercises like various kinds of Olympic lifting, snatch or a power clean or kettlebell swing.
  2. And then there are strength movements like a deadlift and bench press.
  3. You also have mobility drills, which often people do before training to warm up.
  4. And then you have stability work, which is rehab drills or injury prevention drills, to stabilize joints.

I will define all these terms in greater detail because I think a lot of people may read many articles online and they never get into the weeds about what these things actually mean.

STABILITY

In relation to our work here at Training For Warriors Portland, when I refer to stability, I'm talking about the ability of the joint to be able to keep itself away from positions that harm it.

This means being able to move pain-free through a given range of motion. That's the first step on the spectrum. In the absence of stability comes decreased performance, pain, and increased susceptibility to injury.  

For example, think about a shoulder that comes out of socket really easily. Well, you wouldn't want to throw baseballs with that shoulder, right? It's not something you want to pick up heavy objects with because that shoulder will just pop right out. That's an unstable joint (maybe a dramatic example of an unstable joint!) but all of us have different degrees of joint stability. Stability allows us to be functional and stay out of pain.

MOBILITY

Mobility means to move through a complete range of motion. What does that look like? There are some parameters depending on the body part in question-- there are some ranges that equate to complete.

Full range of motion in some joints is pretty obvious, like an elbow. Most of us have similar degrees of flexion as we do of elbow extension.  If my elbow were to hyper extend and pop out or go the other way, that would be an unstable joint as well as cause me pain.

"Flexion illustration 01" by Sheldahl  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

"Flexion illustration 01" by Sheldahl  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

STRENGTH

Strength must come after mobility. If a joint is unable to completely function, we don't often want to start to strengthen or load that joint. You want to usually enhance its range of motion and then the capacity to do the thing it was meant to do.

An example: If you could only do a quarter squat, you will want to expand the range of motion of that squat. You want to get deeper and deeper and concentrate on the quality of that squat, RATHER than the amount of weight you can lift. Strength is not the most important thing at that moment until you have the mobility. Then you can start to build up some strength and have it make sense for the functionality of your body.

POWER

Finally, power! This is simply the amount of weight you can move with regard to speed. Power is explosive movement, like jumping off the ground.  It is a fast kettlebell swing when you are being extremely explosive with the movement. An Olympic lift like a clean or a snatch is all power. Anything where you have to move forth quickly and move some weight! That's the definition of power for us here at TFW Portland.

There you have it- we've got these different degrees and stages of movement.

Injury prevention is usually focused in the areas of stability and mobility. When we're doing warm-ups at the beginning of the training session, we usually call that "movement prep". 

For some people, it may be expanding mobility.

For others, it may be expanding stability.

For other folks still, it may be developing power and preparing to do some serious work!

So, the actual kind of preparation is dependent on the movements that individual is doing and where that person's body's at... or where in the spectrum they are. Your warm up or your injury prevention or your movement prep will probably be different from your workout buddy, depending on what you need and what you're trying to accomplish.

NOW, how does injury prevention affect your level of performance?!

Two ways:

#1. If you're in any kind of pain, your ability to perform will be reduced because pain has an inhibitive quality.

Pain inhibits the motor neurons that fire your muscles. It slows down the recruitment of muscles. Your brain likes to avoid painful positions and things that cause you pain will be things that your mind tries to avoid. It's VERY difficult to have a high performing skill that puts you into a place of pain. Obviously, if you're a very advanced athlete, sometimes those movements do cause you pain, but so it's even doubly or triple-y important that you're taking care of it and that you're doing your injury prevention routine.

#2. The second way that injury prevention relates to performance enhancement is that your movement prep (the work that you do to prepare your body) often should have a postural component to it. Posture (the orientation of your joints as you stand or move) affects everything that you do: the muscles you recruit, the efficiency of those muscles, the amount of strength and power you're able to produce. And obviously, the way that you recruit your muscles and your joints affects whether or not that causes you pain. By changing your posture and by keeping your movements efficient and pain-free, injury prevention is performance enhancement when you do it properly.

This is what we aim for with our group classes and personal training at Training For Warriors Portland. It's not that glamorous but it IS really effective! I'm going to share with you some of my favorite ways to prevent injury and improve performance by concentrating on certain joints and making sure they all work together properly. Stay tuned! If you have any questions, shoot me a message or comment below.

Until next time, Coach Josh, Training For Warriors Portland, helping you bring the warrior within.