3 Simple Ways to Dramatically Reduce Injury Risk
I make a living taking care of people’s injuries, but my favorite professional hobby is helping people reduce injury risk. My financial advisor often reminds me: “That formula doesn’t help your bottom line,” but I’m perfectly fine with it. At the age of 55, I’m reaping the rewards of staying injury free by personally implementing the very same healthy tips I share with my clients and online followers.
To reduce injury risk, we need a smart and effective body maintenance routine. Regardless of our age, we can’t expect to work out and race at 100 percent if we haven’t put in the time preparing our body to withstand the stress. I want to share with you three simple things you should start doing today to significantly reduce the risk of suffering a painful, limiting, expensive, and frustrating injury tomorrow.
1. Buy a Roller and Use It Twice a Day
Rollers are mobile, easy to use, and effective. Also they hurt. But as resilient and tough Spartan athletes, we can handle a temporary “good pain” if it reduces the risk of an injury accompanied by long-term “bad pain.”
Rollers should be a part of your daily routine. When it comes to using a roller, most athletes think it only involves their quads. I’m here to remind you that a roller can be used on almost every part of your body. Depending on the size and firmness of the roller, it can be used on your arms, shoulders, back, hips, quads, IT bands, hamstrings, and calves.
The two main goals of roller therapy are:
- Reduce the intensity of painful muscle trigger points.
- Increase the mobility of muscles.
With the roller on the ground, place the target body part on top and roll the body over the roller. Perform one time per body part daily.
- Seek and Destroy—Find painful trigger points within tight muscles and allow the roller to “melt” into the hot spots. Wait 10–30 seconds for the pain to diminish and return to rolling.
- Just Breathe—Slow, deep breathing accelerates the relaxation of the trigger points.
- Add Motion—After the roller melts into the trigger points, add easy joint motion to increase the lengthening of the muscle.
- Start Soft Then Get Hard—Start with a soft foam roller to learn the technique before quickly shifting gears to a smaller, firmer roller to maximize the benefits.
2. Perform at Least 100 Resisted External Shoulder Rotations per Week
Strong and enduring shoulder external rotator muscles are the key to a healthy Spartan shoulder. With that being said, very few exercises strengthen the two main muscles which externally rotate the upper arm bone at the shoulder joint. The goal is a total of 100 reps per shoulder per week using various forms of resistance.
Rotate the upper arm bone outward at the shoulder joint against resistance, similar to the motion performed when backhanding a tennis ball.
External Rotation Tips
- Many Sources of Resistance—Adding resistance to this important motion can be done with rubber bands, cable weights, dumbbells, or manual resistance from a workout partner.
- Use True Shoulder External Rotation—Proper technique is a must. Use a mirror to avoid the common cheating motion involving elbow extension instead of pure shoulder joint motion. When performing this exercise, pretend your elbow is permanently casted at 90 degrees of flexion.
- Put the Burn in the Back Wall of Your Armpit—If done properly, the back of the shoulder joint and shoulder blade will feel like they’re on fire.
3. Master the Art of Stretching Your Hip Flexors
The hip flexor muscles are responsive for lifting the leg forward and upward. Therefore, the hip flexors contract approximately 1,500 times per mile when running. Keeping these extremely important muscles flexible will help you avoid injuries to the low back, hip joints, knee joints, and leg muscles.
Kneeling on one knee, raising the same side arm above the head, tighten the abs, and slowly rock forward until you feel a moderate stretch in the upper third of the quad and front of the hip. Hold for five slow breaths. Perform three to five reps per side every day.
Hip Flexor Stretch Tips
- Know Your Anatomy—The muscles that form the hip flexors anchor to the lower spine, sacrum, and the back of the pelvis before traveling through the pelvis to the upper thigh bone. Every bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament between your low back and knee are directly affected by the powerful hip flexors.
- Engaged Abs Are the Key—When stretching the hip flexors, keeping your abdominal muscles engaged will maximize the benefit of the stretch.
- Change the Angles—Adjusting the positions of the ribs, pelvis, hips, knees, and feet will vary the resulting stretch on the hip flexor. The goal is relax the front of the upper thigh while increasing the mobility of the hip and pelvis.
There you have it: three simple tips to reduce injury risk. Learn them and make them part of your routine. As always, if you have any questions I can help you with, feel free to contact me. AROO.
Learn more about Mike Ryan, PT, ATC, SGX: MikeRyanSportsMedicine.com. Learn more about Spartan SGX training.