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Posts Tagged ‘injury prevention’

PostHeaderIcon General Tips For Proper Lifting

I will be teaching a seminar for the Kaiser Permanente Theatre Department on proper lifting technique. I have put together a very concise list of tips to remember when you lift something heavy. These tips important to keep in mind whether you are lifting weights in the gym, lifting a box on moving day or picking up a child.

As my gift to you, I am posting this list of lifting tips on my website. It is a very quick read but also a great reminder to help prevent injuries.


Lift objects as close to the body as possible

Keep shoulders in socket. No slumping of shoulders, slouching or shrugging shoulders into ears. Keep the shoulders down and back.

Engage core muscles. Tighten glutes and abs. No slouching or slumping.

Bend from the hips not from the spine

Bend the knees

Keep head in alignment with spine. Dropping the head can throw off balance and ‘cause falls. It also causes the shoulders to slouch.

Make sure your back is warm and that you are not stiff or tight from sitting or lack of movement when you are about to lift something. If you need to warm up, do so.

Always assume you are lifting a thousand pounds and engage your core. You may not be aware of the weight of the object so don’t relax and assume it is light.


Lock the joints.

Lift more weight than muscles and frame is capable of handling. Even with good form, lifting more than you are conditioned to lift can lead to injuries. Ask for help if you think something might be too heavy for you.

Twist body while lifting. Try to turn by using your legs.

Stop and think:

Think about how you are going to lift and where you are going before you start to lift. What is your best position? What is the best way to lift this object?

Be aware of your space and make sure your path is clear before you start lifting.

When lifting with a partner, communicate effectively. Talk about where and how you will lift the object first. Lift on a “one two three” count. Communicate as you lift, and tell each other if you see anything in the path in front of them. “There is a step coming up.”

PostHeaderIcon How To Prevent Injuries and Maintain Longevity

Now that the New Year has started, some of you will be coming out of a hiatus due to holiday stress or illness. Others will be setting New Years goals by starting up a new fitness routine or athletic endeavor for the first time in a while. This puts you at high risk of getting injured. During my career as a fitness professional, I have many students and clients tell me about their injuries. Most of these injuries could have been avoided. A few years ago, I wrote an article about what to do in case of an injury. If you already have an injury, see a doctor and read this article by clicking the link below:


Today I am writing an article about how to prevent getting injured in the first place. If we can prevent injuries, we will achieve our fitness goals faster because injuries often cause us to stop our routines or exercise with less intensity. While planning out your fitness goals, keep these injury prevention tips in mind:

Leave your ego at the door:

Before you start your work out, resolve to leave your ego at the door. I’ve seen the ego monster trick many people into getting injured. Humbly ask for help if you don’t know how to use a piece of fitness equipment. Do the safer modification in a group fitness class if your gut tells you that the other move is too advanced, even if it hurts your ego. Don’t pile on more weights than you can lift just because you want to impress a sexy woman who is in the same room. Trust me, she’s not looking at how much weight your lifting. Don’t compromise form in order to get the fastest time in the crossfit class. All of these things can get you hurt. The truth is, people don’t care what you are doing. They are worried about their own workout, so put your ego in her place and use common sense.

Always use proper form, especially when dealing with weights:

I have a rule that keeps me safe: If I can’t lift a weight with proper form, I don’t. Bad form puts your spine and joints in a weak position and adding weights to bad form will exasperate muscle imbalances, causing chronic stress and injuries. If you can’t squat with proper form, work on your muscle imbalances first, before you add weights. Find out why you can’t do it with good form. Maybe you have to achieve more flexibility in your shoulders. Maybe you can do a squat with good form, but once you add 100 pounds, your knees start to go way over your toes. That’s when you know that you’ve reached your limit. Give yourself time to get stronger before you add more weight. Maybe you can do 10 squats with good form, but after 11, you start to slouch. Then you know that it is time to take a break at 10. As soon as you lose your form, your muscles have given up and your joints will start experiencing wear and tear.

Achieve mastery one step at a time:

We learn to walk before we can run. When implementing fitness into your life, don’t attempt to run five miles on your first day, if you’ve never walked a mile in your life. Take into account what you are capable of doing and gradually add to that. If you are smart, your goal is to get fit for life. Set long term goals and take it one step at a time. This will prevent injuries and burn out. It will also make you more likely to stick to a fitness lifestyle permanently. After all, if you do it for only three months, you will go back to being unhealthy as soon as you stop. Add a bit more every two weeks to one month at a time.

Always warm up and cool down:

Years ago I got injured because I was a receptionist at a small yoga studio. I was allowed to check everyone in and take the last yoga class, but I had to walk in a few minutes late. I got an adjustment to my down dog before I had even warmed up. I got hurt. It may not seem like a big deal, but jumping into heavy weights or high intensity moves before your body is ready can get you hurt. If you don’t understand the science of warming up, please read my post on proper warm ups here:


Balance–Always work the opposing muscles:

Our muscles tense up and get shorter in order to move our bones. For example, our biceps will shorten in order to flex our elbows in a bicep curl. When this happens, our triceps will lengthen and relax because it is on the other side. If we keep doing bicep curls without doing triceps extensions, we will have short and tight biceps and weak and long triceps. This is why we should work both muscles. If you do bench presses without doing rows, you will have short and tight pectorals which will cause your shoulders to turn in and may lead to a hunch back. Therefore, always do rows in order to strengthen your upper back and provide flexibility to your pectorals. If you always do abdominal crunches without working out your lower back, you will have tight abdominals which can cause your lower back to round excessively due to having a long and weak lower back. These imbalances can cause chronic pain and injuries, so always strengthen and stretch the opposite muscle groups.

Balance your fitness:

Speaking of balance, make sure that you aren’t overdoing it in one area of fitness and completely slacking in another. Our bodies need stability in order to protect our ligaments and joints. Therefore, only stretching without strengthening and stabilizing can cause loose ligaments and weak joints. However, only strength training without stretching can cause muscle stiffness and stress. Cardio and aerobic fitness helps circulate our blood, increasing our ability to recover. It also gives us stamina and strengthens our heart. In order to stay balanced and healthy, we need to balance out our fitness.

Learn to differentiate muscle pain from joint pain:

A gold medalist once said that our muscles protect our joints. Once you feel that your joints are in pain, stop. This means that your muscles have given up and you are just putting stress on your joints. If you run without overdoing it, the cartilage in your knees will actually get stronger. However, if you push through joint pain, you will hurt yourself and wear out the cartilage in your knees and hips. I have been applying this rule to my life for years. This is also a great tip because most of the complaints I hear from students regarding injuries are joint injuries due to overuse. Overuse injuries can be avoided if we stop when we are supposed to.

Vary your training:

I stated earlier that we achieve mastery one step at a time. Try not to stop at step one or two. If you do the exact same exercise for many years, you could still get hurt. Maybe the first time you did a particular routine, you felt massive changes in your body, so you kept doing it for years. Then one day, there is an emergency that requires you to move in a different way. Since your body has been programmed to move the exact same way for years, you get injured. The brain and the body are connected by a vast system, but habit can cause some connections to disappear completely.

I also suggest you practice functional moves so that you can use them in everyday life, such as learning proper technique for picking things up off the floor so you don’t hurt your back. Learn to use your muscles in different planes of motion because you just might need to move that way during an emergency. I have had students thank me many times because the moves I taught them have helped them in emergency situations. As I get older, I become more reliant on cross training because my body can’t handle doing the same moves everyday. Moving in different directions gives some of my muscles opportunities to rest while I work out others. Remember, the fitter you are, the less likely you will be severely hurt during an accident. So in order to keep from getting hurt, stay fit.

Weigh the risk of competition:

Many people get hurt during competition but some will say that it was worth it. Before you are about to break your ankle while crossing the finish line in tenth place, weigh the risk of competition and know how far you are willing to go to win. A professional athlete makes millions of dollars putting his body on the line and has the best orthopedic surgeons at his disposal. You have to ask yourself if finishing that marathon or getting beaten up in an amateur cage match is worth the risk of injuring yourself and being out of commission . Ask yourself why you are competing. If you join a marathon to lose weight but break a leg and gain all the weight back, is it worth it? Maybe winning a competition is a life long dream that you are willing to sacrifice everything for. Only you can decide what is best, but definitely premeditate on the risks before you go in the field. Then you will know if it is okay to risk it all and when to ease off and let someone else take the spotlight. Of course, if you want to reduce your chance of getting injured during competition, train smart. Strengthen your muscles so they are ready for the abuse they are about to take. Don’t compete without practicing and training like an athlete. I’ve seen many weekend warriors break bones or wreck their bodies because they competed without training for the event.

Don’t forget recovery:

Make sure you are getting enough nutrients for growing muscles and for recovery. Make sure you are giving your muscles adequate rest and time to adapt, and that you are getting enough sleep in order to avoid overuse injuries or fainting episodes caused by fatigue or low blood sugar.

For a short post on recovery, consistency and why some people practically kill themselves but still don’t improve check out this link:


PostHeaderIcon Warm Up For Injury Prevention and Enhanced Performance

A proper warm up can not only prevent injuries, it can enhance your athletic performance and bring greater strength and fitness gains. I often hear older enthusiast tell me that they have to warm up more as they get older. However, I have been reading many studies on young athletes revealing that a proper warm up can decrease the chance of overuse and severe injuries.

A proper warm up consists of the following factors:

Kinesthetic Awareness: Use your warm up to help get you into a workout mindset. If your workout requires complex choreography or multiple muscle movements, use this time to rehearse those movements at a lighter intensity. Use this time to help the body memorize doing the movements correctly so you will not injure yourself when you add intensity or speed.

Mobility: Keeping your specific workout in mind, make sure that you have moved all of the joints that you will be using. If you are warming up for a field sport, then you will have to move those muscles in all of the planes of motion that it will be going. Your joints will release synovial fluids that provide lubrication. If you put pressure on your joints without warming them up, you can get joint injuries such as tendonitis and bursitis.

Stability: Many warm up movements are done specifically to engage your stability muscles. Our stability muscles contract in order to protect our joints and spine. During the warm up, we often activate these muscles in order to brace our joints. This is done in running and contact sports as well as in yoga, pilates and dance. People don’t always realize how important it is to activate the core while stretching in order to protect our tissues from over stretching or hyper extending. Activating the core also helps protect you joints from shock while running, jumping or weight lifting.

Circulation of blood, oxygen and heat: A “warm up” should gradually make you warm. It should increase your temperature. You should feel heat inside your body and even break a sweat. This will bring more blood to the muscles that you will be using, increasing reflex speed, elasticity and force requirement. This also lowers the risk of a heart attack and reduces stress to all of the systems in the body.

Muscle Fiber Recruitment: This factor is most important during resistance exercises. Injuries can occur if you lift the heaviest weight you can lift on your first repetition. The muscles tend to recruit cells one level at a time so make sure to warm them up with lighter weights, establishing the proper movement of the muscle, before you add the heavier weight. Other forceful movements such as running require proper muscle fiber recruitment. I use form drills such as skipping to teach my muscles to recruit the right muscles for the strenuous task of bounding off and landing on the ground. I find that when I do these warm ups, my knees hurt less when I run because it establishes kinesthetic awareness, stability, muscle fiber recruitment and circulation. I run with better form which improves my performance.

Handy Warm Up Tips:

Don’t overdo it:

Some work outs require longer warm ups than others. Just make sure that you don’t spend so much time and energy warming up that you have nothing left for the rest of your workout, especially if you are warming up for a competition.

Watch the stretching:

Depending on the type of training you are doing, static stretching may or may not be appropriate at the beginning of a work out. Some studies have shown that athletes such as baseball pitchers have a greater risk of throwing out their shoulders if they stretch too long before a workout. This is because excess stretching can cause the ligaments to relax which will take away from stability the joints need to protect the shoulder from over extending. Also, do not hold a stretch for so long that your body cools down due to lack of movement. Mobility exercises that move a joint though range of motion may be more effective than a static stretch

Remember that one of the goals of a warm up is to raise heat in the body. In general, it is not recommended to hold a stretch for over ten seconds BEFORE a workout. However, static stretching for at least forty-five seconds is highly encouraged during a COOL DOWN which should occur at the end of a work out. Stretching at the end of a workout lengthens out muscles that have been shortened from strength training. It helps release lactic acid build up that causes soreness, helps release stress and lowers the chance of heart attacks. Remember to cool down gradually, slowly lowering your heart rate before static stretching.

Make sure your warm ups match your workouts:

I’ve seen this scenario a few times: Someone who danced ballet for ten years decides to take up running as a sport. They use the same warm up for ballet as they use for running because it is the only warm up they have been taught. Doing this can interfere with proper running form because dance moves are different for running moves. This scenario can be true for people who use martial arts warm ups for swimming etc… Make sure that the warm up you are doing matches the specific workout you are going to do. Many warm ups have been scientifically studied to help reduce injuries in specific movements so it doesn’t hurt to do some research. In fact, in today’s information explosion, it is pretty easy to find out what these warm ups are via the internet. Also, I have saved myself a lot of time learning specific warm ups for specific workouts because I stopped using moves that aren’t necessary. Remember that this post covers warm ups in general but the types of warm ups you do really depends on the specific movements you are preparing to perform.