How-To Avoid Injuries In Four Popular Workouts
There are thousands of ways to get a workout in. Don’t put added stress on your body or make yourself more susceptible to injury by choosing the wrong exercises. With the spotlight on the dangers of gym regimens like CrossFit, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at popular exercises and their safer alternatives.
Here are four popular workouts that have been known to cause unwanted injury, we’ve put a few tips together on how to minimize impact on your body during these activities.
1 – Street Running
Rather than running on concrete, which can lead to a multitude of injuries, try running on a softer surface like sand, gravel, grass, a dirt trail or cushioned track. Depending on where you live, this may be a challenge, but the idea is to regularly switch up the surfaces on which you run. Though the human body can adapt to many terrains, running on concrete or asphalt may mean more stress on your joints leading to medial tibial stress syndrome, compartment syndrome, and stress fractures (all translated loosely to “shin splints”). “Runner’s knee”—IT band syndrome or patellofemoral pain—can be caused or exacerbated by repeated impact from the hard road. In addition to alternating your route, make sure you maintain proper form and wear appropriate shoes to minimize injury.
2 – Sit-Ups and Crunches
If done correctly, sit-ups and crunches are an excellent way to build core strength. However, it’s often difficult to catch yourself performing the exercise incorrectly until it’s too late. You may not feel a strain in your neck or lower back right away, but failure to isolate and engage your ab muscles may put pressure on your spine and lead to a disc bulge or herniation. When you start to become tired during repetitions, you’re more likely to use your fingers to pull your head and neck up toward the knees. Planks, on the other hand, engage not only your core but your arms, back, and legs as well. This total body workout can be modified to your comfort level and give you the same results as crunches.
3 – Lat Pull Downs
While targeted as a back exercise, lat pull downs can wreak havoc on your shoulders leading to serious injury that will keep you out of the gym for months. To perform behind-the-neck pulldowns, you must externally rotate your shoulders—a position that is incredibly vulnerable especially for novices. In addition to shoulder strain, you may experience neck strain as you struggle to compensate for your inadequate flexibility. Instead of lat pull downs, try doing machine-assisted pull ups. You will be able to activate your core and focus on increasing arm strength with better control over the targeted muscle groups.
4 – Gymnastics
Though it’s one of the most popular aerobic activities (especially for children), it’s also considered one of the most dangerous. By running at top speed, tumbling, flipping, balancing, swinging, and landing (to name merely a few moves), gymnasts put themselves at risk for strains, dislocated and broken bones, concussions—even injuries that may paralyze them for life. If you want a total body workout that is equally challenging, try martial arts. If you like the complexity and wide range of motion that gymnastics provides, try dancing. Beginners might ease into the sport with Zumba classes while the more experienced athlete tries salsa, swing, or hip hop dancing.
You might argue that all exercises pose the threat of injury, yet it’s hard to debate certain high-impact activities that present a greater risk. If you’re unsure about a particular sport or exercise, consult a professional about how to mitigate the risks involved.
Most importantly, don’t rush in to anything. When starting anything intense start slow, find out the best way to get started and how to ensure good form. Last but not least, listen to your body because a sweat should be the only thing you aim to break.