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Injury Prevention part 2: Strength


Why is strength important to injury prevention?

 

In the first installment of our discussion into the prevention of injuries I talked about the need for adequate flexibility, how this can affect posture and the problems a lack of it can cause in muscle strength. It is this strength that is the second most important aspect of a healthy body. I don’t mean you need to look like Arnold Schwartzenegger in Terminator, far from it as body builders have their own sets of problems, but having a good level of strength allows your body to perform at its optimal level for longer.

 

Muscular strength that is equal from one side of a joint to the other creates balance in posture the same way that flexibility does. With adequate flexibility for free movement and adequately balanced strength the body is capable of all movements in all directions at all times. This is the fundamental requirement for an injury free life.

 

When thinking about the role of strength it is easy to think - “if I don’t lift heavy things in the gym I don’t need to be that strong”. Well let's think about this for a minute. Take a gym exercise called a ‘Farmer’s Carry’ for example. This exercise requires you to pick up a heavy weight in each hand and walk around the gym until you can’t hold them any longer. Sound familiar at all? No? Ok, let's leave the gym and since we’re now tired and hungry lets pop over to Tesco and pick up some shopping. You fill up a couple of bags full of food and water and head off to the car. There wasn’t enough food to warrant a trolley so you opt to carrying the bags for the short walk across the car park. Now does this sound familiar? Yep, we’re doing a Farmer’s Carry (now a ‘Tesco’s Carry') again!

 

Strength is something we are challenged with every day from picking up your young kids to sitting at your desk for 8 hours at work, muscles need to be capable of performing any task you ask of them, any time you wish. Sitting at a desk requires possibly the most amount of strength you are going to expend all day. The postural muscles active in sitting in an office chair are like any other muscle in the body, they will perform their jobs perfectly for as long as they can metabolise fuel and oxygen for energy, but fuel tends to run out quickly and therefore so does energy. These muscles then perform like any other and become fatigued. This leads to that slouched seated position you keep finding yourself in.

 

Now it doesn’t matter how much you consciously decide to sit up straight, if you’re fatigued then you are never going to keep that position; period.

 

The solution is to gain some extra strength. Basically you need about 25% more strength and endurance than your day requires to get through. This way you’ll never fatigue early on in the day at your desk and end up in a poor posture. Take the ‘Tesco’s Carry' for example. If you can comfortably carry 12.5kg around the gym then your 10kg food shop won’t get dropped on the floor of the car park, spilling out your fresh apples.

 

Exercise programmes don’t have to be boring either. Great workouts can be had in Pilates or in the gym doing functional exercises. With a little creativity you can tailor an exercise programme to your favorite leisure activity or sport and see benefits that far exceed your expectations. Getting clear about what you want out of life gives a lot of clues as to how we can exercise to stay injury free for those activities. There’s no point wanting to play with your kids in the park more often if you can’t sustain their level of enthusiasm for more than ten minutes. I guarantee you’ll strain your back chasing them around. So the next part of this injury prevention series looks into how we can regain our youthful energy for the important things in life.

 

 

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