Most people think of resistance training as a way to build strength and increase muscle mass, however it is also an effective way to prevent injury by strengthening muscles and stabilizers that are used-or overused-in other training activities. Muscles in the knees, hips and ankles are especially important in reducing injury in those commonly compromised joints, not to mention commonly torn muscles, such as the hamstrings.
A few key exercises can work all of those muscles and keep your injuries in check.
1. Dead Lifts on a BOSU
Working on a BOSU or two balance disks will engage the stabilizers in your ankles and knees as you fight to balance on the ball. This exercise has added injury fighting power as you strengthen the hamstrings, and the added bonus of working your core for balance.
How to: Holding 10-15 lb weights in each hand, step onto the BOSU or onto a balance disk under each foot. (If you are new to the BOSU, start on the disks. You may also need to have someone hand you the weights.) Work on keeping your balance, knees slightly bent with shoulders back as you bend forward at the hip, dropping down far enough that your shoulders are in line with the hips.
2. Lateral Hops on One Foot
This exercise helps fight a problem for every exerciser. One leg (bicep, tricep, etc) is stronger than the other. This is the case for every person, however, you can train that away! You are also working the inside and outside of the knee, ankle and hip here, as well as applying plyometric pressure on the calves and quads.
How to: Standing on one foot, hands on hips, hop to one side, then back and repeat. Do these hops as quickly as you can without compromising form. Complete 15-20 hops, then switch to the other foot. Make it more challenging by placing a 10 lb weight plate or a hand towel folded in half on the floor, and hopping over the plate or towel, careful not to step on it.
3. Band Dips with Front Raises
Exercise bands create resistance with increased range of motion, and make motions fluid through the contraction and release. The lunge performed in this exercise strengthens quads and glutes while working stablilizers in the knees. The raises will help strengthen shoulder muscles and reduce the possibility of injury to the rotator cuff.
How to: Place one foot on an exercise band, holding underneath the handles so there is no slack in the band. Dip back as you raise arms up directly in front of the body, stopping at shoulder height. Keep elbows straight as you raise up.
4. Planks on a Ball
A stability ball will increase, you guessed it, your stability, and in this case, strengthen your core. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders for this exercise, with abs tight. This will work your abs and back along with your shoulders and arms.
How to: Place feet flat on the ball with your shoelaces laying on it. Stabilize yourself into a plank with hands directly under your shoulders. Concentrate on keeping abs contracted to keep the ball centered as you hold the plank. Work up to holding the plank for one minute. As you get more comfortable and stable on the ball, try squeezing knees toward your chest, engaging abs as you bring them in.
Be sure to keep stretching, take those much needed rest days and stay hydrated. Incorporate these total body exercises, and you’ll be more likely to stay injury free.