At some point in your fitness career, you will encounter clients who are suffering or who have suffered from an injury – either related to exercise or as a result of some other event. Although injury diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation are all beyond the scope of a certified personal trainer, preventing injury is not. Personal trainers have a responsibility to create safe and effective exercise programs for their clients and an important facet of that programming includes injury prevention.
Here are four keys you can apply to your exercise programming that will help your clients to prehab instead of rehab.
Although the concept of periodization is commonly and popularly applied in a strength and conditioning arena for athletic populations, personal trainers can and should consider employing this principle to the programs they design for their fitness clients.
Periodization is a strategic and systematic approach to conditioning aimed at yielding the best possible performance outcome(s). This is accomplished through varying training goals and phases and the manipulation of program variables (reps, sets, speed, load, etc.).
Periodization allows you to keep your clients’ programs “fresh” and challenging while still allowing them to make measurable progress towards their goals.
Benefits of flexibility training are varied and include improved posture, reduced stress, improved activities of daily living, enhanced joint health, relief of aches and pains, and reduced risk of injury.
Muscle tissue is naturally elastic, which means it is pliable and able to change length (both lengthen and shorten) over time. Muscle tissue can become inelastic due to advanced aging, sedentary behavior, post-injury scar tissue, radiation treatment, and reduced collagen production (also age-related).
When elasticity and flexibility decrease, injury can result (injury can also cause these same issues to occur). Poor flexibility also negatively impacts joint range of motion (ROM) and overall performance. Personal trainers should prioritize flexibility and mobility, (the range of motion at which soft tissue can move a bone freely around its joint), as integral to fitness and injury prevention. Educating clients on the benefits associated with various types of stretching and mobility activities will help them appreciate the value in taking the time to focus on these areas.
A proper warm-up is an integral part of every training session as it helps prepare the body to do the work required and should not be overlooked as an important facet of injury prevention. A quality warm-up increases muscular temperature and blood flow and enhances the elasticity of connective tissue. When the body is properly and adequately prepared to do work, the likelihood of injury is greatly reduced.
To program for a warm-up, include activities that gradually increase the heart rate and mimic the exercises planned for the entire session. Think function and movement as you engage in warm-up activities.
Nothing helps prevent injury quite like adequate recovery. Every client needs rest to allow for tissue recovery and repair, known better as passive recovery. But recovery doesn’t just mean between exercise sessions; it also means varying the program routine and allowing adequate time for protein synthesis to occur. It can also mean programming deloading weeks and generally lighter sessions from time to time when it is called for, also known as active recovery.
Encouraging (and planning for) recovery also helps a client avoid burnout and overtraining – two situations that can result in injury and delayed time to return to exercise. Often believing that rest and recovery is a high priority can be the biggest hurdle in addition to explaining the physical benefits help your clients to adopt a recovery mindset to give themselves time and permission for important self-care.
A client’s risk for injury is influenced by a variety of factors including age, injury history, health status, and/or disease presence. Applying these principles when designing individual workouts and lengthy routines results in conscientious and thoughtful program design and implementation.
The end result: reduced risk of injury and client burnout.