Body Insurance Drills
For The Core And Extremitiesby Paul Scott - from
Stay nimble with this foolproof, made-to-order
FORGET BALANCE and agility. I was 27
and I wanted to get huge. Maybe not Schwarzenegger huge, but at least
Springsteen huge. Three times a week I'd stretch, head outside for a
late-winter run, and then swing by the Y to hit the bench press, the military
press, and the leg press machines, in my mind, that make you look good.
Sit-ups? Who needed 'em, let alone a bunch of drills with a medicine ball.
Sometime thereafter, of course, this one-dimensional regimen took its toll,
when a pickup basketball game elicited an ominous ping in my mid-lower back.
"It's a strain," the doctor said, as I stood bent like a man who'd spent five
straight hours watching NBA games in a recliner. "Strain" is an awfully mild
word for six weeks of shooting pain. The kind of pain that left me begging the
night-shift ER resident for a refill of Elvis pills.
Now, ten years
later, my bad back returns from time to time, as does the wobbly ankle, first
turned on an accountant's foot during another hoops game, and the bum knee that
went out when I tried to up my running mileage fourfold in four weeks.
Nontraumatic sports injuries are embarrassing enough, but somehow I managed to
hit the dilettante's trifecta: the two most common injuries - ankle sprain and
low back strain - and the most common overuse complaint, kneecap pain. Smirk at
your own peril: If you're not training for injury prevention, it's only a
matter of time before your vulnerable joints and weak muscles betray you.
Moreover, once injured, you'll start paying compound interest on that hurt: Not
only is the chance of recurrence high, but the body starts subconsciously
compensating for the sore areas, putting new regions at risk.
myth was that a good stretch and proper warm-up were all you needed to stay off
the sidelines, but today, the smart money for injury prevention is on improving
your core strength and balance. "You can stretch to optimize your range of
motion around a joint," says Ed Laskowski, codirector of the Mayo Clinic's
Sports Medicine Center, "but when it comes to injury prevention, you stand to
do more by addressing areas of previous injury - your 'weak links' - and
optimizing strength and stability in sport-specific movement patterns."
David Musnick, a Boulder, Colorado, physician who specializes in sports
medicine, has translated that theory into practice. Musnick is author of the
multifaceted handbook Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness. Helmets and caution, he
says, are obviously the first line of defense when it comes to climbing,
skiing, and mountain biking, but the best armor against less head-banging
injuries on snow, rock, ice, or trail are strength and balance drills that
incorporate midsection-based, multiple-joint movements.
that injuries tend to occur not because you were inflexible," says Musnick,
"but because you didn't have the strength or the balance to do what you were
trying to do. To get that, you have to do workouts that build your core and
your extremities in motion patterns similar to how you will be using them
outdoors. You just can't get that by sitting at a machine and building your
muscles one at a time."
Using Musnick as our guide, we've selected
eight strength drills that address the movement patterns - what physiologists
call engrams - you use to stay upright on the slopes, in your kayak, and on the
trail. These exercises mimic the unstable environments and awkward motions
you'll encounter outside the gym, and strengthen the tight and weak muscles
that get ignored lifting weights. Add these to your thrice-weekly strength
routine, or, if you're pressed for time, consider replacing your standard lifts
altogether. "People might do these and that's all," says Musnick. "You could
also do your whole aerobic workout first, and then finish with these eight
exercises." Instead of a rack of disks, you will be working primarily with your
own weight, on one or both feet. Will you look a bit odd? Yes. But pretty soon
the only real oddball will be that guy at the weight-room curling bench with
the sore back, twisted ankle, and show-pony biceps.