The shoulders, knees, and lower back are injury-prone areas of the body. They are frequently used for movement and weight-bearing activity. Here are some tips for the gym to avoid aggravating these areas and reduce the likelihood of injury altogether.
Protecting the Shoulders
Tuck the elbows. For most pushing exercises, such as the pushup and dumbbell chest press, tucking the elbows towards your sides rather than flaring them out will make the shoulders less responsible for the movement. The more you tuck the elbows, the more you utilize the triceps instead of the shoulders.
Train the back muscles. Oftentimes people perform pressing motions more than pulling motions. This leads to muscular imbalances and the classic “rounded shoulders” look that comes from either dominant chest muscles, weak back muscles, or both. Make sure to incorporate both horizontal back exercises such as the dumbbell row and vertical back exercises such as the machine lat pull-down.
Protecting the Knees
Keep the heels down. If the knee is bent, don’t let the heel leave the ground. Doing so during exercises like the squat and lunge will alleviate pressure off the knee joint and engage the leg muscles as intended.
Train the entire leg. Work the muscles surrounding the knee joint. Do so by moving in multiple directions by implementing exercises such as the lateral lunge. Incorporate the hamstrings as well with stability ball leg curls.
Protecting the Lower Back
Avoid rounding the lower back. This is also referred to as lumbar flexion, and can cause unwanted strain during weight-bearing exercises. To fix this, practice the hip-hinge. The hip hinge is lumbar extension and involves pushing the hips back to lower the upper body rather than bending forward. This is a fundamental step in safe free-weight training.
Train the gluteal muscles. Also known as the butt, muscles here are often overlooked and essential for core strength. Underdeveloped gluteal muscles can compromise the safety of the lower back. Hip bridge variations are an excellent way to start strengthening this part of the body.
In addition to following these tips, listen to your body. Exercising smart is the key to success in the gym.
— Frankie R., Lipscomb University