How Can Strength Training Prevent Future Injuries?
September 17th 2019
Strength training techniques, which includes lifting weights and performing push-pull movements have been practiced for ages. Many weightlifters, runners, and every day athletes use strength training to build muscle mass and lower their risk of injury. It is true that getting an injury when participating in high demand activities like soccer, basketball, or volleyball may be inevitable due to the physically demanding nature of the activity. However, there are many methods in which you can use to lower the chance of injury. With strength training, you will be able to reduce injuries, but it can also change the fitness game for you and your body.
Injury Prevention In Strength Training
Through numerous studies, it can be concluded that strength training helps prevent future injuries. Strength training helps increase the density and size of your bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which as a result can absorb more force and withstand pressure from the outside environment.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training, which is also known as weightlifting or resistance training, is the ability to load the joints of the body with a certain amount of resistance where a physiological change in the bone, muscle, tendon, or ligaments occur (Athletic Lab 2015). In bones, osteoblasts or bone cells that create more bone matrix, are put to work when the body undergoes strength training. This, in turn, causes bone density to increase, which makes the bone stronger. Resistance training also increases mobility within ligaments, which decreases the high risk of a ligament becoming strained or torn. Some large muscle groups in the human body also contain an imbalance of agonist and antagonist muscles like the hamstrings. If there is heavy activity occurring in this muscle group and suddenly another muscle is called to action, but it is undertrained, it could very well cause an injury. This is particularly dangerous towards teenagers and young adults who participate in sports.
The Humble Beginnings of Strength Training and Its Benefits
One of the very first articles centered around strength training and the possibility of aiding in injury prevention was conducted in 1986 by Steven J. Fleck and Jeff E. Falkel. This was the first breakthrough in the world of injury prevention in which it was found that resistance training reduces the chance of injury, due to the correction of the imbalances in muscle groups. Since this study, numerous new research articles have confirmed these findings. In a study conducted in 2005, the “risk of ACL injury in female soccer players was decreased by 88% utilizing a 15-minute-a-day exercise regimen to strengthen the hamstrings and balance the thigh muscles” (Mandelbaum et al. 2005). Furthermore, research has also shown that the type and amount of resistance training needed to be effective for lower extremity is also known. In a 2003 study by Askling and others, it was found that “one to two days a week of eccentric hamstring exercises for ten weeks, works effectively, just to maintain muscle group balance.” While there are many more research articles that support the claim that strength training minimizes the risk of injury, these are the few milestones in the research community that have been most valued.
Now that the research has demonstrated the connection between strength training and injury prevention, it’s important to consider the best benefits surrounding strength training. First, it is convenient for individuals and does not require a big commitment as you can substitute it for any one of your cardio training days. Second, it is extremely beneficial for those with chronic illnesses like diabetes as it has been shown to keep blood sugar levels under control better than aerobic workouts. Lastly, strength training allows for safety and precision because you are aided by machines, cables, and other assistive devices which emphasizes a rehabilitation advantage.
The Hesitation Surrounding Strength Training
For many runners, their motive is simple: just run as many miles as you can. However, with recent research this old method of thinking has become obsolete. The integration of strength training has drastically decreased the amount of injuries a runner will experience.
In one article by NBC News, it discusses the biomechanics of Derek Bronston, forty-nine, who had been running for a majority of his lifetime. In 2015 everything had changed for him when he had begun experiencing several injuries, such as the knee and hip joints. After these traumatic events, he wanted to find a way to prevent future injuries from occurring. After many months of research, he had realized that strength training was the right path for him and his body. Since Bronston was not working on pumping iron in the gym, he had also lost out on a significantly beneficial effect. That effect was the ability to use less oxygen while running at the same pace.
When he had integrated the resistance training into his workout program, he had a three to four percent decrease in the amount of oxygen he needed to run at that same pace. The results had left him astounded, and now he has tripled the amount of strength training he implements into his week.
Strength training will help but it is going to be “challenging”
One big fear many first time strength training athletes face is the initial attempt to go to the gym. It is intimidating, especially if you do not know what to do and what is going on.
Though I must admit, I am a person who just goes after the toughest challenges head-first. I may survey my environment but I rake action first.
For strength training, you may just need to turn your brain off. You need to find some strategy in order for you to accept that going to the weight room is the right room. Your anxiety and stress will only go up if you feel that you are being placed in a dangerous situation. For the most part, you are not in any danger. The weight room is a very safe place and you can expect that no one will come to your rescue.
Know that long lasting results won’t come easy
There is a reason why being strong is not common in today’s world. And especially in today’s society where hard work and consistency is actually frowned upon and not taught, many newer strength athletes will want to shy away from any amount of initial resistance.
If you want results that last, you will need to put in consistent effort for a long period of time. Sure, people can say genetics play a role in gaining strength and muscle. I take a different approach - if you were born with 2 arms and legs with no metabolic disease, you can gain strength and size. No more playing the victim card and saying that you are just not meant to gain strength. How do you know if you have not gave it 100% effort for over multiple decades to really determine if you had “bad genetics”?
To be quite honest, it is just a big scam and trickery going on in the strength and conditioning community, especially on Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat. They force you to adopt a poor mentality of what you are capable of when in reality, you just need to commit to doing hard work for a long period of time.
Let us wrap this up
Strength training work. But there is a catch, you need to be committed to it. Sure, you can just partially commit to it but you will only get partial results. Though you injury risk is not as high as someone who is untrained, you still roll the dice on when you will get injured. That is just a part of the strength training game.
So, what can you do? Educate yourself on what real strength training is. If you need certain programs to get started, Greyskull LP and Starting Strength are my two go-tos for any beginner. I have a ton of FREE articles in my training and recovery tab so you should definitely take a look there.
Train hard and recover harder!
Askling C, Karlsson J & Thorstensson A. (2003). Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scandinavian Journal of Med & Sci in Sports, 13(4): 244-250.
Fleck, S. J., and J. E. Falkel. “Value of Resistance Training for the Reduction of Sports Injuries.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) 3, no. 1 (February 1986): 61–68. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-198603010-00006.
Mandelbaum, B. R., Silvers, H. J., Watanabe, D. S., Knarr, J. F., Thomas, S. D., Griffin, L. Y., … & Garrett, W. (2005). Effectiveness of a Neuromuscular and Proprioceptive Training Program in Preventing Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Female Athletes 2-Year Follow-up. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 33(7), 1003-1010.