Locked and loaded: A recipe for injury

I love getting time off to spend time with family and enjoy the holidays. The time away from the gym and the computer gives me better perspective to approach what I do. One thing that stuck in my head as I was thinking about how much I enjoyed the holidays was the phrase, “locked and loaded”. This phrase basis for what I’m going to start the new year off.

“Locked and loaded” is never something you want to associate with lifting. However, with a large percentage of Americans sitting in a chair all day, that is exactly what people are getting. Sitting wreaks havoc on your body causing problems such as decreasing your metabolism, tightening your hips, bad posture, and even poor blood circulation. Sitting has been linked to an increase in cardiovascular diseases, colon and breast cancers, and disc damage in the back.  When you take all that into account and think of how busy your gym is after work, you will realize there is a large group of people primed for injury. How long does a middle school or high school kid have to sit in their desk each day for how many months straight? How long have you spent at your desk today? This week? This month?

office desk

Sitting for long periods of time can give wreck your posture causing more trips to the chiropractor. It can weaken your core musculature and cause your shoulders to roll forward. The position you are forced into can temporarily shorten your hip flexors, or worse cause a permanent change in length. Take all that to a gym after work and perform compound lifts and it won’t be long before something in your body gives. Most of your time in the gym needs to be dedicated to lifting with free weights versus machines, but in order to do that we need proper technique. Loading a lift you cannot do correctly is only a recipe for disaster. A spine that is not stable, with no flexibility or strength to stand on cannot support a heavy loaded exercise for long.

rocks

Imagine playing Jenga and the middle of the stack is barely holding on because of all the pieces you’ve taken out. Then, picture placing a flat palm on the top of that stack and pushing straight down into the table. What do you think will happen? Jenga. Now imagine that scenario happening to your one and only spine. If that doesn’t make you want to improve, you are a difficult person to motivate.

jenga

The spine can withstand a lot of force, but after some time one of the segments can become vulnerable to injury.  Whether it’s an injury to a disc in the spine or cartilage in the joint withering away, the damage can become irreversible. And while joints can be surgically dealt with for a pretty penny, cartilage cannot grow back. All this is not to scare you away from exercising, it is informing you how to take your long workday and still perform effectively in the gym.

I’m not a “corrective exercise first” type of a guy, but in this case, you should approach lifting carefully spending time focused on unlocking the body and freeing up more range of motion. Just think if you can’t squat your body weight correctly without your upper back rounding, it’s probably best to work on correcting your movement pattern first. The goals we always want to strive for are having a good range of motion, solid technique, and performing the most efficient and productive exercises to get results. Exercises like deadlift and squat variations have so many advantages over machines, but in order to perform them we need our body to be unlocked.

Trainer’s Tip: Use a very good 5-10 minute warm-up as soon as you get to the gym that incorporates all kinds of different movements and be aware of any tightness or restrictions that point towards issues you might have. In order to prevent acquiring stiffness and back aches throughout the day, there are things you can do to be proactive while at work.

Try these 3 ideas throughout your workday in order to prevent a locked and loaded scenario:

1) Get up to walk around every 30 minutes

-Being the weird person at work that always is walking around the office is manageable as long as you get work done. I think you would have more energy in the day and a better creative mind if you stayed active anyway.

2) Sit on an exercise ball instead of an office chair

-Looks and feels weird, but will hopefully keep your core activated more than the chair. Also, without the back of a chair you should be forced to sit upright. You might get some laughs from coworkers, but you can laugh to yourself that they are spending hundreds of dollars at the chiropractor.

3) Stretch in the morning for 20 mins and then again at night for 20 mins

-This is the most ambitious idea of the the three. It seems easy enough, but I promise you that it is difficult to set aside this time when life gets busy. It is so important if you have a desk job to stay stretching for multiple reasons, but it is mandatory.

But you’re not done yet!

Once you have successfully freed up range of motion you should begin building a solid foundation in the gym. Loose hips and more energy should be poured into a quality exercise program that will only further your physical wellness. This can include building a strong midsection that will help you sit upright throughout the day. It is essential that you learn some type of squatting movement that will not only improve your body composition, but aid in building the proper muscles for sitting.

Take home point:

If you have a job in which you are forced to sit for long period of time, it is very important you take measures to prevent bad posture and muscle tissue restrictions. Start stretching more often and working on bodyweight/corrective exercises during workouts to teach the body to move correctly. Take measures at work during the day to limit the problems that come along with hours of sitting in the office. Use a warm-up before you start exercising in the gym after work that will make you aware of tightness before you actually start the workout. Always keep an eye on your range of motion and tissue quality during strength training to make sure you don’t revert back to where you were before.


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