The longer you’re in the lifting game, the risk of picking up a niggling injury becomes more of a factor, especially as you get older.
You cannot prevent traumatic, collision, or accidental injuries but you can sure do something about overuse injuries or muscular imbalances that may turn into injuries in the future. This is where prehab exercises come in.
No one can become injury proof, but prehab exercises are movements intended to mitigate injury risk by taking care of your weaknesses ahead of time so they don’t turn into something that puts you on the emergency room. They’re a small time investment with a big payoff.
Please take these experienced coaches’ advice on prehab exercise you need to do before hitting the barbell. They have learned the hard way so you don’t have to.
1. Band Pull Aparts
Dr. Bo Babenko, PT, DPT
One of the most common diagnoses we see in the rehab world is for “shoulder impingement”. While the reasons for this are vast, I have seen the simple addition of more posterior shoulder work as the antidote to this common ailment.
Between computers, phones, desks, cars, etc, our modern world continues to put our shoulders into a rounded forward position. A common concept I have always believed in is to do at least twice as many pulls as you do pushes… and I believe in hyperbole to drive a point home, so I generally tell clients I want 10 pulls for every 1 push.
Hence why the band pull apart is a fantastic way to accumulate reps to “open the shoulders up” and make them impingement resistant.
- Have the palms face up (supination) – This allows the shoulders to be in more of their natural alignment compared to palms down.
- Lock your ribs down to your hips – This helps to isolate the shoulders and strengthen your trunk.
2. Copenhagen Adductor Planks
The adductors are one of the most neglected regions of the body, and also one of the most susceptible to muscle strain injuries, especially in athletes.
While exercises like squats and deadlifts do train the adductors (particularly when performed with a wide stance), no exercise works them harder than Copenhagen planks. And the research backs them up: Copenhagen planks have been shown to be effective at reducing the incidence of adductor strains.
To perform the Copenhagen plank, set up in a side plank with your top leg on a bench or plyometric box and your bottom leg supporting on the floor. That’s Level 1.
For Level 2, lift the bottom leg up to the underside of the bench and squeeze. For Level 3, alternate between the supported and squeezing positions. Finally, for Level 4, start each rep from the floor, lift your hips into the supported side plank, then squeeze the bottom leg to the bench.
You should feel Copenhagen planks in your adductors. If you’re feeling them in your knee-joint on the top leg, simply “choke up” on the bench by sliding your top leg farther up on the bench. This shortens the lever arm and makes the exercise easier.
You could also put your shin on the bench (which is harder than foot but easier than knee) or put your entire thigh on the bench (which is the easiest option of all).
3. The Face Pull
If you want to create a strong and stable upper back that acts as the cornerstone of your performances in and out of the gym while ridding your shoulders of the notoriously frustrating anterior shoulder pain, you better be hammering loads of pain-free volume with this exercise.
Consider face pulls a daily vitamin for long-term shoulder health as they can help protect against pain, injury and sedentary daily positions while unlocking performance potential.
Nothing beats the face pull for building the upper back while bulletproofing the shoulders against pain and injuries.
Two things to always remember with this exercise:
- Use an underhanded grip – Using an underhand grip helps tap into the corrective based ranges of motion for the shoulder and upper back while learning to stabilize the thoracic spine and shoulder blade during this exercise.
- Improve Upper Back Targeting By Not Gripping Hard – This tip is most likely contrary to everything you’ve ever been taught about strength training. However, when the goal is to target the upper back and stabilizers of the shoulder blade, less grip is more. When you take away your strong grip, the forearms and upper arms become less active which improves the recruitment to the muscles of the upper back.
- Use Kneeling Positions To Limit Compensations. The tall or half kneeling positions will help take away common face pull errors, like,
- Leaning back with a split stance against the cable stack
- Generating momentum with your torso or hips
- Lack of smoothness in eccentric or concentric motion
- Inability to “feel” muscles working in the upper back
Lowering and reducing your base of support will give you feedback to let you know if these mistakes are happening.
The last thing you want is an injury to derail the gain train. Making a small time investment in these three prehab exercises before hitting the barbell will help keep you lifting longer and stronger.
Spend more time in the gym and less time on the physical therapist’s table.
Featured image via Bojan Milinkov/Shutterstock