Prevention is better than cure, that is a saying every active person needs to know and adhere to! When it comes to injuries, prehab is a term for exercises that can help prevent them.
A lot of active people don’t realise that the stronger you are around your joints the more protection you have when you fall from a height, smash against an opponent’s body at speed or lift a very heavy weight. Thus, exercising the smaller stabiliser muscles in the body helps to keep your joints strong and stable which can also increase your chances of a PB (personal best) with heavier weights, faster sprints and higher jumps!
There are a multitude of prehab exercises you can perform such as trap 3, VMO tenses, glute squeezes and balance work but here are 2 very efficient exercises for your upper and lower body.
Upper body prehab: Side lying external rotation
This movement helps to strengthen the external rotators of your shoulder which in turn prevents ‘hunching’ of the shoulders. This exercise helps to keep your shoulders back where they belong. When this happens your head follows with it which helps to prevent forward head posture later in life, a very common issue for active people who are dominant in their anterior chain (muscles on the front side of the body).
As with any type of external rotation the elbow is always bent at 90 degrees through the whole movement. For the side lying version you simply lie on your side with your knees bent (to take pressure off your spine), relax your head and bend your elbow 90 degrees. Whilst keeping your wrist straight and elbow tucked into your waist, lift and lower your forearm taking care to slow the movement on the way down – this is the eccentric part of the exercise where you gain the most benefit.
A typical repetition range would be to start off with 2 x 12, 1-2 a week for 2 weeks then increase the weight and reps to 3 x 10, 1-2 a week. This exercise is best performed either at the start or the end of a workout; alternating every session is even better.
After about 4 weeks you could perform a different version such as on an incline bench i.e. with your elbow leaning on the bench. It is advisable to rotate this type of exercise every 4-6 weeks. If you are a professional athlete or have an extremely active job, you can vary the exercise every 3 weeks.
Lower body prehab: Swiss ball reverse hyperextension
One of the most important areas of the body to ‘prehab’ is the posterior hip which includes your lower back and glutes. The glutes support your lower body but also your upper body so if that whole area is strong you’re onto a winner when it comes to physical activity. A simple prehab exercise for the posterior hip is a Swiss ball leg lift – otherwise known as a reverse hyperextension.
Most gyms do not have reverse hyperextension machines so a simple rehab version is to use a Swiss ball. Lie on top of a Swiss ball with your hands flat on the floor and your toes touching the floor. Keep your legs fairly close together then lift them to the ceiling whilst keeping your back straight, i.e. try not to arch your back. Squeeze your glutes at the top then slowly lower your legs back to the floor. Try to keep your elbows straight through the movement otherwise your triceps get more work than your lower back and glutes!
Once you’re ok with the movement try using a dumbbell in-between your feet to make it harder. It is ideal to perform this exercise at the end of your workout or at home at the end of your day. An ideal repetition range is 3 x 12-15, try bodyweight first then progress to 3 x 8-10 with a dumbbell, 1-2 a week.