Preconditioning is "training to train" in order to prevent or minimize injuries. Muscle areas such as the hamstrings need preconditioning because the hamstrings are prone to injury.
Preconditioning can be done all year to supplement your main training program.
Here are 4 tips on preconditioning your muscles:
1. Injury risks like torn anterior cruciate knee ligaments, achilles tendon strains/tears and hamstring pulls can be lessened with proper training.
Eccentric contraction training (force reduction) of muscles can significantly reduce your injury risks.
These exercises help build eccentric contraction strength:
a. Running downhill.
b. Depth jumps (emphasize the landing and hold only).
c. Eccentric muscle contraction weight training (i.e., the lowering phase of a lift). For example, you would lift the weight on a hamstring curl for one count and lower the weight for 3-4 counts.
d. Improving your muscular balance. For example, your quadricep muscles should not be significantly stronger than your hamstring muscles. Your frontside should not be significantly stronger than your backside. And, your left side should not be significantly stronger than your right side.
One-legged and one-armed exercises help you to maintain muscular balance.
e. Range of motion should not be restricted. Do exercises with a full range of motion unless you are in rehabilitation. Rehab exercises are done to restore your full range of motion.
2. Part of preconditioning is making sure your running mechanics are perfected. Bad running mechanics can cause injury when you start to run at full speed. For example, if you over-stride when running, it will cause a "braking effect" which will slow you down and possibly cause groin and hamstring injuries.
Another common running mechanics problem is a "lazy heel" when it leaves the ground. The faster the running speed, the higher the heel on the rear foot should kick up. When the foot leaves the ground, it should follow a path straight up to the buttocks. It should not flail from side to side or lag.
Part of preconditioning is TRAINING YOUR BODY WITH CORRECT BIOMECHANICS (movements) for weight training, speed training and power training.
3. Another big part of preconditioning is to improve muscle flexibility and joint range of motion. A good time to do this is after a workout when your body is warm and blood flow is good. Pre-workout dynamic flexibility exercises are also important.
You can also precondition your achilles tendons after a speed workout because of the increased blood flow to the tendons (this area normally doesn't get strong blood flow).
4. Certain weight training exercises are good preconditioning exercises. They include:
--Lunges (forward, reverse, lateral and transverse)
--Step ups (front, lateral and transverse)
--Trunk exercises like planks, bridges, cobras and medicine ball exercises
--Hamstring exercises like glute/hamstring drops and hamstring curls
--Pushups, Pullups and other back exercises like rows
--Squats (including single leg and split)
Many of these exercises can be done as bodyweight exercises.
These exercises should also emphasize concentric (force production), eccentric (force reduction) and isometric (force stabilization) contractions.
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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