At this point injury prevention is just the cool thing to say. It’s almost as cool as “Functional Training” used to be in the 2000’s. In this article I’m going to discuss whether injuries are so predictable that we can prevent them from ever happening. 

Injury Prevention

What’s currently touted as injury prevention tends to be presented as flexibility, mobility, or simply load management protocols. The idea is that a muscle would tear because we can’t get into a passive range of motion and if we could just further yield to these loads we would not likely be injured. While there is some utility in these protocols the logic behind them isn’t exactly sound. 

How do injuries happen? 

This is exactly how injuries happen. When loads exceed load bearing capacity or in other words with applied force is greater than tissue tolerance. Where does flexibility and mobility fit into this equation? If you can’t passively stretch into a certain position then your load bearing capacity in that position is Zero. However no matter how mobile you are if you can not stabilize loads then things you cannot train with flexibility + mobility are likely to be stressed and those structures can also break. 

What can effect these things?

All stress effects the body. How long you’ve been sitting in one position, how well hydrated you are, how much you have or haven’t slept, the amount of food you are or aren’t consuming, alcohol, work, relationship stress, anxiety, ALL OF THESE EFFECT YOUR BODY. That is to say that it will effect how well you can get into trainable ranges, how well you perform, and the overall tolerance of your tissues (both structural and muscular). So if these things are constantly in flux how can you with any certainty predict that something absolutely won’t become injured? 

The best you can hope for.

If mobility and flexibility on their own aren’t a sure fire strategy then what are these people selling in their “Bulletproof Knee’s” program? At the very best all you can shoot for is risk management. This means not only do you create the mobility necessary that risk begins to come down but you also begin to work on creating stability and strength within the trainable ranges. Trainable range is essentially going to be everything within your current mobility limits but where you still have control of what your body is doing in space, not where your body or weights fall into passively. Being that the our bodies tolerance is constantly in flux we want to begin to manage how much stress does or doesn’t go into our body given how we design a program.

How to manage risk.

As we mentioned earlier, gaining more mobility is part of this equation. The often over looked part of this equation is managing loads while in the pursuit of strength. Some people try to predict fatigue and just plan for every 4 weeks to lighten the weights a bit. However we KNOW life is not that predictable. We like to use an Auto-regulation strategy. That mean on any given day we have a system for how we might adjust loads or swap exercises given the stresses that we’ve already had to tolerate that day or days prior. For loads we can measure with velocity (which most people don’t have access to) which is a tool we like to use but also we use a subject rating of how heavy the loads feel on a given day. Example, on a scale of 1-10 once you completed a set how many more reps do you think you could do before failing the lift, if you said 2 then you would subtract that number from 10 and would score an 8. Regardless of the load if we want you to score an 8 we are asking you to train to a perceived level of difficulty that is close to failure but not absolutely failure. Some days you might score an 8 at heavier loads when you’re feeling good, whereas other days you might score an 8 with loads that are lighter than usual. Which is fine because we are looking for you to train at a relative intensity not specific load. Some days we might not have the mobility we usually do, when this happens we can switch to a similar exercise with lower range of motion requirements. This might mean you go from a Barbell Bench Press to a Floor Press on certain days given your mobility. 

In Summary: We can’t stop injuries from happening but we can manage the amount of risk to leverage better outcome. We need to work on Mobility, Stability, and Strength to best improve our management of risk. Our tissues tolerance will vary based on what happened in between training sessions.

Stay Dope,

Steven Davis (Owner of Davis Fitness Method in Seattle,Wa)