Make 2019 the Year You Don’t Get Hurt

By Sarah Casey and Michol Dalcourt

Exercise is one of the healthiest things we can do, but it’s also a stress on our bodies. If you haven’t lived it yet, chances are a friend or relative has had to sideline his or her fitness because of a shoulder injury, knee pain, or tennis elbow. Accidents aside, these injuries are often the product of repetitive wear and tear from our daily activities and training programs.

Car owners know rotating the tires is an important part of keeping their vehicle in top condition. It balances the wear on the tires and prevents the car from developing alignment problems. Our workouts benefit from the same idea.

Most of the time, we think about switching up our workout routine for a performance or weight- loss reason: We hit a plateau and know it’s time to change the workout. But just like our tires, our bodies need a regular change in stress—a workout rotation—to prevent wear and tear on joints and muscles, and to keep us doing the things we love to do injury-free!

How we get hurt

Many sport and exercise injuries are not the result of one catastrophic incident. Instead, they are overuse injuries. This typically happens for one of two reasons.

1. Too much, too soon: We’ve all been there. We got excited about a new piece of equipment or a new sport and couldn’t get enough—until hip or neck or wrist pain kicked in and made it hard for us to continue. This has to do with the concept of tissue tolerance. Our muscles, nerves and connective tissue need time to adapt to new stresses, otherwise, we risk injury. It’s easy to understand that someone who’s new to weightlifting shouldn’t start with the heaviest weights in the gym. We know that you should to start lighter and work your way up to it.

What most of us don’t realize is that this applies to any new activity. If we’re regular weightlifters who have never used a kettlebell, we shouldn’t start swinging with the heaviest one we can lift. Even something as every day as walking requires a progressive approach if we want to do it without hurting ourselves. You also can think of it as readiness: How prepared is your body to handle the stress of this activity? It’s important to get the amount of movement just right.

2. Repetitive stress: This kind of injury can creep up on us without warning. One day, we’re out running, same as usual, and the next, we’ve got knee problems. Or maybe we’ve been fine typing away on the computer at work for the past decade, but now we struggle with tennis elbow. These chronic overuse injuries happen when we do the same thing over and over (and over) again.

Tissue tolerance and repetitive stress injuries can be minimized by switching up our exercise stress with workout rotations. Our bodies are most ready and resilient when we get a balance of different speeds and directions of movement and different weights. A resilient body is readier for new challenges and less susceptible to the wear and tear of daily life.

We build resiliency by including different types of stress in our exercise plan. To see how your workouts stack up (and where you might need to switch it up a little), check out the workout rotations below.

Workout rotations

Build a balanced workout plan by looking at the following pairs of movement themes. If you’re only getting one part of the pair, try including the other in your next workout!

1. Balance pushing with pulling: These two fundamental movement patterns are both essential to our health and fitness. If you’ve been bench pressing and doing push-ups, try pull-ups and band rows. (We like No. 2 in this workout.) Pulling patterns are helpful to balance out a long car commute or a day at the computer. If you need a new idea for pushing patterns, try this one-arm band walk.

2. Balance chaos with control (and vice versa): If you’re into fast-paced sports or fitness classes, you’re getting lots of reactive movement. Soccer, squash and basketball are all sports where chaos rules and players’ movements are quick and unpredictable. This makes for a fantastic workout, but it can lead to problems if you don’t balance all that reactivity with some controlled movement. Moving with control lets you focus on the quality of your movements and highlights any restrictions or imbalances you wouldn’t notice midgame.

If you’re a good-form-controlled-tempo kind of exerciser, then adding reactivity to your routine will be a brain booster and help with your explosive power, speed, agility and quickness.

3. Balance single-direction with multi-direction: Most strength-training machines and traditional lifts are all one-directional movements. But we live in a three-dimensional world, where life and sports are never quite as tidy. By moving in a variety of ways, you create stress in different vectors and generate tissue that is robust from any angle. (Learn more in this article.) This helps lower your risk of injury. Get started with something simple, like a lunge. Try lunging to the front, side, back or out on an angle.

4. Balance up with down (and vice versa!): Being on your feet is an important way to offset a sedentary workday, but the act of standing up is just as important. In fact, being able to get down to the ground (and up again) has been linked to living longer (and with a better quality of life) as you age. Check out some of our favorite get-up movements.

Video credit: Donghyun, Adobe Stock
Photo credit: lzf, iStock; pressmaster, Adobe Stock; alfa27, Adobe Stock


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Sarah Casey

Sarah Casey is a writer whose work with Institute of Motion (IoM) helps readers cut through health industry jargon and advice. At IoM, Casey investigates ideas and strategies outside of the fitness/health sphere, to discover new methods to support preventative health initiatives. She’s currently exploring how high-value interactions can improve preventative health education and technology. Casey lives with her husband and two daughters near the beautiful Great Lakes and enjoys vegetable gardening and swimming in the summer, snow shovelling and ice-skating in the winter, and a good mystery novel any day of the year.


Michol Dalcourt

Michol Dalcourt is an internationally recognized expert in human movement and performance. He is the Founder and CEO of the Institute of Motion, inventor of ViPR and Co-Founder of PTA Global. Dalcourt has done extensive work and field research in the area of human performance. He consults with many of the fitness industry’s biggest companies and his highly innovative techniques have been adopted by many of the top international fitness certification bodies.