As summer comes to a close and amateur sport seasons begin to kick off, many Australians will be chomping at the bit to get back into action on the sporting field. While social sport is an integral part of many lives, the healthy pastime results in thousands of yearly injuries – with the AIHW reporting that men are more than twice as likely to end up in hospital. To ensure you’re giving it all on the playing field without the worry of injury, research suggests the best thing you can do is condition your body with pre-season training.
You might think preseason training is reserved for jacked-up pro-athletes who work out for a living and have an entourage of personal trainers and conditioning coaches following them around all day long, but you’d be mistaken. Jetts Fitness is encouraging everyday athletes to hit the gym and be smart about their preseason prep to reduce the risk of injury. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or sporting newbie, research shows that strength training can minimise your risk of injury by two-thirds.
We had a chat with Jetts personal trainer Mark Cowie, who has worked with professional and amateur rugby teams, about why preseason training is crucial for an injury-free season. Cowie says that no matter how prepared you think you are, you can always do more. “It doesn’t matter how fit you are if your body can’t move through the motions required for your chosen sport,” he said.
The reason injury numbers in amateur sport are so high is because most everyday athletes are completely unprepared for the challenges of sport. You can’t expect to go from minimal physical activity to a high intensity sweat session with no issues. “When you step onto the court or pitch, you’re doing movements that you wouldn’t do in your everyday life. On your way to work this morning, you probably didn’t get tackled,” Cowie said. “With the right training and recovery, you can ensure that you’ll be able to play for the whole season.”
For the record, the sport with the most injuries is soccer. With 3,279 annual ailments. Followed by Australian rules football with 2,776 and rugby with 2,653. However, Cowie insists that no matter what sport you play or your experience level, pre-season conditioning is the key to staying injury free for the full season. And to get the best bang for your buck, the focus needs to be on full-body strength training. “Stretching, mobility, cardiovascular work and endurance work is important as well, but good foundational strength will help reduce your risk of injury and is transferable into pretty much every single sport.”
To get that full body burn and ensure every muscle has extra protection from injury, Cowie says to focus primarily on compound movements with a few unilateral exercises. During pre-season, the key is to prioritise a higher rep range before transitioning into less reps with more weight throughout the year. “Your frequency and intensity might drop, but it’s important to keep pushing, even if it’s just to maintain strength and your physical ability,” he added.
Hitting the gym isn’t the only way to reduce your risk of injury. Nutrition is another critical aspect of conditioning and recovery. Cowie says you should prioritise high-protein, good quality food for the best results. “You’re going to be increasing your training volume, you don’t want to be cutting calories – rather focusing on fuelling your body for performance.”
With pre-seasons already underway and another fun year of sport right around the corner, here’s a full-body workout that can bulletproof your body and minimise your risk of injury, courtesy of Mark Cowie.
Injury Prevention Workout
As Cowie says, compound exercises are the easiest way to target multiple muscle groups. These exercises tend to be more difficult and intense, so he recommends putting them at the start of your workout. “It’s best to start with your biggest and hardest exercises. I’d start off with squats which work your shoulders, down to the legs, as well as the core and upper body coming in to stabilise.”
Split Stance Romanian Deadlifts
Another compound exercise, split stance Romanian deadlifts (known as RDLs by gym veterans) target your hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors. The movement also activates your hip joints, which is ideal preparation for essentially any sport.
Single Leg Squats
Unilateral exercises are next up. These are great because they allow you to train both sides of your body equally without favouring your dominant side. Single leg squats in particular provide explosive strength and flexible movement across your lower body.
We now move on to the upper body. Cowie prefers to use dumbbells instead of barbells for this segment to allow a focus on building strength in each individual arm.
Barbell rows are another compound exercise that specifically targets your back muscles. You can perform rows with dumbbells as well, but Cowie says using a barbell allows for a more complete exercise. “That way our whole posterior chain is working not just to pull the bar but also to stabilise the body in that position,” he said.
Single Arm Press
Another unilateral exercise, this time targeting your shoulders. Shoulder strength and flexible rotator cuffs are crucial in a multitude of sports, meaning you won’t want to disregard the benefits of building boulder shoulders.
At the end of the workout, Cowie says it’s necessary to “Finish off with some smaller accessory exercises.” While these exercises work less muscle groups, they are by no means less intense. Side planks activate the core and, as he explains, the exercise finisher will “Stabilise our hips all the way through the trunk.”
Pre-seasons across Australia are currently getting underway. Jetts Fitness is calling upon everyday athletes to be smart about their training to ensure a successful sporting season without injury. Head to their website for more information: jetts.com.au