Sat | May 25, 2019

Fit 4 Life | Training tips for healthy joints

Published:Tuesday | April 30, 2019 | 8:55 PMMarvin Gordon/Contributor
Training is not about killing a muscle or joint. It's more about stimulation, so just ignore all the 'go hard or go home' talk or you might be forced to go home. Too many sets and reps will hurt your joints as much as overly heavy loads will.

One of the best things you can do for your joints is to exercise regularly, but training can also be downright dangerous for them. And it is not just runners and heavy lifters who are at risk; every form of training will have some impact on your joints. The key to safety is to manage the risks carefully and, where possible, avoid the risk entirely. 

Use these tips to keep your joints safe as you train:

FORM, FORM, FORM

The importance of proper form when training cannot be overstated. Unless you are inventing new exercises, the moves you use have been researched, tested, and applied for decades. Over that time the 'proper' forms of those moves were developed to ensure that the average person can carry out the exercises safely. Take as much time as you need to master the form of each movement before you go all out.

EXERCISE SHOULDN'T HURT ANY JOINT

Joint pain during exercise means you should stop immediately. In fact, it might be wise to stop doing that exercise altogether until you can figure out the cause of the joint pain – this could range from overly heavy loads or repetitive high-impact training to improper form. Find exercises that train the same muscle groups to serve as replacements for the ones that inflict pain.

CYCLE YOUR TRAINING

Constantly hammering your joints with heavy weights or high-impact exercises is a recipe for disaster. Periodisation should be a basic component of all training programmes. Periodisation is breaking training down into different cycles or stages over which we vary intensity, type, and volume to achieve desired results. Not only does this bring structure and make training goals easier to manage, it also reduces the chances of overtaxing your joints. 

CONTROLLED MOVEMENTS, LOADS

Keep all training within manageable intensity levels. That means several things: 

1. Use weights you can manage: if you must use momentum or improper form to complete your repetitions then you are not ready to use that weight.

2. Manage volume carefully: training is not about killing a muscle or joint. It's more about stimulation, so just ignore all the 'go hard or go home' talk or you might be forced to go home. Too many sets and reps will hurt your joints as much as overly heavy loads will. 

3. Increase intensity only when necessary: follow the 10 per cent rule – do not increase loads or intensity by more than 10 per cent per week and, as you reach higher levels, reduce that amount as necessary.

4. Do not train to failure on ballistic or high-intensity exercises. Exercises such as plyometrics and heavy weight training are more about form and, where possible, time under tension, rather than failure.

5. Do not focus solely on muscles: when training, we tend to look out for signs of the muscles working – such as fatigue – and ignore other tissues. Pay attention to your joints to avoid injury.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email: marvin.gordon@physiqueandfunction.com; yourhealth@gleanerjm.com