Exercises to prevent compensation injuries

July 16, 2013

The kinetic chain is a term used to describe the myriad joints and muscles used to perform a compound movement, and this reveals itself as especially important for an activity like running. Just like any other, this chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and any imbalances are not only detrimental to performance but also risk injury. This is because the body trains itself to compensate for muscular weakness over long periods of time, so you may end up dominant in some areas of your body while conversely weak in others. This is most problematic for endurance athletes. The constant stress of their activity causes these imbalances to surface, often through injury.

Find your balance
So how do you fix it? The smartest thing you can do is establish a balance in your muscles, and the best way to do this is not through compound exercises but rather singular isolating movements. For example, many people tend to have a dominant leg for a movement like kicking, but the well-rounded athlete has at least roughly even capabilities in each leg. Many reach this balanced state through single-leg exercises, which over time help even out any strength discrepancies between muscle groups. If you were to perform a standard squat, therefore using all the muscles in both legs, you would probably not even notice if you were using one leg more than the other because you cannot feel the difference – it feels normal because any weaknesses are naturally compensated for by corresponding muscles. This is especially true for something like running on your home treadmill, which many athletes have been doing so long that their form is deeply engrained.

Single-leg squat
An exercise like the single-leg squat can be an easy fix for muscular deficiencies. Although this exercise isn’t a cure-all for every lower-body muscular imbalance, it’s an effective trainer for many of the smaller muscles of the leg that may not be optimally performing. To get started, assume the same shoulder-width stance you would for a normal squat, except this time, bend one leg behind you while you perform the squat. Active recommends 15 repetitions per leg, but if you experience knee or hip pain, hold on to something for balance and focus on your form until you can complete the exercise more easily. If you have the flexibility, try keeping your leg horizontal and parallel to the floor while you go down and up in the squat. This will be challenging for most, but it will strengthen your core as well. Other exercises like single-leg hops, jumps, and calf-raises can be helpful too.

With exercises such as these, you’ll be back on your TRUE Fitness treadmill in no time, faster and less injury-prone.