Avoid Injuries in the Gym: Calves, Thighs, Buttocks and Lower Back

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Louise Hay
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Calf Raise

Standing at the car

There are no particular risks of trauma neither acute nor from wear for the calf raise, provided it is obviously used with a load suitable for one's possibilities.



It should be noted that the load resting on the shoulders creates a certain pressure along the longitudinal axis of the spine. However, spine problems are rarely encountered unlike exercises with overhead load and sitting position (as in the thrusts above the nape as we will see). Rather, we point out the need to perform a wide range of motion, then to extend the foot well, stretching the Achilles tendon, before proceeding with the concentric phase. Working the sural triceps in a wide range of motion makes this muscle more functional even in everyday activities. It should be noted that in walking and running, this muscle group works essentially in shortening, in the last part of the arch. This prevents the involvement of all motor units, therefore a harmonious development. A harmoniously developed sural triceps avoids the initiation of unnatural and potentially harmful compensatory mechanisms.



Sitting at the specific machine

The same applies to the standing calf raise. In addition, we point out that there is a risk of bruising in this exercise if the load is very heavy and the padding that rests on the knees is not soft enough, that is, able to cushion the stressor well and completely. The result is the formation of bruises that are painful to the touch, a nightmare in the pre-competition or in the pre-shooting. To remedy this, it is necessary to switch to another equivalent exercise and use the seated calf raise only in the resistance phase, ie when you use a few plates.

Machine calf raises are however at a low risk of injury.

Donkey – dorsey calf raise con compagno

This exercise dates back to the origins of the times of weightlifting; however, a partner sitting astride his back changes the cards on the table.

This exercise:

  1. It does not allow a progression or regression of the load, unless you make the spotter gain weight or lose weight according to your training needs;
  2. The risk of acute injuries is evident: when the partner jumps on the "horse" he can lose his balance, with both unfortunate falls, or the soles of the feet slip.

The risk of wear and tear on the spine, on the other hand, is raised if the partner is seated on the sternal vertebrae rather than above the last sacral loins / coxus bone.



Leg Extension to the Specific Machine

Since it is a one-joint movement guided by a machine, the risk of trauma is reduced.

Since it is a one-joint movement guided by a machine, the risk of trauma is reduced. We recall a simple precaution: the more the padding is placed distal to the knee, the more this latter joint is stressed. In fact, by increasing the distance of the bearings from the fulcrum, the lever arm increases and a stressor is created which tends to dislocate the tibial plateau with respect to the femur with strong stress on the anterior cruciate ligament. This is true the greater the load. Obviously, anyone who has operated on the anterior cruciate ligament must avoid this condition. The other subjects must take good care to proportion the arm of the lever to their strength, performing the exercise in a concentrated, slow, controlled manner, especially in the low repetition series.

Specific Machine Leg Curl

The leg curl is another one-joint exercise guided by a machine, therefore with a low risk of injury.



The stability of the knee joint is given by the adequate tone of all the forces in the field. It is important for patellar stability that the tone of the hamstring muscles (leg flexors) aligns with the tone of the quadriceps. Since the short head of the hamstring does not work in hip extension exercises such as deadlifts, hyperextensions, good mornings, the presence of this exercise within the student's training protocol is important.

Adductors to the Specific Machine

For specific machine adductors the risk of trauma is even acute in nature.

The adductor group (pectineus, short adductor, great adductor and gracilis) originates in the ischio-pubic area and has the particularity of having rather delicate proximal tendons, sensitive to elongation. The risk of injury therefore occurs when you sit on the machine and start with the first two repetitions. This is the stage where the possibility of a tear is significant. The attentive instructor will take care to teach the student well to warm up well in this machine, before starting with the effective series, to have him accompany the first two adductions with his arms, to make the concentric phase also start slowly. There are many people who risk getting hurt in this exercise also because of the apparent harmlessness. Everyone approaches with caution and reverence to the squat cage, few do the same in front of a machine with a slightly effeminate yet so insidious for the naive.

Straight Leg Deadlifts

In straight-legged deadlifts, we prepare with warm-up and "gentle" stretching exercises for the gluteus maximus and hamstring.

It is in fact good to have very flexible hip extensors if you want to carry out the negative phase of this exercise correctly. In fact, in the descending phase, if the aforementioned muscles are too rigid, it will be spontaneous to bend the spine in flexion. When this flexion is forced as in the presence of a load, there is a forced displacement of the nucleus pulposus, with compression of the nerves, an etiological situation for lumbago and sciatica. Obviously, if the forcing is exaggerated, herniation occurs. In this movement it is therefore important to keep the back as straight as possible: it is not important that the lumbar area even remains lordotic, but it is important that it does not bend beyond flattening. Deadlifts are a very important exercise especially for men who intend to build mass. For an ectomorph with difficulty gaining weight, deadlifts, squats and bench presses would be enough to build the entire physique. Since deadlifts are important, you shouldn't give them up (save diseases really impeding), you must instead learn it well in the conditioning phase, without having problems prolonging it if necessary. Therefore, be sure to stretch and flex your hip extensors with specific stretching exercises. Perform the negative phase with lumbar vertebrae no further than flattening. Other indications concerning the trauma potential of deadlifts:

  • The grip must be effective, in order to minimize the risk of the barbell slipping, which would fall ruinously on the feet; the use of bands or hooks may be helpful;
  • The barbell or the dumbbells must be made to slide during the concentric and eccentric phases in a way that is always adherent to the legs and thighs, in order to reduce the lever arm, therefore the stress on the stabilizing muscles of the trunk: the torque that is created if not respecting this condition is potentially damaging to the back.

Good Morning Exercise

Note: calling the exercises with vulgar names rather than kinesiological makes reading easier even for non-experts.

The good morning is nothing more than the extension of the trunk with straight legs with a barbell or dumbbells.

Regarding it, what has been said for deadlifts applies. This exercise is more popular among women, but it has other purposes as well. In this case, since the barbell rests on the deltoids and trapezius, a twisting moment is created, such that this movement must be performed with lower loads than the previous one. It is ideal for the phases of tone and quality of work, to emphasize the stimulus even more on the buttocks and lumbar rather than on the hamstrings. Performed with straight legs, it is useful as a preparatory exercise for squats and deadlifts. For the back, what has been said for deadlifts applies. We then repeat that, since in this case the lever arm is necessarily long, the load must necessarily be reduced. Its well-stretched execution is ideal for stretching the hip extensors, taking care to stop for a few seconds in the negative phase. It must be performed at low load. No it serves for amass because it would create an excessive torque on the lower spine.

Hyperextensions to the GHB Bench

Like Good Morning, this one DON'T it's an exercise in bulking.

The potentially damaging errors that are made unconsciously by its users are the following:

  • To make it more intense, some bring the arms forward with respect to the head holding discs or barbells. This practice is dangerous because it exaggerates the lever arm and stresses the spine too much. Better to hold two small dumbbells at shoulder height or a disc in the chest. No to discs above the nape to avoid kyphosis of the cervical and put too much stress on the neck muscles;
  • In this exercise, a similar mistake is made to that of the rear leaps. That is, the concentric phase is performed with acceleration rather than with a controlled movement, and the anatomical resistances are left to slow it down. This leads to excess lumbar lordosis with excessive stress on the disc nerves and consequent pain. After all, the name of the business can be misleading. The concentric phase must be performed in a controlled manner without acceleration, and the trunk must be brought above the horizontal, accentuating the physiological lumbar curve without exaggerating.

Front lunges

With dumbbells along the hips or barbell on the shoulders, the front lunges are highly qualitative; for some would not be fit to amass.

It presents the following acute trauma risks:

Affected by the ligaments of the ankle: when the foot does not lean straight in the lunge phase, perpendicular to the frontal plane of one's body. Going down in a crooked way leads to unnatural stresses for the ankle, with a significant risk of sprains (on the medial or lateral side depending on whether the foot is supported concave or convex);

Affecting the medial and lateral collateral ligaments of the knee joint: when in the descending phase the femur is not kept in line with the foot (and we have said both straight and perpendicular to the frontal plane of the body). Also in this case, unnatural and potentially dangerous sliding forces also come into play for the cruciate ligaments.

Exercising front lunges also presents risks of wear trauma. In addition to those mentioned above (since they can be from wear if the intensity is not excessive and the incorrect execution prolonged), there is the risk of inflammation of the patellar tendon in the event that the torso is not kept erect, perpendicular to the ground, while running. In fact, it is natural to flex the torso forward during the descent. This is wrong, as it overloads the knee, pushing the patella against the tendon. It is more true if the lunge is done complete, with an angle between the femur and tibia less than 90 ° and if the entire sole of the foot is not supported, limiting itself to the tip. Dancers have a habit of coming down on pointe. Therefore: descent on toes rather than on the entire sole of the foot and / or complete lunge and / or torso bent forward = greater risk of inflammation of the patellar tendon.

Side Lunges

For side lunges, the same applies as mentioned for frontal lunges, with the difference that here the chances of getting hurt are higher. In fact it is a more unnatural exercise than its frontal counterpart. Its lateral movement leads it to make easier the errors of support of the foot and of alignment with the femur mentioned above. Also in this case it is important that the torso is erect and not tilted sideways in the direction of the supporting foot. Therefore: Side lunges = same trauma as front lunges, but much more likely.

Hack Squat and Horizontal Press

With Hack Squat and Horizontal Press you have to pay attention to DON'T drop below 90 ° angle between femur and tibia when working in force / mass.

With these exercises you have to pay attention to DON'T drop below 90 ° angle between femur and tibia when working in force / mass. This is because the acute angles bring a stressful pressure of the patella on the tendon, pressure that becomes injurious when the loads are high as in the routines of strength and mass. This is more true of the Hack Squat exercise, given its constructive nature. For this reason, some professional bodybuilders use this tool mainly in the definition phase, to give the quadriceps that pleasant drop effect near the knee. There are other risks with the variants presented in old BB texts. It was customary to change the angle of support of the feet to vary the stimulus: feet placed well apart and convex to each other (toes towards the outside) to work more the inner thigh, feet close and acute to each other (toes towards the internal) to work more vast lateral and intermediate. If the first variant allows a fairly natural work (always pay attention to the feet in line with the femurs and not to push with the toes alone, but with the whole sole of the foot), the second is deadly. You can see this immediately when you try. The movement is unnatural and the sliding forces on the knees are borne in particular by the cruciate ligaments and the lateral collateral. The risk of trauma is not only from wear, but also acute in this case. For many it is not worth doing.

Another mistake made with the press, whether horizontal or at 45 °, is to push with the toes only, perhaps even to lift the heels during the push phase. The vice of execution is the same as mentioned for the lunges: the knee is stressed too much with the formation of boring inflammation in the long run.

Press at 45 °

I do not repeat what has already been said for the aforementioned presses. It should be noted that the risk of knee inflammation with this tool is lower. In the 45 ° press, in addition to the precautions in the supports mentioned above, the importance of placing the back well against the padding, flattening it, must be pointed out.

In fact, some also tend to bend the lumbar vertebrae in the descending phase, arching the back and lifting it slightly. This leads the intervertebral discs to compress the nerves and, in case of excessive effort, there will be a consequent painful phenomenology. Another report, in relation to this exercise, must be made for a rather common gross error: the execution with an excessive load which you try to compensate by pushing with your arms on your knees. We are not referring to end-of-series cheating, but from the first repetition. The joints are thus stressed far beyond their possibilities, facilitating the appearance of wear trauma in the recurrence.

Squat (Squat)

The squat is the main exercise for bulking cycles. Together with deadlifts and bench presses it would form a trio sufficient by itself to build the whole body, and this is especially true for ectomorphic structures, more generally for hard gainers. To avoid trauma it is good to know that this exercise requires the flexibility of the Achilles tendon, the gluteus maximus, the hamstring and the internal rotators of the humerus. Stretching (flexibility exercises) for the aforementioned muscle groups, and stretching even in dynamic exercises are fundamental and we will see why. The traumatic potential of the squat has been taken as a pretext for discarding it from the list of exercises by those who fear not knowing how to manage it. Of course, the squat is not irreplaceable, but certainly very important. It should be discarded only for subjects suffering from pathologies affecting the osteoarticular system.

In analyzing the squat from a trauma point of view, we start from the bottom. In order for you to have a good squat, it is important to have flexible Achilles tendons. This is achieved with long and frequent specific stretching exercises, and working with large movements in dynamic exercises accentuating the negative phase as shown in the calf raises. If this condition is not met, the foot tends to lift forward with loss of balance and / or incorrect posture. The descent reaches the femur parallel to the floor in the phases of strength and mass, as well as to better appreciate the work on the buttocks. This complete squat is achieved more easily by those who have certain functional characteristics of the coxo-femoral and of the working angle between the femur and hip. You work in complete squat with light or medium loads, not heavy, because they can stress the knee joint too much with the appearance of inflammation of the patellar tendon in the long term; it must be said that not everyone agrees on this statement. Avoiding ballistic bounce, for many "going into the hole" would load the tendon in front of the kneecap less than an incomplete execution, which in turn spends more time in the angle with the greatest sliding forces. The trunk can be more or less inclined forward depending on its morphological characteristics, but it is important that the back is kept straight. The lumbar treatment may not be very curved, but you should never go into flexion for the reasons we have explained in the deadlifts (displacement of the nucleus pulposus back, compression of the nerve roots, etc.). Hence the importance of having flexible hip extensor muscles, otherwise the pelvis would not be able to rotate forward causing a compensation with the inappropriate flexion of the spine (in extreme cases there is the appearance of herniated discs). Keeping the head aligned or slightly hyperextended helps not to bend the back. The barbell is placed on the trapezes, a little higher than the posterior bundles of the deltoid. This position involves having a good rotator cuff, with tonic external rotators and flexible internal rotators. We prepare for this condition with wand circling exercises, stretching exercises for internal rotators, dynamic exercises of external rotation of the humerus to the cables with adducted arm (the same that are done in the recovery therapy of dislocations). The breath will be held for the whole dynamic part, expelled only in the last stretch, because the full lungs maintain an intrathoracic pressure useful not to bend forward (it is part of a well-functional core).

So the squat requires a long period of conditioning so that it must be learned at the beginning, as a beginner, it must be taught in the beginning like all the main multi-joint exercises (not the other way around).

Those with a medical history of shoulder dislocation can try the dumbbell squat variant. Obviously this does not allow the use of high loads and we work essentially for quality.

Deadlifts with Bent Legs

Deadlifts are an exercise that involves both the straight-legged deadlift and the squat movement. Nonetheless, it is one of the fundamentals for strength disciplines and bodybuilding more than the straight-legged variant.

It is apparently better performed with the square bar, even if this results in a greater activation of the quadriceps compared to the glutes, hamstrings and lumbar. It is another very constructive complex exercise. Its delicate weaknesses are the same exposed for deadlifts and squats.

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