Runners get shin splints. Skiers get torn ACLs. Why? The repetitive nature of any sport takes a toll on our bodies’ weakest points. The good news is that the cure for most of these injuries is also the surest way to prevent them: reinforcing those weak links. Vern Gambetta, whose Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Florida, specializes in whole-body fitness and rehabilitation, offers the following exercise prescriptions to forestall some of the most frequent sport-specific injuries.
Preventing: Shin splints
How: High box step-ups strengthen your glutes for better shock absorption.
Do It: Start with your right leg on a box tall enough to set your knee at a right angle. With your hands on your hips, straighten your right leg to stand, then return to the starting position, touching your left toe to the ground. Three to five sets of ten reps on each leg.
Preventing: Patellar tendinitis (inflammation in the knee)
How: Low box step-ups build quad strength and help with balance and coordination.
Do It: Facing a 12-inch box or step, start with your right foot on the box, your left foot on the floor, and your hands on your hips. With a hopping motion from the ball of your left foot, thrust upward and switch feet (left foot up, right foot to the ground). Focus on extending your hip with the top of your leg. Three sets of ten reps, one step-up per second.
Preventing: Knee pain
How: Seated single-leg squats strengthen quads and help keep kneecaps tracking properly.
Do It: Begin seated in a chair, your right knee bent, your left leg straight and off the ground, and your arms stretched in front of you. Keeping your back straight, stand up on your right leg and slowly sit back down. To make it harder, hold your arms above your head. Three sets of six reps per leg.
Preventing: Back stiffness
How: Standing medicine-ball rotations ease the soreness by strengthening the core abdominal and back muscles.
Do It: Stand with your feet a bit more than shoulder width apart, with a medicine ball outstretched at belly-button height. Swing the ball right and then left in a broad arc, shifting your weight from foot to foot as you rotate. Three sets of ten reps.
Preventing: Sore knees
How: Mini-band squats shore up the gluteus medius muscles to keep you upright and your knees intact.
Do It: Fit a mini-band around your legs above the kneecaps, then step into a wide stance so that the band stretches taut. With your fingers behind your head, squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, keeping your knees apart and in line with your toes. Three sets of 20 reps.
Preventing: Torn knee ligaments
How: Medicine-ball ski squats strengthen ligaments and increase lateral hamstring and quad strength.
Do It: Stand with feet together and a medicine ball outstretched in front of you. Swing the ball to the right and balance the weight by shifting your hips and knees left; then swing the ball left and shift right. Make sure your knees don’t move forward or back. Three sets of ten reps.