"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." More than generally helpful life advice, Benjamin Franklin's words hold true for your workouts, too. You can prevent workout injuries by building a strong foundation and ensuring your training routine incorporates a combination of mobility, stability, flexibility, strength and cardio.
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Be prepared to bring out your inner "outdoor adventurer" with these sport-specific stretches and exercises to strengthen and lengthen your muscles for just about any outdoor activity.
How to Help Prevent Overuse Injuries
Think of your muscles as a pulley system. When one muscle or muscle group contracts, the opposing muscle or muscle group lengthens. When muscles aren't at their optimal lengths, muscle imbalances occur.
Overly tight muscles can tug on joints, affecting your posture and gait, while weak muscles can cause other muscles to pick up the slack, creating overuse injuries. Additionally, lack of strength in stabilizing muscles around the joint can impair movement and lead to aches and pains or even injuries.
Stretches and Exercises to Prevent Sports Injuries
To prepare for just about any outdoor activity, ensure that your body is balanced and grounded with these strength exercises and stretches to address common muscle imbalances for each outdoor activity.
Surfing: Child’s Pose Walkovers
When you're lying on a surfboard getting ready to catch a wave, your abs are lengthening while your back muscles are contracting. If you're not used to this position, you may feel tightness in your lower back.
- Start on all fours with your big toes together and knees apart.
- Keep your hands shoulder-distance apart and arms straight as you extend your hips back toward your heels and lengthen through your spine.
- Rest your head between your upper arms.
- Walk your hands over to the right side, hold, and then over to the left.
Reps: hold for 20 to 30 seconds in three positions — arms in front, on the right and to the left
Targets: lower back and lats (latissimus dorsi)
Surfing: Pointed-Toes Plank
- Start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows and wrists.
- Come to the tops of your feet with your toes pointed behind you.
- Draw your navel in and tuck your hips, bringing the frontal hip bones toward your rib cage while maintaining a flat back.
- Stay strong through your shoulders, and keep your neck in line with your spine, gazing about six inches in front of you.
- For an even greater challenge, lift one leg six inches off the ground and hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Reps: hold for 45 to 60 seconds
Targets: abdominals and hip flexors
Hiking and Backpacking: Standing Calf Stretch
If you're an avid hiker, you know your calves have to endure a lot more work trekking up a strenuous trails than just walking.
- Stand about arms' length away from a wall.
- Lean forward and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height.
- Stagger your legs, sending one leg back behind you about two feet and one slightly in front of you.
- Anchor your heel to the ground to stretch the calf muscles.
- Deepen the bend into the front knee, keeping the knee over the ankle.
Reps: hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side
Hiking and Backpacking: Toe Raises
Stretch and strengthen your lower legs to help stabilize your knee joints and lessen the risk of injury and discomfort on the trail.
- Start seated or standing with your feet flat on the ground.
- Press into your right heel and draw your toes upward toward your shin.
- Set the foot back down and repeat on the left side.
Reps: alternate for a total of 20 to 30 reps per side.
Targets: muscles in your shins (tibialis anterior)
Read more: 6 Simple Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints
Paddleboarding: Triangle Pose
Standup paddleboarding is a great workout. It requires balance, core strength, upper-body strength and coordination. This yoga pose trains your stabilizing muscles and helps you stay afloat.
- Step your feet two to three feet apart.
- Spread your arms out to the sides in line with your shoulders, palms facing down.
- Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right and your left foot in at a 45-degree angle.
- Bend over to the right side.
- Place your right hand on your shin, ankle or the ground outside your right foot as you reach your left arm up to the sky.
- Gaze up toward your left arm or straight ahead.
Reps: hold for five long, deep breaths and repeat on the other side
Targets: lats (latissimus dorsi) and obliques
Paddleboarding: Single-Leg Torso Twist
This core-strengthening and balance-focused exercise will help you stay steady on the board, gracefully switch sides with the paddle and maximize your power output.
- Position a resistance band around something stable like a pole or post.
- Hold the ends with your hands together and arms extended as you stand to the side on one leg.
- Ground down through your supporting leg as you exhale and twist.
Reps: 10 to 20 reps on each side
Rock Climbing: Wrist Stretch
Aside from being an exhilarating sport, rock climbing requires strength in smaller muscle groups like the forearms and hands as well as strength through the back and core.
- Hold one arm out in front of you to shoulder height.
- Flex the fingers up toward the sky and gently apply pressure with the other hand.
- Next, extend the fingers toward the ground as you gently apply pressure with the other hand.
Reps: hold for 20 seconds in each position on each wrist
Targets: forearm flexors and extensors
Rock Climbing: Hanging Scapular Retraction
This exercise requires a lot of grip strength, which you'll need on the climb, as well as latissimus dorsi (upper-back muscles) and teres major (muscle under your shoulder blades) activation. If you're ready for an advanced progression, try the wide-grip pull-up.
- Jump up to grasp a sturdy bar overhead.
- Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ensure you have a firm grip.
- Retract your shoulder blades in a shrugging motion, activating your lats. This creates space between your shoulders and ears.
- Relax back to hanging.
Reps: 10 to 20 reps
Targets: forearm flexors and extensors, lats, teres major and biceps
Mountain Biking and Road Cycling: Bow Pose
Whether you're on the road or the trail, biking is an excellent calorie burner and lower-body workout. This yoga pose is an awesome way to counteract the body's position in the saddle.
- Lie on the ground on your stomach and place your arms by your sides with palms facing up.
- Place your chin on the floor.
- Exhale as you bend your knees toward your glutes. Reach your arms behind you and grab the outside of your ankles.
- Inhale as you lift your chest off the floor while simultaneously lifting your thighs by pressing your ankles into your hands.
Reps: hold for 20 to 30 seconds
Targets: quadriceps, pectorals, anterior deltoids
Read more: The 10 Best Stretches to Do Before Biking
Mountain Biking and Road Cycling: Single-Leg Hamstring Curl
If it's been a while since you've been in the saddle, prep your body for the journey ahead with this stretch-and-strengthen exercise.
- Attach a resistance band or cable to something stable like a pole or post.
- Lie on your back and hook the band or cable around one ankle.
- Contract your hamstrings as you draw your heel in toward your glute.
- Release back to the starting position.
Reps: 10 to 20 reps on each leg
Swimming: Pectoral Wall Stretch
Trading in your treadmill run for a lake or ocean swim may be just the challenge your body is seeking. Swimming trains nearly all the major muscles groups of the body, but it delivers a lower risk of injury due to being a low-impact activity.
- Stand in line with a doorway or pole.
- Place your arm behind you and brace it against the wall or pole.
- Rotate your body away from the wall.
Reps: hold for 20 to 30 seconds on each side
Targets: chest (pectorals) and anterior deltoids
Swimming: Rear Deltoid Fly
Improve your swimming stroke and glide through the water by addressing the common muscle imbalances that can occur in the upper body.
- Holding one end of a resistance band in each hand, step onto the band with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Keep your knees slightly bent. Hinge over at the waist with your arms extended toward the ground.
- Raise your arms out to the side.
- Hold for two to three seconds as you contract through your back and shoulders.
Reps: 10 to 20 reps
Targets: rear deltoids
Read more: 7 Tips to Become a Better Swimmer
Volleyball: Extended Puppy Pose
The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the human body. Full range of motion through the shoulder girdle as well as balanced strength between the upper and lower trapezius can build the foundation for a strong serve on the volleyball court so you can dominate your opponents.
- Start on all fours.
- Extend your arms out in front of you shoulder-distance apart.
- As you exhale, make sure your hips stay over your heels while keeping the arms active and hands pressing into the ground.
Reps: hold for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times
Targets: shoulder girdle
Volleyball: High-to-Low Row
- Attach a resistance band to something stable like a pole or post and lower down to your knees. (Alternatively, you can position the band one to two feet above shoulder height.)
- Hold the ends of the band with arms outstretched.
- Keep your core tight and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you contract through your back and bring the elbows to the sides of the body.
Reps: complete 10 to 20 reps
Targets: lower trapezius, rear deltoids and rotator cuff muscles
Golf: Reclined Spinal Twist
It may have a reputation as a sport for old, rich men, but golfing requires mobility through your neck, shoulders and hips as well as core strength. Muscle imbalances are common, since golfers tend to use only one side of their bodies.
- Start lying on your back with legs extended.
- Hug your right knee into your chest.
- Release your right arm out to the right with palm facing up.
- Look to the right and drop your right knee over to the left side of your body.
- Scoot your left hip back one to two inches to the right for a deeper stretch.
Reps: hold for 20 to 30 seconds on each side
Targets: neck, shoulders and hips
Golf: Resisted Chop
- Wrap a resistance band around your left foot.
- Hold the handles or elastic with both hands, extending your arms toward your foot.
- Place a slight bend in the knees, gaze at the left foot and raise your arms on a diagonal over your head.
- Slowly lower back to the starting position.
Reps: 10 to 20 reps on each side