Could switching up your training lead to fewer injuries? In a new study from Loyola University Chicago, young athletes who specialized in tennis (spending more than 75 percent of their training time playing that one sport) were 1.5 times more likely to have reported an injury than young athletes who shared their time between tennis and other sports, including free play.
In a series of experiments, Neeru Jayanthi, M.D., an associate professor at Loyola Chicago, and his team concluded that it wasn’t necessarily how many hours the athletes spent working up a sweat, but how they spent those hours that impacted injury risk.
When you’re focused on one organized sport, the intensity is higher and the goals are different, says Dr. Jayanthi. Plus, you’re using the same muscle groups over and over again, which, if you’re not properly trained, can lead to overuse and injury, he says.
But don’t stop training for that next big race just yet—Dr. Jayanthi says the risk associated with sport specialization is more worrisome for children than adults. (Most of the athletes in his study were teenagers.) Kids are more susceptible to letting emotions take over, which can throw off their bodies and lead to injury, he says. Youngsters also tend to lack the vigilance needed to know when to take a break, and the proper training and development that many specialized athletes (like those in college) have at their disposal.
No matter your age or specialty, though, doing the same routine for months and months is a misstep. Research from the University of Florida at Gainesville found that repeating the same workout increases the chance that you’ll give up—but changing it up could increase your motivation.
Your move: If your time is dominated by one sport, add one or two weekly resistance training workouts in-season. You’ll maintain strength without taking away from competition, says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., metabolic training expert and owner of StreamFit.com. Out of season? Two or three weekly strength workouts is more suitable to focusing and building more strength and functional muscle mass, he says. ”You need to train your whole body through foundational movement patterns to develop balanced muscle strength and joint stability.” Think: squats, deadlifts, lunges, pushups, and rows—all of which you’ll find in Speed Shred, our cutting-edge DVD workout series we created with Gaddour.
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