Build a Strong Foundation Against Injury
By Dani Fennerty
Curious about which injuries are most common for first responders? Low back injuries are by far the most common sprain/strain injury that first responders experience. First responders also frequently experience knee and shoulder injuries, but the low back remains the greatest threat to readiness in the musculoskeletal area for first responders.
The extreme environments and unpredictable nature of the job, unique to the first responder community, put responders at risk for these injuries. To prepare for that chaos it is important to build the strongest foundation to work from.
Build a Foundation
You can build a strong foundation to help prevent these injuries. There are three variables to prioritize in training:
To perform a movement, our muscles and joints must have the mobility to achieve the movement. If our spine cannot bend, extend, or rotate without a load, how can we expect it to perform those movements with load? Mobility doesn’t come overnight, and it is something that must be continuously worked on. But achieving functional mobility allows us to not only reduce the risk of injury but also tolerate lifting greater loads.
Here are 3 mobility exercises for your spine:
- Prayer stretch
- Leg over rotation stretch
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch
Stability ensures you have the strength and support of the spine. Our trunk is the foundation that all our movements come from. As we progress with lifting heavier weights, we want the foundation of our trunk strength to be solid. This means we train with progressions that enable us to progress the resistance while also maintaining good form- recruiting the small stabilizer muscles with the big movers.
Here are 3 strengthening exercises for your spine:
- Overhead press- standing
- Cable rotation
Finally, we have control. Control is our ability to own a movement pattern, no matter the condition. First responders often move objects that are awkward and unpredictable. It could be lifting an individual with a fractured leg out of a bathtub, or an individual who is kicking and punching while resisting arrest. When we have developed control, our body is able to maintain recruitment of the muscles we trained in the stability portion and move with control in imperfect conditions.
Here are 3 exercises to help develop control:
- Pallof press from kneeling to standing
- Single arm overhead with weight and step up
- Single leg RDL
Mobility, stability, and control don’t develop overnight, and there is no finish line. It is a continuous practice of 1% better each day.