POPSUGAR Celebrity

Best Injury-Preventing Exercises

Jan 31 2015 - 6:00am

As anyone whose hobby involves physical activity knows, you can't expect your body to operate in tip-top shape without a little coaxing. Only running or cycling, for example, makes you more prone to painful injuries that can leave you nursing your condition on the couch instead of out there doing what you love. We've rounded up the best stretches and exercises to help you prehab before catastrophe happens. Pick a few from each common injury group to help stay out of the doctor's office and happily in the gym or on the road.

[Weak Ankles [1]][Knee Pain [2]] [IT Band Syndrome [3]] [Tight Hamstrings [4]] [Lower-Back Pain [5]] [Shin Splints [6]] [Plantar Fasciitis [7]]

— Additional reporting by Lizzie Fuhr and Jenny Sugar

Source: Shutterstock / Warren Goldswain [8]

Weak Ankles: Plantar Flexion With Resistance Band

Adding the resistance band helps to strengthen the muscles of the arch. And a strong arch helps prevent over pronation (excessive rolling inward of the ankle).

Source: POPSUGAR Studios

Weak Ankles: Dorsi Flexion With Resistance Band

Dorsi flexion, pulling the toes toward your body, works the muscles that support the front of the ankle.

Source: POPSUGAR Studios

Weak Ankles: Lateral Hops

This is an essential move for runners to strengthen the lower body. Hopping side to side helps condition the muscles around the ankle for stability when making quick lateral direction changes found in tennis, basketball, and soccer.

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Knee Pain: Deadlifts

"Your core isn't just your abs!" says Sports Club/LA trainer Eric Chen. "Deadlifts are great exercises to strengthen that posterior chain. If you're an endurance runner, you need a strong core to support yourself."

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Knee Pain: Side Lunge to Curtsy

Strengthen those glute muscles and become a more powerful runner.

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Knee Pain: Side-Lying Leg Lifts

This exercise really targets your gluteus medius, a key stabilizing muscle that is often neglected.

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Knee Pain: Donkey Kicks

During this exercise, keep your back straight and in neutral alignment, and pay special attention that you don't arch your back. Use your muscles to create a slow, controlled movement — do not swing your legs.

You can also add fire hydrants [9] to the mix as well for more hip flexor rotation. Instead of lifting your leg back, lift it to the side, so your thighs are parallel to the floor and the soles of your feet are facing the wall behind you.

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Knee Pain: Overhead Reverse Lunge

This move opens up the chest while stretching posterior muscles and hip flexors.

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Knee Pain: Quad Sweep

Balance out overworked hamstrings with this quad-strengthening move, which helps realign and balance your body to prevent knee issues.

Knee Pain: Wall Squats

This deceptively simple exercise is a must for runners, since it helps build quad strength to prevent injuries like runner's knee.

Source: Corbis Images [10]and Megan Wolfe Photography [11]

Knee Pain: Quad Roll

Keep quads loose and strains at bay with this foam-rolling technique.

Knee Pain: Glute Roll

Tight glutes can pull on the IT band and adversely affect the alignment of the hips and knees.

IT Band: Cross-Legged Stretch

The IT band is thick band of tissue that connects your hip flexors to your knee joint. When tight, it can pull on your joints, leading to a painful knee injury. This IT band-loosening stretch is great to do after a run.

IT Band: Wall Stretch

You'll feel this stretch in your upper thighs as well as your calves.

IT Band: Single-Leg Balance Touch

This exercise really works the deep glutes while challenging your core and sense of balance. Weak glutes can lead to imbalances that cause IT band flare-ups.

IT Band: Standing Stretch

Here's another IT band-loosening stretch that is great to do after a run.

IT Band: Clam

The clam targets the glute meds and helps build hip control. See the clam in action here [12].

IT Band: Squat Walks With Resistance Band

Squat walks are an excellent way to strengthen your glute meds.

Source: Megan Wolfe Photography [13]

IT Band: Bulgarian Split Lunge

This is a great move for your glutes, while also working your quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Source: Megan Wolfe Photography [14]

IT Band: Single-Leg Bridge Lift

Modifying the classic bridge into a single-leg move helps strengthen hips as well as glute muscles.

IT Band: Side Lunge

This lunge variation is another exercise that targets the glute meds.

Source: Megan Wolfe Photography [15]

IT Band: Foam Roll

The IT band is a thick strand of fascia [16] that runs the length of the thigh; when it gets tight, it can pull the knee out of alignment, causing pain and inflammation in the joint.

Tight Hamstring: Tipover Tuck Hamstring Stretch

Tight hamstrings can lead to strains and pulls, so stay flexible with these post-workout stretches. This stretch is good for your hamstrings and also loosens tight shoulders.

Tight Hamstring: Scissor Hamstring Stretch

Easy to do anywhere and safe for injured backs, this hamstring stretch is great if you're really tight.

Tight Hamstring: Advanced Standing Hamstring Stretch

If the previous stretch isn't deep enough for you then try this variation. It's perfect for doing on a bench after a run in the park.

Tight Hamstring: Modified Hurdler Stretch

This basic stretch is perfect for targeting one leg at a time and is great for those with really tight hamstrings.

Tight Hamstring: Forward Bend With Rounded Back

This stretch targets both hamstrings as well as the lower back.

Tight Hamstring: Reclined Hamstring Stretch

Here's a relaxing way to stretch one hamstring at a time.

Lower-Back Pain: Pigeon

These stretches help ease lower-back pain, a common ailment in runners and cyclists. Bonus: they also help open up your hip flexors, which will help keep your body balanced (and prevent common injuries like IT Band Syndrome) while you exercise.

The pigeon is a great postrun pose for opening up hips and stretching your lower back.

Source: Jenny Sugar

Lower-Back Pain: Double Pigeon

Further your back stretch with the Double Pigeon Pose.

Source: Jenny Sugar

Lower-Back Pain: Happy Baby

Hips and lower back get a rest with this restorative pose.

Source: Jenny Sugar

Lower-Back Pain: Butterfly

Open up tight hips with this stretch.

Source: Jenny Sugar

Lower-Back Pain: Back Roll

Keeping your lower back loose and limber directly affects the flexibility of your glutes and the efficiency of your training.

Shin Splints: Calf Raises — Basic

Raising the heels destabilizes your ankle joints. Not only are you strengthening your calves with this exercise, but you're also challenging the muscles that support the ankle joint.

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Shin Splints: Calf Raises — External Rotation

Changing the angle of the feet by rotating the legs outward challenges different muscles of the lower leg than working in parallel. This position will work your arch of your foot more, too, and a strong arch helps prevent the ankle from rolling inward.

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Shin Splints: Calf Raises — Internal Rotation

Once again, the different foot position will challenge different parts of the lower leg and feet.

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Shin Splints: Leg Raises

Shin splints are painful — and preventable. Here's one way [17] to keep shin pain at bay.

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Shin Splints: Calves Roll

Pay special attention to tight spots, allowing the tension to sink into the roller.

Shin Splints: Shin Roll

This move is a key to preventing shin splints.

Plantar Fasciitis: Heel Walks

This weight-bearing exercise works the muscles that support the front of the ankle and strengthens the feet, too. You can do heel walks with or without shoes.

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Plantar Fasciitis: Flex and Stretch

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition caused by tiny tears in the band of tissue on the soles of your feet. Prevent it from happening with this easy stretch you can do at your desk.

Photo: POPSUGAR Studios

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