Q: [School-Age] What are the best exercises to reduce the risk of injury and keep my athletic child strong?
A: Simple exercises such as the squat, lunge and push up are not always as simple as they may seem. Minor defects in mechanics can lead to asymmetries in strength, stability and flexibility. These defects can lead to decreased performance and injuries. As an athlete, it is important to work with someone experienced who not only knows proper mechanics, but can identify flaws and fix them. A quality professional will also know how to progress an athlete from simple to more complex exercises and drills that will benefit the development of the athlete.
Squat: Common error: Sitting back on heels too much to not allow the knees to go over the toes. The knees actually do go slightly over the toes in a proper squat. In an ideal squat, the trunk and shin angles should be parallel.
Lunge: Common error: When lunging forward, the foot steps more towards the midline instead of under the hip. By stepping more laterally, beneath the hip, there will be more activation and strengthening of the hip muscles.
Box Jump: Common error: Using a box that is too high. The goal of a box jump is to create power with the legs and jump up and land on a box. When the box is too high, an athlete will attempt to just try and get their feet on to the box instead of getting extension at the ankle, knee and hip which is what creates power more efficiently.
Push Up: Common error: not maintaining a solid core and letting the hips either sag or go up in the air. Another error is not lowering the body enough. This can be due to poor core control or poor upper body strength. A simple modification is to begin in a pushup position with the core tight and back straight. Slowly lower the body to the ground taking three to five seconds to complete.
Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist with over 20 years experience in professional hockey, football and soccer, working with professional, Olympic and Hall of Fame athletes. He is the owner of Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest.