Active Living

Physical Training Injury Prevention

Last Updated: December 15, 2017
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​Although it is recognized that the health benefits of physical activity and exercise far outweigh the risks of getting hurt, injuries are the greatest threat to our readiness across the military spectrum. Weight-bearing and exercise-related activities account for 50% of these injuries

Performance Triad Activity 

Injury prevention measures implemented during sports, exercise, and physical activity-related activities help to maintain the long-term health of the Army. Proper physical training will prepare Soldiers for the physical demands of their mission.

 SMART Training Tips:

  • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of any new workout.
  • Vary your workouts to include a combination of strength, endurance, balance, agility, and coordination training.
  • Train your core muscles (4 For the Core) to reduce the risk of low back injuries.
  • Wear a mouth guard for high-risk activities like combatives and contact sports.
  • If you experience an injury, see your BN medical provider right away.

Preparing for Activity:

  • Dynamic warm-ups (moving through the range of motion for each target area) before exercising increase temperature of the tissue and help optimize performance.
  • Warm-ups tailored to a specific activity enhance performance.
  • Always warm-up before sports and exercise workouts.
  • Warm-up specifically for each APFT event.
  • Walk before jogging; jog before running; run before sprinting.

Resistance Training

  • Resistance training can improve military job performance.
  • Work each major muscle group 2 or 3 days each week.
  • Warm-up with light weights.
  • Contract your core muscles (pull your belly button up and in) when lifting.
  • Don't hold your breath; exhale during the lift.
  • Execute each lift with a slow, controlled motion.
  • Use caution when lifting heavy weight plates to load and unload a barbell.
  • Gradually increase the weight and/or number of repetitions.
  • Train with a spotter when lifting to muscle failure.

Guidelines for Running

  • Increase your running mileage by no more then 10% a week.
  • Cross training is important....try not to run more than 30 minutes, 3 days per week unless you are an experienced runner.
  • Follow PRT guidelines for "speed running" to improve APFT 2-mile run performance.
  • Replace your shoes when they become worn.

Minimalist Running Shoes

Minimalist Running Shoes (MRS) are lightweight, low to the ground flexible shoes with very little cushioning and support. Although the Army has no official stance on the use of MRS, many Soldiers use these shoes during training. If you are thinking about trying MRS, there are a few things you should know about running in these shoes.

  • Switching from traditional running shoes to MRS may mean you need to change your running form. You should land on the balls of your feet and not your heels when you run in MRS.
  • Any sudden change in shoes or running style can lead to sore muscles and joints, blisters, and injuries (such as stress fractures).
  • An increased risk of injury may be due to:
    • The lack of cushioning in MRS
    • Failing to transition from a rear-foot strike to a mid-foot strike (which may cause stress on the lower extremities)
  • Listen carefully to your body for injury warning signs during the transition phase to MRS.
  • Transition slowly and carefully to MRS and follow the steps below.
    • Prep
      • Run in MRS before you buy- choose the shoe that feels the best.
      • Be sure to break your shoes in before wearing them for PT.
      • Wear synthetic blend socks to avoid blisters.
      • Do dynamic warm-ups. Begin with 5-10 minutes of slow-paced running and include the following exercises: high knees, shuffles or cariocas, butt kicks, bounds, and high jumpers.
    • Run (Transition Program)
      • Run only 10 percent of your normal distance in MRS for your first 2-3 weeks.  For example: If you run 10 miles per week, run only 1 mile per week in MRS.
      • Maintain a relaxed, upright posture.
      • Take smaller strides with a faster pace.
      • Land softly on the ball of your foot then let the heel down gently.
    • Recover (Stretches after running)
      • Increase your distance 10 percent or less each week for at least 8 weeks.
      • It may take up to 6 months to get used to running in MRS.
      • Stretching will be very important during the first few weeks of the transition program to limit soreness.
      • Do each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat for each leg.
      • Avoid running 2 days in a row for the first 4 weeks.
      • Treat blisters with antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage.
      • If running is painful, stop wearing MRS or consider trying different shoes.
  • For more information visit:


Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs)

Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs) are workout programs that combine high-intensity exercises with short rest periods between sets. Programs like CrossFit®, P90X®, Insanity®, and PT Pyramid* are examples of ECPs. ECPs are becoming popular forms of exercise; however, you should know what's good and bad about these programs and what you can do to avoid getting injured.

The Good:

  • ECPs may help:
    • burn calories quickly
    • build muscle and decrease body fat
    • increase strength, power, and stamina
    • improve coordination, agility, and athleticism
  • ECPs offer nontraditional exercises during a workout (such as Olympic lifts, martial arts, ab/core training, and plyometrics).
  • ECPs combine cardio and resistance training in one workout.
  • Some ECPs require little equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

The Bad:

  • Injuries from any ECP may include:
    • muscle strains
    • torn ligaments
    • stress fractures
    • tendinitis
    • other serious or life threatening conditions
  • Some exercises or lifts are challenging and require training from a certified professional** to do safely.
  • Many ECPs offer little rest or recovery, which can cause early fatigue and increase your risk of injury.

How to Avoid Getting Injured

  • Talk to a healthcare provider BEFORE you start, especially:
    • if you have high blood pressure, previous heat injury, or mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI).
    • if you have an injury that could be affected by ECPs.
  • Work with a certified physical fitness trainer** or physical therapist.
  • Don't do too much too soon! Start slowly, especially if you're a beginner.
  • Stay hydrated and recognize these signs of overexertion:
    • muscle or joint pain
    • dizziness
    • fatigue
    • chest pain
    • difficulty breathing
  • Use caution if you take supplements and/or are exercising in extreme temperatures.

Overtraining can cause fatigue, sickness, a decrease in performance, and injury.

  • Avoid training the same muscle groups in consecutive workouts. Give yourself at least 48 hours before retraining that muscle group.
  • Consider avoiding back-to-back ECP training days or alternating between high & low intensity training days.

For more information on ECPs visit the Human Performance Resource Center, Physical Fitness External Link page.

*Use of trademark names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army but is intended only to assist in the identification of a specific product.

**Certified from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) 

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