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Common Injuries in Group Fitness Classes

By Jamie Burgess  & James Rees

How many times has a participant asked for your advice about an injury they have sustained? As fitness professionals, it is vital we can differentiate a technique or lack of program fitness issue from a serious injury that needs review by a doctor, physiotherapist or podiatrist.

Each class differs slightly in the sorts of injuries members may complain about, so let’s get program specific:

When asked about BODYPUMP®, head program coach Karen Russell reports the most common injuries are lower back, knee and shoulder pain. Lower back pain is often due to inadequate core strength around the lumbar spine to cope with large weights used, which can be exacerbated by technique faults. Knee pain is commonly attributed to insufficient glute activation and control, which affects lower limb biomechanics and results in poor knee tracking. Shoulder pain can result from a lack of shoulder setting and weak rotator cuff musculature, leading to impingement and repetitive aggravation of structures in the shoulder.

In BODYATTACK®, BODYSTEP®, SH’BAM® and BODYJAM®, shin, foot and heel pain are common ailments. Weak hip stabilisers (glute med) are often the culprit as they affect lower limb biomechanics, resulting in poor knee/ankle alignment. Incorrect technique (i.e. not grounding the heels in BODYATTACK®) and unsuitable footwear can also contribute.

Hip and back pain can also occur in these programs. Often, this is caused by inadequate flexibility through the hamstrings, quadriceps and ITB’s, combined with poor core strength to cope with the high agility and plyometric movements.

In RPM™, trainer and presenter Dallas Blacklaw believes knee pain due to tight ITB’s is the most regular occurrence. Frequent stretching, correct bike set up, and the use of cleats if available can help to prevent knee problems.

Time to get hard-core

It’s vital here to address one of the main underlying causes of injuries, a weak core. Ideally, incorporating a program like CXWORX® as part of a participants’ (and your own) training regime can be extremely beneficial.

Commonly, people mistake core stability as something that can be developed just by training abdominals and shown by the presence of a six-pack. Unfortunately the abdominal region is only one link in the muscular network that provides much needed stability to the spine. CXWORX® will target your abdominals, but will also work your glutes, back, obliques and ‘muscular slings’. CXWORX® has a large focus on optimal technique and control of movement. Throughout the class, specific exercises and positions are used to engage the core and maximize recruitment of the correct musculature, whilst minimizing compensation from larger, global muscles. This will ensure all components of the complex muscular support system are being strengthened, and not just the abdominals.

Better to be safe than sorry

Our advice would be that if a participant complains of an ongoing injury that is not settling down, or an acute/severe injury that is affecting quality of life and daily tasks, then you should recommend review by a doctor, physiotherapist or podiatrist. For example, it is important for a member to seek professional advice if they are complaining of ongoing shin/ foot pain due to the high risk of stress fractures – continuation of impact exercise in such situations can be detrimental longer term.

If it is pain that a member is only getting during a particular move/class and appears minor, then attempt to correct any technique faults or poor equipment use first to see if you can overcome their issues. This may also be an appropriate time to encourage more regular stretching.

We all want to deliver amazing classes and maximize participant numbers, however it is important to recognize what may be out of your expertise as a group fitness instructor, and to keep your members safe in their training for longevity and optimal results.

ABOUT JAMIE & JAMES  

Jamie and James are both physiotherapists at Allsports Jindalee In QLD. Jamie is also a BODYPUMP® and RPM™ instructor.