A how-to on unit PT and injury prevention programs

Group physical training (PT) that incorporates an injury prevention program (IPP) can help improve your physical fitness and reduce your risk for injury. However, in order to see any benefit, your unit will have to do the program—and do it well. When it comes to IPPs, there isn’t one set of “right” exercises that will reduce your risk of injury. Still, the exercises in your program need to improve your neuromuscular control. For best results, it’s important to think quality of a movement (for example, a squat), over quantity.

IPPs help reduce injuries for Warfighters and civilians. In fact, the key to any successful IPP is you do it (adherence) and you do it well (competence). Generally, IPPs don’t work for those who either don’t comply with the program or don’t focus on the quality of their movements correctly. The same can be said for physical training: If you either don’t PT or don’t PT well with a solid program structure, you might not see the strength gains you’re hoping for.

Adherence: Just do it

It might seem obvious that if you don’t do an IPP, the program isn’t going to help reduce injury risk. But getting your unit to participate in group PT workouts or IPPs is often the hardest part of running them, which is why some Warfighters still might be at higher risk for injury. The first step to setting up an effective group PT or IPP is to figure out everything that supports unit participation and enables you to complete your group workouts (identify drivers to implementation). This includes command support, people who are motivated and knowledgable, free gym space, etc.

Next, you’ll want to pinpoint what’s keeping you from participating in a group PT or IPP (identify barriers to implementation), including scheduling conflicts, no space to work out, poor weather, lack of interest, etc. The good news is most barriers have a work-around, but it might take some time and creativity to figure out how to best leverage things to overcome those barriers.


Remember, quality over quantity is what helps reduce injury risk and sets the stage for your strength gains.


Competence: Do it well

Once you have your implementation strategy and a solid workout plan, make sure you’re doing the movements correctly. As you start, focus on form over the weight you lift or number of repetitions. Remember, quality over quantity is what helps reduce injury risk and sets the stage for your strength gains. If you’re into working out and fitness, you might already be well on your way to leading a properly executed workout plan. At first, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your team to ensure they’re correctly performing the exercises. Give them coaching cues to help correct mistakes in form and be sure to incorporate plenty of positive reinforcement too.

If you aren’t a fitness guru, there are several resources available to help. Soldiers and Marines can ask their unit leaders about a Master Fitness Trainer or Force Fitness Instructor who can help lead PT. These trainers are excellent resources, especially for those learning how to properly do exercises. For Sailors, Airmen, and Coasties, your local MWR-run gym facility might have personal trainers on staff who can help check your form. You also can visit the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) Fitness web page for other instructional tips and videos.

Meanwhile, you can learn more about foundational movements and watch videos on how to perform your workout correctly on HPRC’s YouTube channel. Or use HPRC’s “Ask the Expert” feature to ask a question about exercise and injury prevention, and a staff member will return a research-based answer within a few days.

Resources

Donaldson, A., Lloyd, D. G., Gabbe, B. J., Cook, J., & Finch, C. F. (2017). We have the programme, what next? Planning the implementation of an injury prevention programme. Injury Prevention, 23(4), 273–280. doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2015-041737

Finch, C. (2006). A new framework for research leading to sports injury prevention. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 9(1–2), 3–9. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2006.02.009

Finch, C. F., & Donaldson, A. (2009). A sports setting matrix for understanding the implementation context for community sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(13), 973–978. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.056069

Steffen, K., Emery, C. A., Romiti, M., Kang, J., Bizzini, M., Dvorak, J., . . . Meeuwisse, W. H. (2013). High adherence to a neuromuscular injury prevention programme (FIFA 11+) improves functional balance and reduces injury risk in Canadian youth female football players: A cluster randomised trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(12), 794–802. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091886