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Sports Injury Prevention Using the 10 Percent Rule

Use this guideline to improve performance without risking injury

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Updated January 24, 2008

Whether you are just beginning a new exercise program or training for your 20th marathon it is essential to progress at the right pace to meet your goals and avoid injuries. The 10 Percent Rule is an easy way to gauge your training increases to get the most from your workouts while reducing your risk of injury.

If you are new to exercise, the first thing to do is to get your doctor's clearance before starting. This is especially important if you have any health issues, haven't been active recently or aren't sure of your health status.

Once you know you can safely exercise the main thing to remember is that you need to progress slowly. The 10 Percent Rule is a guideline many fitness experts use to help both expert and beginners avoid injury, yet still see continual improvement in performance.

How to Use the 10 Percent Rule
Increasing the intensity, time or type of activity too quickly is one common reason for sport injury. To prevent this, many fitness experts recommend that both novice and expert athletes follow the ten percent rule, which sets a limit on increases in weekly training. This guideline simply states that you should increase your activity no more than 10 percent per week. That includes distance, intensity, weight lifted and time of exercise.

For example, if you are running 20 miles per week and want to increase, adding 2 miles the next week follows the 10 Percent Rule. If you are lifting 50 pounds and want to increase, add 5 pounds the next week to follow the 10 Percent Rule.

If you are a beginning exerciser, 10 percent may be too much, and a 5 percent increase per week may be much more comfortable; for others, 10 percent may be too little. If you aren't sure of your ability or if you experience any aches or pains, simply modify your increases accordingly.

The 10 Percent Rule Controversy
This guideline isn't without critics, however. The benefit of following the guideline has recently come under attack from researchers in Netherlands who questioned whether this guideline reduced injury risk in novice runners. They reported that a graded 13-week training program that adhered to the 10 Percent Rule did not reduce the number of running-related injuries in beginning runners when compared with a standard 8-week training program that increased training volume by 50 percent.

Whether or not that research is the final say is still to be determined. In the meantime, the 10 Percent Rule is a simple way to gauge your training, but it also helps you remain consistent with your exercise program. In order to effectively improve your ability, the ten percent rule requires that you continue your workouts from week to week. It can be a great motivator for someone just starting to get active as well as for those who are preparing for a specific event.

Keep in mind that whether you follow this guideline or not, listening to your body and knowing the sports injury warning signs is still the best way to avoid injuries. Don't ignore aches or pains you may be a risk for a more serious injury. If you feel you are doing more than you can safely do, slow down, modify your activity or rest to accommodate your body’s needs.

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