To help perform some exercises better, it's not a bad idea to do some other accessory workouts to help strengthen some of the attending muscles and tendons. For example: Before you step up to the rack and start cranking out back squats, it can help to to do step-squats with a band to fire your hip extensor muscles and improve lower-body stability. Dynamic stretching is another way to help get your muscles ready for more intense exercise so you can perform them better.

But a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has shown that targeted exercises—that is, specific moves to prime certain types of movement—can also prevent injuries.

From 2013 to 2016, researchers involved 40 British schools and taught a new pre-game training workout to almost 2,500 school-age rugby players. To get players ready for the rigors of the pitch, the 20-minute program focused on balance, strength, and agility. It included:

  • Two minutes of running, which included change of direction;
  • Four minutes of lower-leg balance training;
  • Eight minutes of targeted resistance exercises; and
  • Six minutes of jumping, side-stepping, and landing exercises.

The results? Over the study period, overall injuries fell by 72% when players did the program at least three times a week, and concussions fell by 59%. “Our results are exciting because they show that carrying out a simple set of exercises on a regular basis can substantially reduce injuries in youth rugby,” said study co-author Keith Stokes, Ph.D., a professor in the department of health at the University of Bath. “We believe these findings will have a significant impact in helping to improve player welfare, making the game safer for young players to enjoy.”

To prevent injury in whatever your sport is (or in the gym), look for light-impact warm-up exercises that mimic what you would be doing while playing, or perform these general warm-up moves to lessen the chance of getting hurt: shoulder circles, trunk twists, hip circles, lunges, and half squats.