Injuries are not “part of life in the gym”

Contrary to popular belief, injuries while lifting don’t “come with the territory”. I’ve been sore for days, exhausted, and felt like I needed to crawl out of the gym a few times, but I’ve never suffered an injury while training. I wish I could say the same for playing basketball!

Even though I can name more uninjured gym goers, it seems like everyone has a horror story to tell. Everyone knows a guy that heard about another guy that tore his rotator cuff, hurt his back, or pulled a hamstring in the middle of a workout.

As a result, certain exercises and resistance training altogether get a bad reputation.

A few years ago I remember reading a magazine article warning people of the dangers of the gym and personal trainers. In this story, a man went for his weekly personal training appointment only to be told his trainer was away on vacation. He scheduled an appointment with another trainer, who ignored anything the man had to say and told him he was going to put him through a heavy chest workout. The client explained to the trainer that he wasn’t used to training like this, but the trainer ignored him and proceeded with his planned workout.

Sadly, the client in this story tore his pectoral muscle because an idiot pushed him to do something his body was not prepared for.

I don’t know how much of this story is true, but situations like this happen more often than they should.

Trainers don’t listen, clients don’t speak up enough, and everyone loses in the end.

You can easily injure yourself in the gym, but you could just as easily trip and sprain an ankle walking down the street. Fortunately, you can steer clear of this altogether by simply paying attention to what you’re doing.

No training = no progress.

Injuries are not part of “life in the gym”. It’s not a badge of honor or anything silly like that. If you’re unable to lift, that means no progress until you’ve recovered. If that isn’t enough, you’ll lose strength and hard earned muscle too. I don’t know about you, but I want no part of that.

Here are 5 rules to follow to bring better results and fewer injuries.

1. Listen to your body

When your body speaks, it is best that you listen! The feedback you get from your muscles and joints while you’re exercising is valuable for adjusting your training program. If you’ve been around a while like me, you no doubt have some nagging aches and pains you deal with on a daily basis. Do they go away as you warm up for your training session, or do they get worse as you continue to exercise? This kind of info is also helpful for knowing when to push yourself and when to pull back. This also helps the injury prevention process.

2. Warm Up!

A good warm up is an absolute must for injury prevention and putting forth your best effort in the gym.

Your warm up serves several purposes:

  •                Prepare your body for the upcoming work
  •                Refine exercise technique and get “kinks’ out of the system
  •                Get a feel for what kind of shape you’re in that day, both physically and mentally

This is the simplest and easiest way to reduce your risk of injury in the gym. Take a few minutes before jumping into the meat of your session to prep your body.

This isn’t simply waving a few plates around randomly or swinging your legs about for a few seconds. Get specific! Make sure your warm up targets the muscles and primary movements for the day. An exercise or two that address and “wake up” any problem areas and a few warm up sets gradually increasing the weight to get the blood pumping and ease your body into an intense training session will do wonders to keep you in good condition and able to train hard.

3. Train with a purpose

To quote Mr. Dwayne Johnson, FOCUS!!

When you’re lifting, the only thing that matters is what you’re doing “right now”. Hold the conversations, quit looking around, and concentrate on every rep of every set.

4. If you’ve been inactive, injured, or away for a while, don’t pick up where you left off

Whether it’s due to an injury or other reasons, losing progress is an unavoidable part of taking a break from training. Instead of trying to pick up where you left off when you last trained, reduce the amount of weight and number of sets and reps to a level that’s appropriate for your current fitness level. It will take some time to get back to where you were, but with patience and consistent training you’ll be back and better prepared.

And there you have it. A short list of simple steps you can take to prevent injuries and improve the effectiveness of your training sessions. Take care of yourself in and out of the gym and you’ll be training hard and injury free for years to come!

5. If it hurts, STOP!

This is pretty much the same as listening to your body, but it is important enough that it is worth saying again.

“Feeling the “burn” is a good thing. Heavy arms and legs after a workout are fine too. When people repeat the phrase “no pain, no gain”, this is what they’re referring to. While it isn’t exactly pleasant, this isn’t pain.

Unless you’re in rehab, pain while lifting is bad.

Pain is a signal to let you know something isn’t right. Could be something major or just a bad setup on an exercise, but pushing through it isn’t a good idea either.

I use a simple rule with all my clients: if an exercise hurts, stop immediately.

Sometimes it is form that needs to be adjusted, sometimes it’s an old injury that flares up. Either way, by listening to the body saying STOP, you’ll hopefully prevent the issue from getting worse.

Lifting isn’t a toughness competition. There are no gold medals, endorsement deals, and no world records on the line.

If an exercise or movement hurts, stop. Check your form, use less resistance, choose a different version that doesn’t hurt, or skip it completely. A few extra reps aren’t worth an injury that might set you back weeks or months.