People who stay injury free when training don’t get injured just by luck. They make a conscious effort to make the right decisions so that they don’t get injured.
In this article, I’m going to give you a few points which will help you make the right decisions for injury prevention.
- Movement Prep & Warm Up
There’s a reason that before a football or rugby match, the players are out on the field, working through some exercises and doing a bit of movement. It’s not to keep the fans entertained. It’s to get their bodies ready for their performance. The same thing applies when you walk into the gym.
Too many times I have seen people walk into the gym and just start lifting. They have taken their body from a state of rest, straight into some form of higher intensity activity, whether that is lifting or some form of conditioning. That is a massive shock to your body, and as such, it won’t be prepared to deal with the extra stress placed on it. This is where you are likely to injure yourself.
When you come into the gym, focus on preparing your body for the activity ahead, just like the footballers and rugby players mentioned before. I’m not saying spend an hour doing every warm up exercise under the sun. If you are, that’s way too long. Spend around 5 minute’s foam rolling and stretching. Then add in some exercises to help activate your weaknesses, such as your glutes and core for 5 minutes. Finally, start doing movements that are specific to the exercise you are going to do. For example, if you were squatting, this would just be your warm up sets before your actual working sets.
Nothing fancy there, just 10-15 minutes before your workout to make sure you keep training injury free.
- Don’t Copy Someone Else
I’ve mentioned this before in other articles, videos and posts I’ve written, just because you’ve downloaded Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 4 week programme to bigger arms doesn’t mean your arms will triple in size. Just because you downloaded Eddie Halls 12 week programme to deadlift 500kg, doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to deadlift 500kg.
The comments I get in response to that are, ‘but it must work, have you seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arms and how much Eddie Hall can lift.’ Yes I have. However, both Arnold and Eddie have a massive amount of training experience. Those programmes were designed for them, the exercises were designed for them, and the amount of volume in the programme was designed for them. They were not designed for Joe Bloggs who works in an office and has decided that before his holiday he wants to start going to the gym.
This is where I am big believer in assessments and getting to know the person before giving out programmes. Everyone is different, and as such, have different needs. For example, if you had a history of a slipped disc in your lower back, would it be the wisest move following a deadlift programme designed for Eddie Hall? No, I wouldn’t have thought so either. Following generic programmes will just lead you down a slippery slope to injury.
- Progress Doesn’t Always Mean More Weight
Adding more weight to the bar doesn’t always mean you’ve made progress with your training. Yes, everyone loves hitting PBs. However, as most people who train with me will tell you, maxing out every week is a recipe for disaster. That puts a massive amount of stress on your body and at some point; something will have to give (usually someone’s back!).
There are a tonne of other ways you can use to measure progress with your training. Examples could be hitting a certain weight for more reps, seeing improvement in your mobility, knocking some time off your conditioning. Start thinking outside of the box a little and looking at what else is going well. There’s always time to stick more weight on the bar, but all the little victories before that will make it even better.
- Movement Matters
There are a core group of fundamental movements everyone should be able to do. These are squat, hip hinge, lunge, push and press. These are movements we all use at some point during our day. If these movements start to become a struggle, or are lost, some other part of your body has to take over that workload. That’s not good.
Similar to the first point I made about focusing on your movement prep and warm up, you should also focus on making sure you include all of these movements within your workouts. This is important for long term orthopaedic health. Our bodies are not designed to have limited movement. We are designed to move freely and pain free. I mean, I know I still want to be able to put my socks on and get up off the sofa without everything creaking and cracking. So remember, focus on movement.
- Form Overrides Everything
It’s no secret I’m a stickler for good form, and with good reason. Training with good form means you’ll be using the muscles I want you to use, and perform the correct movement I want you to perform. More importantly, training with good form reduces the risk of injury, which is a common theme running through this article.
When you lose form in exercises, predominantly in your main compound lifts; it usually means you’ve lost tension in the main, bigger muscles that you are supposed to be working. This results in your smaller muscles, or joints, having to take up the workload. As this isn’t their main function, they get over worked and can’t cope with the workload. That’s how something gets pulled or popped.
Think back to one of the previous points I mentioned, weight on the bar doesn’t always mean progress. If you have to sacrifice weight on the bar for good form, I would strongly advise you go down that route.
- Use Your Off Days Wisely
This is a topic that I have spoken a lot about recently as I feel it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. With that in mind, rather than writing what I put in a video, here’s Strength Chat Episode 14 where I chat about recovery;
Hopefully, after finishing reading this article, I’ve given you some food for thought to be a little more conscious and active in reducing your risk of injury. There’s no point training or competing if you’re always having time off due to injuries that could’ve been prevented without doing anything overly complicated.
Thanks for reading,