While everyone is busy lifting weights, essentially no one is taking the time to estimate how an injury can affect their progress. In fact, the most common setback you can experience is an active injury. Therefore, for today, it would make sense to steer away from the “how to make more progress” tips, and focus more on “how to avoid getting injured” in order to keep the progress coming.
And while no one can entirely avoid injuries forever, everyone can take the necessary precautions to minimize the chance of injury, don’t you think?
So without further delay, let’s jump into the 8 most common culprits that are going to get you injured…unless you pay attention!
1. Inadequate Warm-Up
…or non-existent warm-up…
Eager to hit the weights, bust through plateaus and improve your performance, you perform a 2 minute warm-up (or skip it entirely), and jump straight to the weights. Sounds familiar? If it does, then your entire training session is just an injury waiting to happen.
Everyone knows that a warm muscle with blood coursing through it, is more elastic and pliable than a cold, stiff muscle.
The best way to make that happen is a proper and thorough warm-up that takes about 10-20 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room. Start with a 5-10 minute jogging, riding, swimming or brisk walking followed by a dynamic stretching mobility drill. Use some stretch bands to warm-up your shoulders, hips and knees. Perform high-reps, low intensity, quick-paced exercises such the shoulder-breaker, the overhead squat and the face-pull to complete the next 5 minutes of your generic warm-up.
After that, your warm-up is complete but you’re still not ready to jump into your working sets just yet. Perform 2-3 warm-up sets with progressively higher weight until you reach 60-80% of the weight you would normally use for your first set. Now…you’re ready.
2. Neglecting To Cool-Down
Underestimating the importance of the cooldown is indirectly responsible for a lot of injuries. Your muscles are completely warm, they’re engorged with blood and nutrients, and most importantly, they’re prime targets for static stretching. Most people perform static stretching before their workouts but that couldn’t be any more wrong. Static stretching before a workout can lead to a considerably loss of muscle strength and it can even cause a serious injury, since the muscle is still cold and not yet ready to be lengthened to its limits.
On the contrary, AFTER a workout is the right time to static stretch. The value of static stretching is beyond words but all you have to remember for now is that it can help speed up recovery and restore your muscles to their natural length. You see, training your muscles under resistance contracts and shortens them. To bring balance back to the table, or your body in this case, you need to perform some form of static stretching, preferably as soon as your workout routine is over.
3. Muscle Imbalances
Muscle imbalances…one can go on forever about them. But for now, let’s categorize them into two types. The first type is left to right imbalances. You can easily spot those by filming a video of yourself during a heavy set. If you’re favoring one side of the barbell, you either have a left to right imbalance or you’re just not paying attention.
The second and most serious type of muscle imbalance is the one that causes more serious conditions such as kyphosis, lordosis, Anterior Pelvic Tilt and rounding of the shoulders. This is an entirely different article but to keep things simple, those imbalances are always caused by a set of prevalent, strong muscles (that need to be stretched out) and a set of weak, deactivated muscles (that need to be strengthened). Identify which is which, either by yourself or by consulting an expert, and then start working on your imbalances. More specifically, you need to start stretching and foam rolling your tight and overly strong muscle groups, preferably before your workouts but also throughout the day.
Take a look at the following link, and be sure to pick up any accessory products that might help you in your mobility and stretching routines. The EVA Foam Roller and the Peanut Massage Ball can be particularly useful when it comes to restoring muscles to their healthy length and preventing imbalances and injuries.
In fact, be sure to use the code "Wellness15* for 15% off any of the products on the Recovery & Wellness section!
4. Training Too Often
Listen to your body. If you’re feeling too tired or you’re simply not in the mood to hit the weights, take the day off. Most of the time, an extra rest day here and there will do more good than harm.
Another point here is DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. If your muscles are sore 2, 3 or even 4 or 5 days after your workout and you’re starting to wonder whether it’s simple soreness or something more serious, don’t risk it. In fact, even if it is just DOMS, you should know that DOMS is a type of injury. It’s your muscles and connective tissue surrounded by inflammation and swelling. It is generally not wise to train the same muscle group, until after all the soreness has passed. Besides…training a muscle while it’s still recovering from the previous workout, won’t get you any place productive.
5. Poor Nutrition & Dehydration
Believe it or not, malnutrition can really affect an athlete’s performance and chance for injury. Lack of vitamins and minerals can slowly but surely put a dent in one’s health, which consequently, can contribute to a serious injury in the gym. Plus, vegetables, beans and fruit contain all the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories you need, to fight off micro-tears and prevent injuries before they happen.
Hydration is also an extremely relevant factor when it comes to performance and injury prevention. Drinking a gallon of water 20 minutes before your workout, just won’t cut it. You’re already too late. The hydration process has to start about 5 hours prior to the workout and ideally you should stay 100% hydrated throughout the day. Subjects that were 100% hydrated, were found to be on average 27% stronger and 34% less likely to tear a muscle or tendon during intense training.
6. Too Much Weight
Being ambitious when it comes to breaking through plateaus and blasting through PRs is one thing but being reckless and hasty is another.
Using too much weight in any exercise is a high-risk proposition ripe with injury potential. What’s too much? If you can’t control the weight on its downward, loading trajectory; if you can’t contain a movement within its biomechanical boundaries; and if you have to jerk or heave a weight in order to lift it…then you’re lifting more than you can safely handle.
An out of control barbell or dumbbell assumes a mind of its own; the weight obeys the laws of gravity and seeks the floor. Anything in its way (or attached to it) is in immediate danger.
7. Improper Form
It might be towards the end of our list, but it’s by far the most common way to get you injured in the gym. Incorrect technique can pull, rip or wrench a muscle or tear delicate connective tissue quicker than you can strike a match. An out of control barbell or stray dumbbell, as mentioned before, can wreak havoc in an instant.
Each human body has very specific biomechanical pathways. Arms and legs can only move in certain ways, particularly if you’re stress-loading them with weight. Strive to become a technical perfectionist and respect the integrity of the exercise; no twisting, turning or contorting while pushing a weight. Either make the rep using perfect technique or miss the weight.
Learn how to miss a rep safely – learn how to bail out.
8. Your Mind Is Not Right
Get your mind right. It’s always been our motto and for good reason. You can’t possibly step into the weight room with stress or negative thoughts occupying your mind. For that matter, not just negative thoughts, but positive thoughts even. You need to let everything irrelevant go and focus exclusively on the weights.
If you’re distracted, preoccupied or lackadaisical when you work out, you’re inviting injury. Plain and simple. Watch a champion bodybuilder or professional athlete train and one thing you’ll notice is their intense level of concentration. This is developed over time and the athlete systematically develops a preset mental checklist that allows him or her to focus on the task at hand. More concentration equates to more poundage. More poundage equates to more growth.
So train smart and as always…Get Your Mind Right.