I want to start off by saying that this article is targeted towards people that want something out of their training. Whether that is increased strength, improved aesthetics, improved energy, improved mental health etc. If you are someone that simply exercises for the sake of doing so this message may not resonate with you.
Most people are working out to achieve a desired outcome. Some of the most common include; increased energy, better mental health, a sexier bod, a stronger more resilient body, etc. In my time coaching I have found that many people have been fed a lie that showing up and doing something is the only thing necessary to improve. At first this message is true. Beginners can walk into the gym and get better doing pretty much anything. However, after the first three months to a year this begins to change. This crucial transition is where many beginners fail to leave the mediocre intermediate state of training. Many of these gym goers arrive eager to reach their goals with the belief that doing the same thing over and over is going to get them results. While doing similar exercises and movements is a great idea for progress; lifting the same weights, walking at the same speed on the treadmill, and not pushing the envelope are not ways to get there.
What most people fail to realize about training is that change is created through doing enough work. For example when a new PR is successfully lifted the body didn't magically get stronger in that moment and rise to the occasion. Instead that PR was created from doing weeks and months of hard work leading up the event. The body naturally adapts when presented with the right amount of work. Why does this matter? For those with goals, the only way to reach these goals is to create change. Want to lift heavier? The body must get stronger. Want to run faster or longer? The body must develop better cardiovascular systems. Want more energy? The body must grow new mitochondria or make its current mitochondria more efficient. Want to look better? The body will need a few more pounds of lean muscle. I could go on but, I think you get the point. In order for the body to change it has to be presented with a REASON to change.
This is where improvement enters the picture. In order to change the body has to improve in some way. My point in writing this is to open your mind up to the possibilities of what training the right way can do. It's a natural experience to improve at something if it is performed consistently and at the right intensity. Too many people are stuck in the belief that if they; run faster, lift heavier, push harder that they will end up hurt and washed up. This simply isn't the truth. If you make the time to train and do the right amount of work your body should naturally get stronger. Don't be afraid to push the envelope. If you don't you won't get any closer to your goals.
- Patriel Dunford, Owner
Lifting weights has often been misunderstood as a high risk activity. Meaning certain movements and exercises are bound to cause injury eventually. While there is a chance that lifting weights can cause injury not lifting weights is much more likely to lead to a detrimental end. For those that doo decide to brave the storm and enter the gym this article is designed to educate you on how to decrease your chances of getting injured both inside the gym and out.
Lifting weights can be a useful tool in creating a strong and resilient body. After all lifting weights is simply a way to place stress on your body in a controlled manner. Over time, the body adapts to this stress which creates a body is stronger and more resistant to disease and injury. I think it's important to zero in on the fact that lifting weights is a controlled stressor. This means that progression should be done intelligently to prevent as many problems as possible. I want to provide three simple tips to help you progress safely and confidently in the gym.
1) Listen To Your Body
One of the best ways to reduce injury risk in the gym is to simply understand that you aren't going to be at 100% every day. If I think back on all the times I have felt pain in the gym it usually started by ignoring the way my body was feeling. When training, it is normal to have days where the weight on the bar is lighter than normal. It's tough to accept, but being at your strongest every day is not realistic. Instead, it is better to ride the wave and understand that while everything might feel heavy today, if you listen to your body everything might feel better next week. A great way to tune into your body is to pay attention to how your warm up sets feel. If everything is feeling heavy and labored it may be best to save your high weight attempts for another day. The more that you listen and ride the wave with your training the easier it becomes to accept bad days.
2) Train In Multiple Planes
The tough part about popular exercises is that they all mostly happen in a singular plane of motion. Think about the three staples of strength training; the squat, bench, and deadlift. All three of these movements involve moving the bar up and down in one plane of motion. If steps are not taken to also strengthen other planes of motion it can cause problems in day- to- day life as well as training. At any given time there are forces acting on the body in all planes of motion. In order to reduce injury risk we must train these plans of motion as well. Doing this can be as simple as adding rotational and lateral movements into a program. Some examples include; split stance contralateral reach deadlifts, lateral lunges, landmine rotations, etc. Simply performing movements like these on a regular basis can go a long way to increasing training longevity.
3) Don't Be Afraid Of Form Breakdown
This is probably the most controversial of the three tips that I will give. Many people view form breakdown as a bad thing. If form breaks down it can mean injury, right? This sentiment is actually pretty misplaced. Think about what I said in point two; training in multiple planes can increase the bodies resilience. The same concept holds true when training in multiple positions. If the spine is only trained in a neutral position it will not be as strong as a spine that is trained in a flexed and extended position. Now, I will interject with the fact that there is nuance to this advice. The goal is not to look like a high schooler doing deadlifts. The goal is to push the limits of your strength bit- by- bit to create a stronger body. Pushing the numbers on the bar will most likely lead to minor form breakdowns. This is okay and is a normal part of the strength training process. The more that you push the envelope and the stronger you get the more tolerance your body will have to stress and injury.
It is impossible to completely eliminate injury in the gym. It may happen from time- to- time. But, understand that the alternative of avoiding the gym altogether is much more likely to produce long term ailment and injury. Instead, using the tips above, it is best to progressively challenge your body. Remember you are strong, capable, and resilient.
- Patriel Dunford, Owner