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