Back in April we published our first article on injury prevention and some often overlooked areas that dictate one staying healthy, entitled The Real Causes of Injury. Today, we’re going to add onto that article, better explain certain areas and provide some more tips on how you can keep your body in tip top shape while also eliciting amazing results from it.
As we’ve said time and time again, pushing your body and making it do things it hasn’t done the first twenty something years is no walk in the park. There is no doubt we do advanced movements and we encourage each member to push themselves, always with safety in mind and paying attention to the developmental curve.
However, you can be the most careful member in the gym and still, nicks, dings, tweaks, pulls and strains can pop up for a variety of reasons to which you might not be paying attention. While injuries are most often predictable, sometimes they are not, so it’s important you do all that you can to line yourself up for long term healthy and consistency.
Here are four more ways you can better own your health.
#1: Do Less
It’s a phrase from Paul Rudd’s amazing character, Kunu, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall that we’ll sometimes use around the gym to joke about having too broad of a focus in a given workout.
A frequent theme in our writing in coaching is the progress to be made in the land of submaximal, that area where you’re pushing yourself but not depleting, meaning you don’t have to be maxing on lifts every single session to get stronger, moving at Mach 9 to burn fat nor burning it at both ends 5 days a week in order to get impressive results. In fact, that third gear, somewhere between running through a brick wall and going through the motions is where the most progress is made as it allows your body to develop properly, become stronger, recover well and stay charged up for many cycles to come.
“Push the pace” does not mean “go as hard as you possibly can”. Treating every workout as if it is a race to the finish line is going to burn some fat at the onset of things, but ultimately will leave you chronically under recovered, weaker and lined up for injury. Moving unbroken at 100 mph training every day with maximum intensity aligns you with the very high chance of developing an injury due to constant overloaded combined with no window for recovery.
You know we love our NASCAR analogies (which is weird, because NASCAR sucks). Think if those sumbitches never pit stopped during a race. They just floored it, kept the RPM in the red and stayed in fifth gear thinking they could win without stopping, getting checked up, fined tuned, looked at, refueled and the dings fixed. They’d end up into the wall and the race cut short, a perfect metaphor for your training quest.
To shed some perspective onto things, our staff takes plenty of rest over the course of the week. On average, we’re training anywhere from two to four days a week depending on our own biofeedback of how we’re feeling after certain lifts. Some weeks it might be five days a week, others three, sometimes two but listening to the body always reigns supreme.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t train if you are sore or tight (as we’ll get into below), but it’s about learning to pay attention to the signals your body is providing you. Which are red flags and which you can push through.
There is no magic formula. Let common sense rule the day and don’t be afraid of dropping down a gear and taking a frequent day off. Rest is when our muscles grow, our strength increases and our body changes.
If you’re feeling great then let it rip that day and push hard. If you feel like a big bag of ass, listen to it, and scale it back a bit. When bag o’ assness is how you feel and you try to go fifth gear, that’s when you get hurt.
Don’t feel like every day needs to be a PR. The workouts are not a race. Always respect the land of submaximal.
#2: Pay Attention to Extreme Tightness
Uncomfortable muscular tightness and joint stiffness are your body’s signals to you that those areas are sore and should be left to recover. The key is learning what is normal soreness and what is cautionary soreness, and only you can ultimately discern which is which.
If your shoulders are abnormally tight, you should most likely notice this during your warm-up and plan on dialing back the weight on anything overhead. Little things like this can go a long way. It’s not about bravado and forging through it, it’s about being smart and keeping yourself in the game for the long haul.
A good way to alleviate basic tightness and knots in the primary movers produced by weight lifting is to use the foam roller and roll out the tight areas. Foam rollers act like a human dough roller, taking knots in our muscles and flattening them back out to normal. When you have knots in your body, it creates shorter range of motion and pulls on surrounding musculature, one of the most common ways muscular strains and pulls occur.
This simple foam rolling series before training can do wonders to injury prevention.
#3: Build Up to the Heavy Stuff
Typically in class, we recommend you first build your foundation for three months before any concentrated strength programming is undertaken. It can often be difficult to set aside ego and personal ambition to catch up to those around you, but trying to leap frog this timeline can be very problematic.
Let us explain…
Let the proper training timeline run it’s course and you’ll be hugely rewarded in the long haul. Develop your overall work capacity and level of fitness, as well as your stabilizers before jumping right into the heavy stuff.
#4: Take Ownership of Your Mobility
Immobile joints are the culprit for many an injury, predominantly in the shoulders, knees, ankles and hips. You absolutely must take ownership over your own mobility in your spare time. Ten minutes three times a week can do wonders for mobilizing the joints and making your lifts safer, and with better range of motion.
Here are some of our favorites from around the industry.
YouTube is a wonderful place. If you are chronically immobile in some areas, spend an hour one afternoon researching it and finding exercises from qualified individuals. There are a ton of free resources out there that can help you.
Additionally, if you are among the crowd that really takes their mobility and recovery seriously then work with a professional a few times per month. Active release massages and professional mobility work are highly encourage to those with the discretionary income who really want to maximize their results.
You’ll notice that we didn’t address form or technique in this entry. Quite simply, we don’t believe it’s one of the bigger factors in preventing injury as mentioned in the previous article we wrote on the matter. Do you want to strive for perfect technique? Absolutely. You always want to perform the movement correctly. But correct technique is more about achieving the completion of a rep than it is about keeping you healthy. Form enables you, but does not prevent anything. Form is often the incorrect, convenient scapegoat of injuries, but the reality is range of motion, mobility, tightness and pushing on already pushed musculature are the real enemies of health.
All in all, staying 100% injury free over the course of any challenging training program can be a challenging task. It takes work. Minor dings and dents are bound to crop up along the way, and those are not something that should necessarily freak you out. The key is to avoid the injuries that sideline you.
As an overall theme, always challenge yourself on the weight but always make sure to dial it back a few days per week, listen to what your body is telling you during warm-ups and practice your mobility work. This is a great start on the road of uninterrupted results.