Whether you have made your return to the gym or are planning your imminent return, let’s shed some light on gym injury prevention.
Due to self-isolation, many of us have spent nearly three months off from our regular training routines. Subsequently, many of us can also attest we have some catching up to do. Fear not, thanks to muscle memory, it won’t take long to redeem one’s previous fitness levels. In the same breath, we need to tread cautiously as our muscles have lost many of our previous training adaptations.
In the world of fitness, the two most dangerous circumstances for an athlete is getting sick or getting injured. Due to extended time off from the gym, there is a need for greater emphasis on supportive eating and training strategies. Working towards our goals intelligently ensures that we don’t hurt ourselves while we relinquish our strength.
Here are seven considerations you may want to factor in upon your return to the gym:
1. Proper Warm-Up
Let me preface this section by saying there isn’ta standardized warm-up strategy for strength training. Joint mobilizations, PNF, fascial stretching, and the like all have their place depending on how you look at it and whom you speak with.
As a general rule of thumb, if you have pronounced imbalances, you will need an individualized warm-up strategy. Having a tailored warm-up is especially important if you intend to move significant weight.
Seek out a physical therapists or physiotherapist who specializes in movement dysfunction to personalize your warm-up strategy.
For those of us who do not have nagging concerns and are looking to prime the nervous system, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, here is a simple strategy:
a) First perform the Dynamic Warm-Up from Kilo Strength. This simple warm-up is appropriate before an upper or lower day. It gets the blood flowing and allows you to check-in with your muscles to determine your readiness.
Find it here:
b) Warm-up your primary (compound) lifts by performing the following:
- Five reps with an unloaded bar
- Increase load to 50% of your working weight for four reps
- Add 25% more weight for three reps,
- Continue adding in divided increments for single reps until you get to your working weight.
The heavier the weight, the longer the warm-up.
If weight is exceptionally high, or extremely low, use necessary modifications to this warm-up routine.
Here is an example: Bench Press Working Weight 100kg.
Warm-Up Set #1: 20 kg x 5 (just the bar)
Warm-Up Set #2: 50 kg x 4
Warm-Up Set #3: 75 kg x 3
Warm-Up Set #4: 85 kg x1
Warm-Up Set #5: 100 kg x1
Progress to working sets…
2. Use a Periodized Program
All strength training plans are best in a periodized format. Whether it is more volume or more intensity, continued progressand adaptations only occur with the appropriate stimulus.
On top of the obvious benefits of continued gains, having a periodized program allows for progressive adaptations over time, which reduces the gym injury risk as load increases.
Heading to the gym and lifting in an unstructured way or going, “All in”, every single day is only setting you up for burnout or injury.
3. Schedule Time Off
The more you train, the better the results, right? Yes, that is true up to a certain point. Training is best in contrast with supportive recovery measures.
While a healthy sleep hygiene routine is critical for creating the daily standard for rest and recovery, one should also schedule weeks off throughout the year for complete recovery between longer training phases.
Accumulated fatigue will carry through week to week. Excess fatigue can increase injury risk due to its wide ranging effects.
As a general rule of thumb, a week off every 12-weeks is the standard for those on a periodized program.
4. Get Structurally Balanced
How many times have you heard about shoulder injuries during bench press? The issue here is commonly two-fold, poor technique and joint angles during the lift, and a weak long head of the biceps.
Performing simple incline dumbbell bicep training can offset some seriously devastating shoulders injuries. Also, one should learn how to do a proper bench press to seal the deal.
Other common injuries include impingements, rotator cuff tears, sprains, and wrist maladies, to name a few. We can seek to avoid such injuries with sound programming, lifting technique, and structural balance.
In brief, don’t neglect your remedial exercises as a lack of strength in smaller muscle groups could lead the way to significant injuries.
5. Lift With Tempo
Want higher injury risk? Lift ballistically. It is a known fact that injury occurrence is much higher in cross-fit and weightlifting compared to weight training. One contributing factor for higher reported injuries in these modalities is the larger volume of uncontrolled eccentric movements creating faster wear and tear at the joints.
How can we avoid this? We control the lowering portion of the lift. The added benefit to slowing the eccentric phase is we get more pronounced microtears, which results in more significant strength increases which essentially results in a win-win scenario.
6. Listen to the Body
Go hard or go home doesn’t work in all circumstances. Sometimes, if you are just not feeling it or are a little more tired than usual, don’t train. Take an extra day off.
The chances of injury are much higher during sessions where you feel like you are only half present.
Showing up fresh and ready will lead the way to a more productive workout and better progress in the long term.
7. Eat for Recovery
The premise here is simple. Eat the foods which optimize recovery and cut the ones which make you feel like crap. You likely know precisely which foods these are.
Foods that make you feel sluggish, uncomfortable, or give you G.I. symptoms are also stressing out your physiology. In brief, poor food choices are directly related to your training recovery, especially if these foods also affect sleep patterns.
Here are some tried and training supportive foods:
- Lean proteins
- Dark green vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Squashes and sweet potatoes
- Oatmeal and rice
- Supplements: multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin d, magnesium
Now go forth and exercise smart to avoid injury!
Naomi Sachs, B.Sc., A.C.H.N., PFT
Fully-certified since 2015, Naomi has been successfully coaching clients throughout North America and facilitating their self-growth in the nutrition and fitness realm. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the myriad of health strategies available, her services aim to introduce clarity and self-motivation.