I'm psyched up for a workout and ready to smash some new PRs.
It's Monday, so heading straight for the bench press.
Already got the warm up in, with a long (30 second) hot walk from the car, so we'll go ahead and get started with a plate on each side. Nah, 2 plates...don't want to look weak.
Flop down and push out 5 reps. Last one was pretty tough, but my workout says more weight, so I gotta at least try.
Got the weight loaded up. Guess I should rest a bit before the next set. Boring just sitting here between sets though...Alright a minute is enough, I'm doing it!
Got the right song playing, turn the volume up a bit more, and here we go!
Rep one felt hard, but I can get more.
Rep two felt weird when I went down. Oh well probably nothing, I'll keep going.
Rep three I definitely felt pain, have not felt that in my shoulder before. I should probably stop. Just one more to make sure...
Rep four proved rep three wasn't just a fluke, that was pretty painful. My form went to crap too. Wish I'd stopped at three.
And now the next 2 months are spent rehabbing and modifying, or maybe just skipping workouts altogether.
If that sounds familiar don't feel bad. It's straight from my own experience, as some instance of that would happen to me every few months for the first year or two of my lifting career.
It set me back a lot, and even though I wanted to train consistently, I couldn't, because I would keep letting my ego get the best of me and force myself to do more weight, sets, or reps, which would invariably lead to some sort of workout related pain or injury.
And this isn't just common for beginners, it is quite frequent for intermediate and even experienced lifters as well.
As a personal trainer, I see this stuff all the time. Most of the people that come to me have improvements that need to be made in regards to injury prevention, even seasoned workout warriors. So here are some of the top reasons for injury and how to correct them, so you can keep from being like Ego-College-Lifter-Chris.
1. Skipping the Warm Up ❌🔥
This is a big one. I've even had people tell me they didn't want to do warm ups because it would reduce the amount of weight they could get on their maxes. That's actually incorrect (proper warm up will improve performance), and even if it were true, getting injured does a much better job of reducing the amount of weight one can lift than warming up does.
2. Inadequate or Improper Warm Up ⛔️🔥
A 30 second walk from your car to the bench press, the squat rack, or even the row machine will not adequately prepare you for that exercise. But, neither will a mile run, 5 minutes of walking, sitting in the sauna, or a yoga class you took an hour ago. All those things are fine, but at a bare minimum a warm up should include the following:
Self manual therapy (foam/lax ball rolling)
Dynamic stretching and mobility exercises
Light sets of the exercise you are about to perform
Hip abductions are great for activating the glutes
Most peoples warm up does not include any of those, and looks more like the aforementioned general activity warm up. It's fine to do some general warming up, but be sure and get the specific muscles you are about to use fired up and ready as well. It doesn't need to take long either. The entire warm up routine can be done in less than 10 minutes.
Skipping a proper cool down is also inadvisable, although not quite as detrimental as missing the warm up.
3. PR or ER Mentality 🚑
Pushing through legitimate pain just to try to get a strength increase or a personal record (PR), or stubbornly sticking to a certain program or weight progression no matter what can be costly. Improving strength is fantastic, and should be a focus in most programs. But, it should not be done with a 'PR or ER' mentality. It should be done with the understanding that good form and technique should come first, and that it is ok to make gradual increases. That's right, you don't have to add 5 or 10 lbs to your bench, squat, or leg press every time you do it to see changes, and you should not push through joint pain or the like to achieve it.
The lack of a strength increase does not mean a wasted workout either. If you had a terrible nights sleep, a super stressful week at work, forgot to eat a couple meals, or some similar mix of circumstances that are keeping you from being at your strongest, it is totally okay to drop your weights down a bit or keep them at maintenance for a workout or two. Doing so can even be beneficial for recovery which leads me to my next item...
4. Lack of Recovery 😴
Lack of recovery is also an underlying cause of injury, and is easily preventable. There are a couple different ways this can happen. First, general recovery can be poor. This is stuff like not sleeping enough, chronically lacking proper nutrition or hydration, and then trying to crush a workout in spite of all this. You can still exercise under these circumstances now and again (Don't need to skip any workout where these items aren't all perfect), but care should be taken when doing so, and you should work on improving them if it's a consistent problem.
If you need to get a workout in, but you aren't properly recovered, at least tone it down a bit. Go at it at about 60-80% intensity. You will still get a good training stimulus without risking injury. If you see an instructor, coach, or personal trainer, you should be able to let them know how you are feeling and they will adjust accordingly. If they tell you to buck up and push through it...they are part of the problem and you should get your workout in by running far away.
This guy gets it
Trying to recover too fast from an acute issue, like an injury, is another way of lacking proper recovery. A very common mistake here is going back to what injured you (or something that could aggravate it) too quickly, and not approaching it any differently than before. For instance, if you hurt your shoulder bench pressing, it's probably a good idea to examine what could have caused it, and try to implement changes to prevent it. Then gradually work the weight back up, after making a full recovery from the injury. Jumping right back into it after the pain has only partially diminished, is not recommended, but far more common.
As an aside, I am not advocating stopping all exercise after a boo-boo until you no longer feel any discomfort whatsoever (bed rest is NOT a good way to expedite healing). You should remain active and mobile as much as you can, even following an acute injury, as this is typically better for recovery. It's fine, for instance, to work your legs even if you have an elbow strain. See a physical therapist or a doctor if you are unsure about what is ok for a specific issue.
5. Poor Programming 📈
Programming without injury prevention in mind is a poor plan. Even if your only goal is to get bigger arms or a more toned booty, it is still wise to work in a few exercises that will improve your bodies health as well. A lot of the magazine or influencer workouts include a total of zero warm up, mobility, injury prevention, or recovery protocols. Including at least some of these types of exercises will go a long way towards workout longevity, especially if you have had prior injuries or are currently running into problems.
6. Lack of Customization 🏋️♂️
Unless you are competing in an event that requires specific exercises like powerlifting or olympic lifting, there are not any exercises that you absolutely have to do. You can create progressive overload and make gains with a variety of movements, not just conventional deadlifts, snatches, barbell bench presses, handstand push ups, or whatever the latest trendy lift is. It is totally fine to modify exercises to make them fit your body. For instance, if you can't do a full conventional deadlift from the floor without having your lower back round, try a Romanian deadlift, a sumo deadlift, or a block pull instead.
You also don't need to blindly follow what a certain influencer or guru says is best, or attempt every cool exercise that pops up in the feed that day. Nothing wrong with trying new exercises from the gram, but make sure it is going to be a good fit for you before implementing it, and don't force it into your program, especially if it doesn't feel right or causes discomfort.
Not the greatest plank form...but plenty of followers.
Another title for this article could be, things I wish I had paid attention to that would have saved me from a lot of setbacks and discomfort. But that's not quite as catchy. Hope this helps if you are stagnating due to nagging injuries, if you have any questions feel free to shoot us a message.
Ready to get rid of those nagging aches and pains, have your workouts customized by a pro, and get in your best shape ever?
Come in for our Transformation session, where you’ll meet with one of our expert trainers and discuss your goals, do a workout, get your measurements taken, and get nutrition and exercise recommendations to achieve your goals. You’ll learn how to lose weight, add muscle tone, and feel fit, confident, and healthy. These are normally $60+/session, but we are offering them for free right now. Spots are limited, so click below to reserve yours now.