Nothing will derail your training faster than injuries.
They happen to all of us and are difficult to completely avoid.
Serious injuries can set you back months and years while minor injuries can set you back days and months.
That’s valuable time you could have spent getting stronger and fitter.
Instead you’re left on your couch nursing an injury that could have been avoided.
While there is an inherent risk of getting hurt while lifting weights, it does not have to be the norm.
I wish I knew how to lift without getting hurt when I first started lifting weights.
It would have saved me a lot of pain although, on the other hand, I probably would never have figured out the tips I am about to give you below.
While it’s not possible to eliminate injuries entirely from weightlifting and bodybuilding, the 6 tips below will go far to help you reduce the amount of injuries you get from lifting so you can stay in the gym forever.
# 1- Stop focusing on the weight
The common trap that almost everyone gets into when they start lifting weights is worrying about how much weight they are lifting.
The younger you are when you start lifting, the more likely this is going to be a problem for you.
I remember when I started lifting at 12 years old.
It was just about starting to get cool at that age and the big question everyone always wanted to know was “how much ya bench?”.
I suffered a fair amount of injuries working to provide an impressive answer to that question.
Years later when I finally stopped getting hurt, I realized that the amount of weight you lift really doesn’t matter unless you are a powerlifter.
If your goal is to gain muscle and look good naked, your focus should be on making the muscle do the work.
Weight is all relevant.
What may be heavy for you might not be heavy for me.
What’s important is that the muscle is working hard during the movement.
The ego in us wants to see how much weight we can lift, which is why it’s called “ego lifting”.
While it’s important to push yourself, it shouldn’t just be for the sole reason of impressing others.
You should not care what others are doing at the gym.
A lot of people get hurt from lifting like a dummy just to impress others.
The actual poundage does not matter.
# 2- Stop deadlifting
I know that the outrage with this statement is going to be huge.
If you follow me on twitter, I have made this point several times.
On a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, strongman Robert Oberst made this point and I think some heads blew up.
Oberst said that the deadlift is not worth the risk if you’re not a powerlifter.
If you compete in the deadlift, then you obviously need to keep doing it.
If you do not need to do a deadlift for any kind of competition, I would avoid it at all costs if it’s ever given you a problem.
In my experience, there is a small percentage of people that have zero issues with the deadlift.
Most people, however, have sustained major injuries while deadlifting, myself included.
It’s an awkward movement that puts a lot of stress on the lower back.
The average gym rat does not have strong enough glutes, hamstrings and lower back to do it without an issue.
I think that the reward from it is also pretty small as Oberst pointed out.
There are numerous other exercises out there you can do that will give you similar if not better results without the risk of injury.
# 3- Do Yoga
When you hear yoga, you probably think of a room full of people chanting and meditating in a studio.
If that’s not for you, don’t worry because it’s not for me either.
One of the most recent posts I did was a review of a yoga program called DDP Yoga.
DDP yoga is hands down the best thing I’ve done to prevent and heal injuries.
It’s like regular yoga on steroids.
It makes your entire body strong as a unit instead of isolating certain parts.
Yoga in general is excellent at strengthening the joints and stabilizer muscles within the body.
It also stretches your muscles out and helps to lengthen the body and spine.
Most of these things are ignored or abused while lifting weights.
Yoga is the ying if lifting is the yang.
Both of them together become a powerful combination to keep you strong while helping to avoid injuries.
If you don’t want to try DDP yoga, there are a million yoga DVD’s and books out there.
Just pick one and stick with it.
# 4- Do calisthenics
I’m a big believer in calisthenics when it comes to strengthening the joints.
A lot of injuries in lifting are caused by weak joints.
Months and years of isolating your muscles and body parts leave your joints weak.
Your muscles may be strong enough to lift the weight, but the joint may not be.
That’s when a lot of injuries occur.
Calisthenics rock because they strengthen the joints while strengthening your entire body.
The benefits are similar to those provided by yoga however, calisthenics are also powerful for adding muscle and getting toned.
While calisthenics work the same muscles as weights, they are different in a few ways.
If I get away from a steady routine of calisthenics for too long, I immediately begin to experience small injuries and pains.
Calisthenics will help to keep your joints and core strong, which will prevent many common injuries.
A steady diet of push-ups, body weight squats, pull-ups and sit-ups are more than enough.
# 5- Learn when to tone it down
I love going into the gym and unleashing.
The heavy weights. Music screaming in my ear. Killer pump. Pure ecstasy.
That being said, I have suffered the downside of intensity on many occasions.
While it’s fun and exhilarating to go 100 miles an hour in the gym, it can rarely be maintained for long periods of time.
You have to know when to go all out and when to scale it back a bit.
If you are feeling strong and injury free, you definitely have some room to turn it up.
If things are hurting and you have some injuries stacking up, it’s time to turn it down a notch or two and train intelligently.
You have to listen to your body and know when it’s asking for a break.
The good thing is that you will often find you come back stronger and bigger after a break as you gave your body and muscles time to rebuild themselves.
If you’re in some pain, it’s not the time to go out and max out on every lift.
It’s the time to focus on your form and slow it all down.
Your body will reward you and you will be able to stay in the gym.
# 6- Build up your core strength
Most common back injuries that occur in the gym stem from weak abs and core.
The core consists of the group of muscles including your abs, back, pelvic floor, and hips.
Studies have shown that core strength can prevent injuries.
The core helps provide stability as you lift.
Most people have weak abs and weak core.
Due to that, they are often forced to perform lifts in a less than efficient manner that puts them at a higher risk for injury.
I used to neglect ab work and core work.
I always had lower back problems when I did so.
Once I started training my abs consistently, a lot of the pain went away.
I don’t know exactly why back pain can be caused by weak abs, but I know for a fact that in my experience it definitely contributed to it.
Include core training and ab work in your workout on a regular basis.
I honestly don’t think it’s extreme to do some of it every day.
It’s that important.
Stay in the gym for the long run
Fitness is a lifelong mission.
You want to be able to stay in the gym as long as possible, which is hopefully well into the later portion of your life.
Piling up constant injuries will guarantee that doesn’t occur.
It’s a fine balance of training to get results and training smart, but it can be done if you utilize these tips.
These are all simple tips that do not include any radical change.
Whether it’s some or all, if you give these tips a chance, I know that you will find some value in them.
Trust me on that.
P.S. Have you ever used any of these to avoid injuries while lifting? I’d love to hear your results below as well as any other ways you’ve discovered to minimize your chances of getting hurt in the gym!