I’m pretty beat up. I have a history of back/neck issues, shoulder surgery and I recently partially tore my tricep. Fun stuff. Anyway, if you have been an athlete or weight-lifter for long enough, you understand that injuries are a part of this. How can you prevent this from impeding progress in the gym?
First, differentiate between pain, soreness, tightness and potential injury. Obviously there is a threshold you’d like not to cross but training around issues is always possible.
Here are some simple tips that have really helped me control my injuries and continue to train.
1.) Find the irritant and eliminate it. That’s the simplest and most effective piece of advice I’ve ever gotten on this topic. Shoulder pressing irritates the hell out of my neck, so guess what? I found other ways to train that don’t keep me out of the gym or in pain. You can’t improve if you are constantly hurt and out of the gym.
2.) Do prehab/preventative work. This might include mobility work, corrective exercise, fixing faulty motor patters, addressing weaknesses, etc. Poor thoracic mobility? Add some drills into your training. Bad knees? Hammer the glutes, hips, VMO and improve ankle mobility. I realize this kind of stuff is boring but if you want longevity in your lifting or athletic career it’s necessary.
3.) Include recovery work. Either work a restorative block into your training or include recovery methods like massage, high rep bodybuilding work, deloads, concentric sled work, epsom salt bathes, etc. Even taking a walk is a great form of aerobic work that will promote blood flow, reset parasympathetic tone and improve recovery.
4.) Listen to your body. If you use HRV to track training readiness, great. If not, you need to pay a little more attention to when you feel good/beat up. Know when to scale back. If you have a stressful day where you didn’t get a lot of sleep and maybe your nutrition was sub-par, don’t expect to hit PR’s. Improving is about being able to adapt to your exercise.
5.) Don’t go heavy all of the time. I know this is self-explanatory but it needs to be repeated. Look at most powerlifters in their 40’s and 50’s. Hip replacements, knee replacements, torn pecs. Your body can only tolerate so much. As Buddy Morris always told me, “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.”