You’ve just gotten back into the gym and have gotten into a daily routine when you’re finishing up your squats and there it is… you feel your hamstring start to tighten. We’ve all been there, its part of working out but what many of us fail to realize is there are simple things we can do to avoid injuries in the gym. Here are a couple of tips to keeping yourself in the gym without letting injuries ruin your workout.
TIP #1– You Need to Start With Warm Ups
Warm up exercises are simple and short exercise that don’t require a great exertion of strength but allow the body to become prepared before moving onto more rigorous and physically demanding exercises. Incorporating warm up exercises and stretches into your pre-workout routine will ensure you’re both mentally and physically prepared for your workout thus helping to avoid strains, muscle soreness and injury inside the gym.
TIP #2– Stretch
Stretching is probably one of the most important and often overlooked injury prevention techniques we should incorporate into our workouts. After performing some simple warm up procedures, loosen your muscles by performing stretches. When done effectively this will allow your muscles to become loose and prepared for your workout, helping you to avoid any unnecessary strains caused by insufficient preparing. You also (and more importantly) need to stretch after you work out. This will insure that your muscles will not unnecessarily tighten up leading to potential injuries over time.
TIP #3– Get Good Personal Trainer (and if you can’t find one, at least a good spotter/lifting partner)
When working out it’s not always easy to find another person to tag along and exercise with you. A personal trainer not only is there to motivate and hold you accountable to your workout routine, but they will also make sure you get the most out of your workout without pushing you too far. If you don’t have a regular workout partner that can help you and offer you spotting support when you need it in the gym it is important to find a person who can while doing any of the exercises that require a spotter. Examples of such exercises are squatting, benching, dumbbell raises etc.
TIP #4–Use Correct Form and Technique
When implementing your exercises it is important to concentrate on using the proper technique for each exercise. Exercises that use resistance such as squats where you’re working against the weight on your shoulders require specific techniques that can be both learned through observation and practice. Start small, you don’t need to start with a lot of weight when learning a new exercise or even continuing an exercise you haven’t performed in awhile. Allowing yourself to become comfortable with the exercise and performing the correct technique can spare you from unnecessary injuries. If you want to add a new exercise to your work out but haven’t done it before, don’t be afraid to ask someone who knows the exercise well. They can show you the correct form to use and allow you to observe them while doing the exercise so that you can safely and effectively perform the exercise.
TIP #5– Stop Weight Lifting Overkill, Get Your Rest
A lot of people out there forget the importance of rest. It is essential, let me repeat… ESSENTIAL that your muscles get the proper rest that they need after a workout. This means when you rest, you rest… no “light” workouts for that day, or “quick sessions” just give your body a break and rest. Why? It is of paramount importance to understand that rest is as important to building muscles as the exercises themselves are. Simply put, if you don’t rest, your muscles will struggle to grow. The “safe” amount of time to wait for muscle repair is around forty-eight hours; some would argue that twenty-four hours between workouts is more than enough. Depending on what kind of shape you are in, either is correct– what is important to understand for injury prevention is that when your muscles are performing at full (rested) capacity, you are going to be burning more calories and ultimately building more muscle.
TIP #6– Sleep, diet, and breathe
Not only will getting a proper amount of sleep kick your metabolism into gear, it will give you more energy, alertness, and better mental concentration during your workout. This will lead to a more effective routine, as well as the ability for your body to restore torn tissue quicker. Also, maintain a balanced diet (including essential protein for muscle repair) and make sure to engage in proper deep breathing techniques when exercising. This will give you more energy and concentration during exercise, and prevent injuries and strains due to lack of oxygen in the blood stream from improper breathing techniques.
i. Chandler, J., Kibler, B., McMillan, J., & Richards, D. (2001, November). Squat Safety. American Fitness,19(6), 43. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.