4 Steps to Saving Yourself from Injury

There’s always that voice in the back of your mind that whispers, “Maybe I should skip dead lifting today to save my knees” or “I read somewhere that running wrecks your ankles so I’m going to skip the cardio today” and so on. But if we eliminate these “risky” workouts then what does that leave us with? Yoga? Okay, yoga is great. It really is. But you have to throw something else in there! These “risky” workouts are imperative to overall fitness improvement.

A fear of injury is a perfectly valid fear when it comes to resistance training, probablyIMG_4314 even a healthy fear. Injury is so common! It happens all the time! One wrong move could lead to a lifetime of agonizing pain. So this is something that we should talk about, because getting injured could be fatal and prevent you from being able to exercise for the rest of your life. Why do we even risk it?

What if I told you there were basic, fool proof ways to easily avoid this fatality? I promise the risk is so worth it. So why don’t we just go through these simple steps to avoid the injury before it happens?

NEUTRAL SPINE

I can’t tell you how important this step is. Maintaining neutral spine is essential to maintaining back and spine health of any kind. Keep a nice arch to your back at ALL TIMES. Only a little curvature or over arching could lead to vertebrae or disk injury, especially with a heavy load. Keep that back nice and straight.

WARM UP

IMG_4472Your muscles aren’t ready to exercise when they’re cold. It’s 100% worth the extra five minutes to run a couple laps real quick, head over to the elliptical, Pound out some jumping jacks, or honestly any form of light cardio that gets you moving. The warm up should never be omitted.

 

GET A SPOTTER

I know it looks so much lamer benching your max all alone as opposed to with some punk standing behind you helping you with the weight. But let me tell you, it looks a thousand times lamer when you drop your max on your chest and are pinned to the bench like a fool. Not to mention a nice trip to the ER. Always get a spotter when your lifting heavy, don’t let your ego cause you a lifelong injury.

STRETCH

Your muscles are rubber bands. If they aren’t constantly being stretched out, then one IMG_2930small over-expansion could cause it to burst. Also there is a famous phrase that says ‘Those that are flexible don’t get bent out of shape.’ Now I don’t think this was meant to be about about weightlifting, but it couldn’t be more accurate for the case. Take that last five minutes at the end of every workout to touch your toes real fast, swing your arms back and forth, or even just roll out sore muscles. You will thank yourself later.

Injury can be devastating, or even life threatening. However, the steps to prevent are so easy and take at most five minutes out of your busy day. Don’t be the fool that loses the ability to workout for the rest of their life due to one wrong move. But most importantly, don’t be the fool that lets the fear of injury penetrate their ability to workout at all. The antidote to this lifelong fatality is so simple, so why don’t we take it?

 

The Squat: Decoded

Once fitness star Jane Fonda said ‘no pain no gain,’ we all were here trying to kill ourselves for these rad gainz. But I am here to tell you that SOMETIMES the pain part doesn’t ever go away. Months later. Years later. Or even decades later. Our bodies are fragile, and need to be treated with more care.

Squats are actually really dangerous.

BUT with that being said, squats are a vital addition to your workout routine. And contrary to popular belief, they are good for much much more than that Kardashian physique; though that is a bonus. Squats are a basic movement that is incorporated in your everyday life for anything from lifting your son to trying to find that last Cheeto you dropped in the floor. Squats are fundamental to the development of fitness.

So let me decode the recipe to a safe squat:

BACK

Your back should be at neutral spine at ALL TIMES for the duration of the squat. Never should it leave this position until your weight is safely racked and you’re bending over to grab a sip of that lemon lime Gatorade (Definitely is the best flavor, fight me).

So what even is this neutral spine crap? Neutral spine is just as its name entails; when your spine is at a neutral position. If you were to stand up against a wall with only your butt and shoulders touching it, this would be when your back is at neutral spine. Shoulders rolled back with good posture, but no over extension of the spine curvature. For the extent of your squat, it is imperative that your back does not leave this stance.

Seeing as back pain does plague a large majority of exercise enthusiasts, I have included an article about exercises to reduce back pain in the link below.

Exercises for Back Pain

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KNEES

Most women especially struggle with the knee concept, mostly because they are naturally a little bow legged. Fight the urge ladies! Push those knees out to be perfectly parallel with your feet, straight out in front of you. No funky extensions to the side either.

Also, the knees should fit directly above the feet. It is common for both women and men to push the knees past the feet, but it is critical that the knees are kept directly above the feet as to save our knees. We all still want to be able to scale staircases past the age fifty am i right?

Give this link a read for further ACL injury prevention.

https://smwhome.net/2018/09/27/minimizing-the-risk-of-acl-injuries-in-athletes/

ANKLES

For most people, hitting that full squat extension is impossible for one reason; ankle mobility. Basically that means how far forward one can bend before it is necessary for the heels to pop off the floor and weight transfers to the toes. The goal for the squat is to keep your full weight on the CENTER of your feet the full extension; not the toes, and not backwards on the heels. The ankles should be positioned shoulder width apart and completely on the ground.

To improve ankle flexibility, practice squatting full depth and taking the heels as close to the ground as possible. The more often this stretch is done the more effective.

The link below expounds on the ways to stay safe from injury while lifting weights.

https://strongbeasts.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/myth-weight-lifting-causes-joint-pain/

man in black reebok shoes about to carry barbell

HOW LOW

I can’t tell you how many gym rats have come up to me at the gym and informed me that my squat wasn’t low enough. Sure, when it comes to squats lower is better. HOWEVER full  butt-on-the-floor depth is not for everybody. You should go as low as you can until:

  • The heel lifts off the floor
  • The weight becomes off of the center of the feet
  • Neutral spine cannot be maintained
  • Pelvis begins to curve under

If ANY of these events occur, you know its time to bring it back up. You can go tell that gym rat to watch his own form. Go correct his form maybe. Whatever you fell so inclined to do. Just know that it is not necessary to go all the way to the floor every single time, don’t hurt yourself!

This included link gives more detail about gaining spine mobility in order to get that squat lower to the ground.

How To Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

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The biggest concern with squats is keeping yourself safe. If something is hurting unnaturally, take a break. Lighten your load! Don’t let your ego take over or karma will come back and hit you with some hard patella tendinitis. But with that being said, don’t let the rumors scare you away from adding squats into your workout routine. Not only do they improve physique, but they make everyday life a thousand times easier.

 

MYTHS ABOUT GAINING MUSCLE AND LOSING FAT

Health myths float around the gym like gossip in seventh grade. Junkies will swear that their rock-solid abs or bowling ball shoulders were the result of eating only raw eggs and ketchup for three days straight. But I’m just going to be straightforward with you; there is no simple remedy to your health. I’m sorry, but that magic pill does not exist. Though that would be ideal. Here are some myths I’m going to bust for you right here and now;

ASSISTED SQUAT TO SAVE THE KNEESScreenShot2017-11-14at10.15.44AM

Doing your squats right is a better way to save your knees. If you are squatting right, your knees should be fine. In fact, it should strengthen the joint. Assisted squats do have their place, but free squats offer the benefits of increasing flexibility, mobility of the ankles and knees, and making everyday movements in general a thousand times easier. If you are unsure about how to squat correctly, a graphic and a link are included that give a good description of how to squat correctly.

https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-how-to-squat-properly/

IMG_5691GO HEAVY OR GO HOME

What’s sicker than benching plates like they’re stacking toys? Well, if you want real gains the answer is; anything is better. There is a distinct difference between getting bigger and getting stronger. Sure, benching four plates on each side will make you big but it won’t make you strong. It is suggested by Brad Schoenfeld that you should try to get 8-12 reps maxes in order to hit your maximal strength. The link included below is a link to his blog.

http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/more-on-the-dose-response-relationship-between-volume-and-hypertrophy/

PROTEIN IS KING

IMG_1670Protein is necessary for muscle gain of any kind, but there is much more to muscle gain than just protein. In fact, it is proven that eating more than 30 grams a meal does not aid to muscle gain. Instead focus on getting a balance of fats, carbs, and protein in order to hit maximal hypertrophy, and enough of each. I don’t think that I can stress enough the importance of just eating enough in general when you’re trying to gain muscle mass. Focus on improving overall nutrition before pouring your protein powder in anything edible. Below is a link that includes a simple calculation you can do really quick to determine the protein that you should be eating.

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calpro.htm

KASK2926CARDIO IS THE ENEMY

We’ve all seen runners in all of their stick figure glory before. This is the basis of bodybuilders’ fear of cardio, saying that cardio burns right through your hard earned muscle. This is false. Cardio is an irreplaceable aspect to one’s fitness. It builds cardiovascular strength in a way that weightlifting could never, and is actually the best way for one to get started into improving ones health.

https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/cardio-training-and-muscle-building-friend-or-foe/

BODYBUILDING AND ISOLATION LIFTS DON’T AID FITNESS

Okay bicep curls are no HIIT workout, but they also are not directly related to this meathead syndrome. Doing a variety of workouts are needed to improving overall athleticism, isolation workouts included. Just like how running one marathon won’t automatically turn you into a long distance runner. Variety is key.

https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/compound-exercises-vs-isolation-exercises/

man in black reebok shoes about to carry barbell

I Feel like a Fool at the Gym

Newsbreak– so does everybody else. If you don’t feel insecure at the gym, get a job. You’re probably there way too much. We all have walked into the gym feeling like The Red Hot Chili Peppers playing “Under the Bridge” on Saturday Night live 1992. Like all eyes are glued to us knowing that we have absolutely no idea what to do with ourselves. If you’re anything like me, you’ve cut your workout extra short for the day out of pure insecurity.

They say things like ‘own it’ and ‘confidence is key’ but you can’t just confidently walk up to the an Olympic weightlifting pad and break your face by putting as many plates on your bar as the junkie next to you. So then how do we even begin to pretend we know what we’re doing at the gym? Let’s lose the insecurity people.

START WITH A PLAN

A little planning can go a long way to boosting your confidence at the gym. It just takes a quick note in your phone. Know your gym. Know what machines are available to add to your workout. Know your own limits and push them but do not surpass them. If you must, pump those two pounders like its your job! I don’t care how much you’re doing or how long you’re doing it, as long as you are sweating its golden. Learning to make your own workout is no easy task, so check out the links below for somewhere to start.

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/fill-in-the-blanks-workout-routine-for-beginners.html

https://www.wholelifechallenge.com/how-to-design-your-own-workout-program-a-guide-for-beginners/

START WITH A BASIC WARM UP ROUTINE

To me, first walking into a gym feels like a freak show. Consequentially, that was the part where I was most likely to turn around and go home at the beginning of my workout career. So let’s avoid this awkward stumbling over our own feet and create a solid routine for the very first thing done at the gym.

Because professionals have proved that warming up significantly decreases your chance of injury, let us start with that. Make your way over to the tread mill, punch some steps out on a step machine, or find a non creaky elliptical if that’s your jam. I don’t care which your warm up you decide on, so long as it gets you past that awkward first step into the gym and gets you going. If you’re still stuck on ideas of how to warm up, give this link a read.

https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/warm-up/

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KNOW BASIC GYM ETIQUETTE

So I know you may be new to this whole gym thing, but here are a few nuggets of wisdom/common sense I feel that should be plastered in big letters all over every gym.

Number one, I don’t care if your sweat smells like roses WIPE THE MACHINE when you’re done with it. Nobody likes to smell your sweat. Or any body odors for that matter. Let’s move on.

Number two, it’s a gym not a beauty parlor. The mirrors are for watching form, not basking in the glory of your own gains, snapchating your gains to the world, or putting on makeup. Let’s leave these uses for the bathroom mirror junkies.

Number three, share the gym. I don’t care about your love affair with the quad machine, there are people all over that want quads of steel as well. And if your best friend just happens to show up at the gym, move the conversation off to the side so that people like me aren’t sitting there waiting for days for that one weight to complete my workout.

All in all, just be aware of your surroundings. I know you may be in your own little world, but you are in other’s own little world as well.

CONFIDENCE IS KEY

I know we all hate a little cliche but sometimes a little cliche is all we need. Acting like you know what your doing leads others to believe the same. I promise nobody is watching your form. Quite frankly, everyone only cares about their own workout and if you are judging their form.

Just hold yourself like you know whats up and other people will believe that you know what’s up. Put Kanye to shame, a little pride isn’t too terrible when your just trying to improve your fitness. Blast some Dua Lipa hits in your headphones. Wear that tank top that makes your traps look huge. Put on some makeup. Tell yourself you’re doing great and your body will reciprocate the compliment.