12 Ways to Avoid Muscle Injury - Bodybuilding

Avoid Gym Injuries

Training with your Brain is more Effective than Simply with your Muscle

Most people get an injury and they're done - whether for a week, an entire season or even a whole year. The chips have fallen and there's no going back in the hope of preventing the injury or changing the details of what has occurred. Injury is a risk one takes when involved in athletics of any kind, but injury need not be a foregone conclusion or logical end to an ongoing involvement in sports, even though bodybuilders and strength athletes are particularly at risk.

Whereas most athletes use weight training only as a means to enhance play in their sport of choice, body-builders and strength athletes train with weights as an expression of their sport. This focus presents a problem. Risk is high for those who engage in weight training on a regular, ongoing basis because of the constant stress on muscles, ligaments and joints. Since there is no actual movement to accompany and complement the training, the joints and ligaments be-come stressed much more readily.

Of course, prevention is always the best course of action. You may think that simply means being careful and avoiding dangerous situations, like dropping weights on your toes, but there are a lot more ways to prevent injury. I always try to instill this concept in my clients from the very start, no matter how experienced or inexperienced they may be, so that I can get them thinking in a completely new way about training and protecting their in-vestments. Even top bodybuilders have bad habits and practices that jeopardize their hard-earned muscle. The ones who reach the top are either lucky, or they know how to stay injury-free. But how does one athlete stay injury-free and healthy while another seems almost accident prone? There's no doubt that people differ in their disposition to injury, but all of us have much more control than we may believe. Are the words "injury" and "accident" interchangeable? Not in my book. I believe injury is no accident at all. It's an incident that happens because of carelessness and a lack of planning. Some people always combine the two words, but they're generally not interchangeable - or certainly don't have to be.

Awareness is the element that keeps people healthy and injury-free. Sacrifice awareness and you sacrifice your health, hobbies and potential livelihood. Since I can only monitor and control the safety of the people I train, I came up with a list to help my readers. It isn't fool-proof - only you know what's going on with your own body - but it will raise awareness and, I hope, help you to protect the investment you've made in your physique.

Have a plan.

If you can do nothing else in life, whether in the gym, in business or in your personal life, have a plan! With a plan you're less likely to stray into areas that may be counterproductive or actually injurious to your goals and well-being. A plan can be anything from an intention expressed silently to a well-thought-out list of steps you are planning to take to reach a goal or avoid problems. I like to write a general plan every year of what I hope to accomplish in the next 12 months, and then work on more detailed plans for each goal I have. Just because I am experienced in the gym after 25 years of training, that doesn't mean I don't need to continually reassess my situation and plan out my steps.

Be realistic.

A realistic approach is a quality that is sometimes difficult to find in the world of bodybuilding, but it's a component many people need to cultivate. We all wanted to be Mr. or Ms. Olympia at one time or another, but 99.9 percent of us will never realize that dream. In the meantime how do we remain realistic, yet still be optimistic enough to realize our full potential? That's a tough one, and it's accomplished only by accepting what you actually can do, not what you want to do. Acceptance is a big part of being realistic. It frees you to become the best your genetics will allow. If you indulge your mind and allow it to believe you can be more than your genetics can deliver, you'll nearly always be disappointed, and you could potentially push yourself into injury by expecting more than your body will allow.

Be fit for the exercise at hand.

This is crucial. If you want to become anything more than you currently are, you must be prepared to get there. One of the elements of preparation is getting yourself to the point of being capable to carry out each step physically. Say you want to weigh 240 pounds at 5'10" and you currently weigh just 190. Safe to say, you're going to need a while to reach your goal. Moreover, you'll have to achieve a lot of necessary steps in between. Taking steps to prepare yourself for progression is probably the single biggest physical deterrent to injury. Be honest about how fit you are before trying a new program that is designed to challenge you and build you a bigger physique. Without preparation you may very well become injured within the first week.

Work up to it.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Bonnie Coleman or Chris Cormier. Don't be in a hurry to bench 380 or squat 405. This is good advice not only because your body couldn't handle the stress and would buckle as the result of an injury, but also because it will respond very well with less, relative to where you are. For instance, if you can do only 8 biceps curls with 35-pound dumbbells, and the last one is even a strain for you, believe me, you're going to get a lot out of those 35-pound dumbbells. Don't be an idiot and try to use 40s or 45s. Rushing the heavy weights just means more effort for you and an invitation to injury.

Listen to your body.

There's a lot to be said for being in tune with your body and listening to what it's telling you. I think women are better at this than men because they aren't concerned as much with the pounds they lift or how cool they look doing it. You don't need to be alarmed at every little ache and pain, but when you are feeling something more painful than simple muscle soreness, take a step back and avoid pushing yourself any further. Find out the cause of the pain, and make smart decisions. Even if you're just overexerted, take some time off so that your body can catch up.

Get enough rest.

Rest is probably the single most important aspect of growth in bodybuilders. If you don't get adequate rest, your overall growth will be far less. Muscle repair is essential, and the only way you get it is by sleeping and taking reasonable time off from the weights. If you skip this step, you'll not only set yourself back in terms of progress, but you'll also be risking injury. A tired physique is a physique that is more prone to injury. When you're already operating at a rest deficit, your ability to heal from injury will be just as poor as your ability to recuperate from workouts.

Eat correctly.

Eating is a real partner to rest in that it can make or break a physique. If you feed your body crap, that will be reflected in the results you get. I'm referring to the type and amount of food in addition to quality. If you overeat, whether you're eating well or not, you're going to be doing your body an injustice, just as if you were eating poorly though getting the correct number of calories. Most important is the fact that eating correctly prevents nutritional deficiencies that can produce physical weaknesses. If you don't know the rules of eating correctly, do some research and read fitFLEX for direction.

Enlist assistance.

If you don't know something, the most logical step is to find out by asking someone who does. Whether you go online to find your answers or query a personal trainer, friend, bodybuilder or other person more knowledgeable than you, the main objective should be to gather information that will help you train or eat more effectively and avoid injury at all costs.

Use preventive measures: massage and chiropractic.

Regular chiropractic and massage treatments go a long way toward preventing injuries and keeping the body flexible and aligned. If your body is out of alignment or is compensating for old injuries, you have little chance of developing an even and symmetrical physique. Look into ways you can help keep your body in balance, and your chances of injury will diminish by at least 50 percent.

Know when to push and when to back off.

Enthusiasm is often characterized by over-zealousness and haste. These two factors can cause you to push yourself be-yond the point of return or reason. Pushing yourself is important, but knowing the exact moment to stop and pull back is a skill only time can teach you. Develop a sense about how much is enough and how much is too much. Backing off when you're unsure is better than pushing forward. One day of caution is not going to prevent you from progressing, but a day of haste may shatter your dreams forever.

Supplement for recovery.

A lot of supplements can help recovery, and you should be aware of all of them. One great supplement is glutamine. In fact, I think it's the single best one you can take for recovery. Supplementing with a multivitamin (in larger doses than for inactive people) is also great because it provides the body with essential nutrients for stress and repair. (See B and C vitamins.) Many others are available, but don't leave protein out of the mix. It contains essential amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle. Recover correctly and adequately, and you'll be less likely to suffer an injury in the future.


Water is essential to recovery. Drink plenty of fluids, making sure to include some that are laden with electrolytes so that muscles get important trace minerals for proper contraction

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