Avoiding becoming injured is probably the last thing on your mind if you are just getting started. At this point you just want to see results and you don’t care what the costs are to obtain them. That is an awesome mindset to have and I applaud you! However, as soon as you start putting in consistent effort in the gym, you are going to start reaping huge results. These results are just going to want to make you work out harder and harder because you are seeing the direct correlation between the time you spend in the gym and how your body looks and feels.
Be prepared to hit a wall though. You are going to develop imbalances and muscular deficiencies that will lead to injuries later on down the road. Again, this is why I so heavily recommend making sure to introduce enough variety into your routine when starting out. Furthermore, you need to understand that this whole working out thing isn’t a sprint to the finish line. I always tell people to give it three months. Once you have been hitting the gym hard for three months, you will see the massive results that will fuel you to want to work out. Suddenly, working out is going to be the highlight of your day. It may be hard to see it that way for some of you that read this guide (not all of you; some of you are already killing it!), but trust me on this one.
And based on that phenomenon, you don’t want to do something in the early stage of this lifestyle change that is going to inhibit your results later on. If you neglect to take care of yourself you will pay for it right about the time that working out becomes your drug. Normal people don’t get it. They don’t understand what it is like to take a break from lifting if that’s a huge part of your life. Not being able to go to the gym when it is a fundamental part of who you are just plain sucks. Please don’t let it happen to you. Some of my lowest points have come from being in a position where I was injured and unable to workout.
Additionally, the types of injuries sustained from training are atypical to the things you might have seen on TV with big name sports stars. Those injuries are a result of a singular incident that caused a traumatic deterioration of musculature. In other words, they probably tore or broke something definitively. Training Injuries, on the other hand, are not caused by a singular event (unless you really mess up and do something stupid in the gym). Training injuries are caused by developing poor movement patterns. Developing poor movement patterns isn’t your fault either, and it isn’t because you have poor form. In the modern world our bodies are highly neglected and aren’t really used for much when you consider what our ancestors did.
For this reason, you will naturally build up tight areas. Weak areas will also show their head. Regardless of what you do, they are going to come. So be prepared for that. Heck, instead of being prepared, do something about it. How can you do something about now? Follow this guide exactly.
It always makes me laugh when I hear someone prescribed “rest” from a doctor. I get it. The doctors have spent countless hours in the classroom and even more with their head in a book about human anatomy. I respect that and know that they have a lot of great knowledge that I personally don’t have. However, they also don’t have all of my experience in the gym. They have absolutely no clue how the body actually responds to different levels of stress on a day-to-day basis.
I have helped countless clients fix their “injuries” by working with them and recognizing that what they need is to clean up imbalances and strengthen weak areas that have developed into deficiencies causing movement pattern issues. If your lower back hurts every time that you squat, it isn’t because your lower back is weak (99% of the time this is true; obviously it is impossible to make this judgment call about every single person that ever steps foot in a gym). It is because you have tight, inhibited hips that don’t provide the support they were designed to give you. It is because your core and abdominals haven’t been trained enough and now your lower back has to compensate for that weakness.
If your shoulders hurt, it is probably because you have internal rotation of your shoulders due to a high volume of pressing movements with very little myofascial release, stretching, or antagonist movements. Humans in today’s world are constantly in a poor position. A quick look at our physiology and anatomy will reveal that sitting down all day isn’t the best thing we could be doing for our health. Not only do we sit down every day, we slouch when we sit. We allow our spines to droop and our shoulders to drop. All this does is contribute to issues that will absolutely lead to injuries down the road.
What exactly is myofascial release? It is a form of therapy that focuses on soft tissue. It is used to handle muscular immobility and pain by helping to relieve tension and stress that has accumulated during working out and basic day-to-day life. Additionally, it helps to promote better blood flow and circulation; some studies point that it may help build upon the “stretch reflex” found in muscles. This is great news for anyone who makes the decision to start working out.
But, how exactly does rolling around on a ball or a foam roller help provide those benefits? It all comes down to your fascia. Fascia is a thin, yet tough connective piece of tissue that wraps around your muscles. Chicken breast is a perfect example. You know that thin white film around raw chicken? That’s fascia. It’s role is to support and protect the structures that make up your body. This layer becomes extremely tight and inhibited if you workout consistently (which, you will, because you are ready to get massive results in the gym).
These are only two examples, though they are the most common. As you can see, by taking a holistic approach to your training, you will most likely never have to deal with these ailments. Making sure to develop your musculature evenly with the proper amount of stretching and myofascial release will leave your body happy, healthy, and constantly progressing.
- Foam Rolling. This is an absolute must that needs to be done on a daily basis. This is going to make up the sweet sauce of your recovery protocol. I like to hit up a few different areas when I use my foam roller. There are a lot of things to consider when working these areas with a foam roller. I highly suggest that you watch the included video to get an idea of how I personally go through this. Just copy exactly what I am doing and watch as your body feels better and stronger:
- Upper Thoracic Area
- Lower Back
- Iliotibial Band (IT Band)
- Using a Lacrosse Ball. This goes hand in hand with the foam roller above. A lacrosse ball is an amazing tool for your glutes, shoulder capsule, and chest. Again, simply watch this video to get an idea of how I am performing these movements!
- Static Stretching. This has been getting a really bad rap in the fitness community lately and I don’t understand it. In fact, I used to believe what everyone was saying about static stretching and how “useless” or “outdated” it is. Because I followed that idiotic and unsafe advice I ended up injuring myself very badly. Don’t do that. Static stretching needs to be a part of your injury-prevention protocols.
Even more “experts” claim that static stretching before a workout is a bad idea. I call complete nonsense. When you are lifting weights, what are you actually doing? You are contracting the muscle group and then stretching it. That’s it. There isn’t anything complex about the actual phenomenon of a muscle being worked. However, as you can see, stretching is half of the battle. Therefore, how can all of these people (who actually know very little and have a crummy body) say that static stretching is “bad” or “dangerous?” Clearly they are lost.
One thing to note though: if you stretch while your muscles are cold, they will be more likely to maintain their new level of flexibility. Basically, try to stretch out prior to ever doing any other type of warm-up. This doesn’t negate the benefits of stretching after your workout when your muscles are warm though, so make sure to do it at both times!
- Dynamic Stretching. This is the other side of the coin in a discussion about stretching in particular. Dynamic stretching is key to perform right before you begin lifting. For example, on lower-body focused days I will complete my dynamic stretching and warm-up right before I step under the bar for the first time. I then continue to perform my dynamic warm-up as I complete my initial sets with lighter weight. I have found this combination to be extremely powerful.
- This is kind of a catch-all phrase that just refers to your ability to get into and out of strong positions. What makes up a strong position? Biomechanical Advantages. That’s a big word that may scare you off, but don’t let it. Basically, your body is just a collection of levers and muscles all attached together. And, just like with any other machine, your body has stronger levers and weaker levers. It also has certain positions that provide the best physical (aka in relation to physics/science) advantages and will lead to the most weight lifted. The easiest way for me to describe my mobility routine is to show you a video.