Adding more weight and seeing major results? If so, the last thing you need is an unexpected injury powering down your progress. The most common culprits are muscle strains, sprains and tears, all of which can keep you out of the gym for weeks, or even months. Keep your guns blazing by incorporating these easy injury prevention techniques into your strength-training regimen:
1. DON’T SKIP THE WARM-UP
It's easy to short-shrift or nix your warm-up when your gym time is limited. But, a solid warm-up routine is crucial when it comes to staving off injuries. Warming up primes your body to work out by gradually boosting your heart rate and loosening your muscles and joints. Your warm-up should last around five to ten minutes and should boost blood flow to all your major muscle groups and combine quick-paced cardio with high-rep, low intensity lifts. That means a few minutes of jogging, biking or other light cardio to get your blood pumping, and then a few minutes of quick and easy reps that target the muscle groups you plan to work. It’s a good idea to also incorporate dynamic stretching into your warm-up. Dynamic stretches combine movements to improve range of motion. Arm circles, jumping jacks, leg swings and twisting lunges are all good examples. Adding these to your routine brings the extra benefits of improved mobility and better form.
2. SMOOTH THINGS OUT
After pushing your muscles through intense sets, you need to make sure you’re working out any pain and soreness before your next lift. Foam rolling helps you apply targeted pressure to problem areas, smoothing out knots and kinks in your muscles. Aim to roll each spot for around 30 seconds, or until you feel pressure release. Regularly rolling out knots can prevent you from compounding existing pain and help set you up for success the next time you hit the weight room.
3. MASTER THE ART OF PUSHING YOURSELF
It's good to push your limits-that's how gains are gained. But, taking on more weight than you can handle makes for a high-risk situation. A good rule of thumb is, if you can't lift or push a weight load eight times, it's probably too heavy. The less stable your lift, the less controlled it will be, which ups your chances of dropping bars, twisting into awkward and incorrect form and straining or tearing your muscles.
4. REMEMBER MUSCLE-BUILDING 101
Protein is absolutely essential for supporting heavy lifting and massive gains. Make sure you’re getting proper protein via your diet and your workout supplements -strength training typically demands around 0.7 grams per pound of body weight. If you're lifting seriously, and more than four times a week, that ratio looks more like 0.8. Depending on your weight, this kind of training regimen can demand as much as 160 grams daily, so proper protein is no small thing. It's also important to remember that strong bones are just as important as strong muscles when it comes to minimizing injury risk at the gym. You need both to support all those ferocious lifts. To help ensure your bones are up to the task, work calcium into your diet, as well as vitamin D3 to enhance your body's absorption capabilities. And finally, avoid dehydration and maintain a solid water, sodium and potassium balance in your body by drinking water and sports drinks regularly.