Injuries are the bodybuilder's worst enemy. Once you get injured, not only will that cause you pain and discomfort, but it could potentially take you out of the gym for a few days, or at the very least, impair your ability to perform certain exercises. All of these things lead to diminished results from your bodybuilding program. On top of that, once injuries happen, it is very easy to get re-injured again on the same area.
Because of that, it is of crucial importance that bodybuilders avoid injuries at all cost. While the tips below may seem very simple and basic, even the most advanced of us tend to forget a few of these at one time or another and that is when trouble can happen. Having said that, below you will find the 10 commandments for avoiding injury.
1. Wear Appropriate Workout Clothing
Wear clothing that allows you to move all your body parts in a full range of motion. Restrictive clothing, like jeans for instance, would prevent you from performing an exercise such as the squats correctly and thus can lead to loss of balance and/or injury.
Make sure that you also wear comfortable athletic shoes and always ensure they are tied.
2. When In Doubt, Ask For Help
If you don't know how to perform an exercise or use a particular piece of equipment, please do not attempt to figure it out on your own.
Either ask a trainer or knowledgeable gym member to help you or get an informative book like "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men" or "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women" to teach you correct exercise form.
3. Ensure That Before You Execute A Lift, All Of The Weight Plates Are Properly Secured
Be extremely careful with weights and use collars to secure them. Especialy when using an Olympic Bar. There have been so many times/situations where a person is executing an exercise and the weights on one side slide, fall off, and thus cause a total imbalance where the trainee ends up dropping the other side.
This cannot only hurt you but can hurt others around you. Therefore, please secure your weights.
4. Warm-Up Before You Move On To Heavier Weights
I remember when I was a teenager and would start doing 225lbs on the bench press without a warm-up. That was a bad idea. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I do a couple of lighter sets prior to using my working weight.
So for instance, if I am going to do a squat with 450 pounds for 6-8 reps, I start warming up with 200lbs for 8-10, 350lbs for 8-10 and then 450 for 6-8.
5. Leave The Ego Aside & Practice Perfect Form
Use a weight that you can control. When you use heavier weights than what you can handle, your joints and bones are the ones that will take most of the stress; not the muscles. In addition, chances are that your form will be sacrificed.
Bad form combined with heavy weights equals an injury waiting to happen. Stress the muscles, not the joints, and practice perfect exercise execution.
Doing so will not only allow you to achieve faster results due to the fact that the muscles are the ones doing most of the work, but also will prevent you from incurring into any injuries.
Besides, we are practicing bodybuilding, not powerlifting, so stop obsessing over weight used. As time goes by you will get progressively stronger. I promise.
6. Use A Safe Lifting Speed & Avoid Using Momentum
It is crucial for maximum results and for injury prevention that bodybuilders perform the exercises in a controlled manner and with no momentum. Jerking and bouncing of weights will only take away stress from the muscle and create sheer (pushing and pulling) forces in the joints and muscle insertions that can lead to injury.
When in doubt, use a tempo of 2 seconds when lifting the weight and 3 seconds when lowering it as the lowering (negative) portion needs to be performed slightly slower than the lifting (positive) one.
It may require that you count in your head at first but eventually lifting speed becomes second nature.
7. Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
When I visit commercial gyms I see this happen plenty of times, especially if there is a squat rack and a smith machine side by side. What happens is that as a person is doing a squat on the squat rack for instance, the other person may be loading their smith machine.
Ideally, gyms should not position certain pieces of equipment so close together but because some do, you need to be aware of your surroundings whether you are the one performing the exercise or the one loading the bar.
Along the same lines, ensure that the floor that you will be standing on is not slippery as I have seen situations where if there is a leak from the ceiling due to bad air conditioning or just a bad ceiling.
If this is the case, inform someone from the staff immediately and make sure that the soles of your shoes are not wet.
8. If You Are Feeling Dizzy Or Feel Like You Are Going To Faint, You Need To Stop What You Are Doing
This is pretty self-explanatory but as you get more advanced one tends to disregard these things. If you are having a real difficulty breathing, sit down and rest for 3 minutes or so.
If you see that you are sweating cold then you need to stop as you are about to go into shock. This typically happens in very hot environments, which takes me to the next commandment.
9. If Training In Your Garage, Try To Train In The Morning When The Temperature Is Comfortable
Garages tend to get hot, very hot, especially down here in Florida during the summer. Do not try to workout in a place with a temperature that is well over 100 degrees. That could lead to a heat stroke and that does not help with bodybuilding gains.
If you train in your garage, then over the hot months you will need to wake up earlier and do your training when the temperature is manageable. Stay properly hydrated and also listen to your body. If you need to rest a bit more in between sets due to the heat, then feel free to do so.
10. If Training Alone In Your Garage Please Be Very Aware Of Your Capabilities & Surroundings
When training alone in your garage it is more imperative than ever that you know what your capabilities are.
For instance if you have done 225lbs on the bench for 10 reps many times and know that is the best you can do, do not attempt to try an 11th rep unless you are absolutely positively sure that you can lift that weight or unless you are working out inside a squat rack (picture to right) with the side pins properly positioned to protect you.
Also, like I mentioned in item #7, be aware of your surroundings. If you are performing a bench press and someone placed some patio chairs next to the bench in the middle of your range of motion this could represent a problem.
I've trained alone in my garage for years but have never (knock on wood) incurred into any problems due to my high regard of this rule.
According to research lifting weights is one of the safest activities out there. The key is to be safe and use common sense. If you follow the rules described above I guarantee you that you will stay out of trouble and you will have many years of happy lifting to come. Now go train!