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7 Easy Ways to Prevent Workout Injuries and Protect Your Gains

Updated: Apr 2, 2022

Injuries are a common occurrence in fitness. And they can often be extremely annoying to deal with. They can cause discomfort during out workouts, limit our ability to train or sometimes even prevent us from training at all for long periods of time!


And even though they're so common and irritating to deal with, many people do not even know the basics when it comes to taking measures towards preventing and avoiding future injuries.


Many simply train on a day to day basis, without thinking about anything that they could specifically be doing to prevent injury.


That's why in this post, I'll be going over 7 easy ways that you can reduce your chances of suffering a workout injury, and helping you apply them into your training to keep you working out as safely as possible!


If that sounds good, read on!



Male athlete consulting physical therapist after suffering a lower back injury from weight training

The 7 Ways to Avoid Workout Injuries



Do a Proper Warmup


One of the most important parts of your workout is actually the warmup. It gets the heart rate going, increases the body temperature and prepares your muscles, joints and tendons for hard work. Even though it's so important, many people overlook this and either do not take it seriously or skip it altogether.


This is a huge mistake, as skipping your warmup or not doing it properly can have you lifting in a cold state, which not only affects your performance, but also means that you're more likely to get injured.


You see, lifting in a cold state means that your muscles are not yet as elastic as possible. And you joints won't be prepared to handle heavy loads. If you suddenly put the body through large amounts of stress without preparing it beforehand, you'll quickly run into injuries.


To warm up, you should ideally do a combination of light cardio, light lifting, foam rolling and dynamic stretching to get all the necessary body parts warmed up. Not only will this improve your athletic performance, but it will reduce your chances of injury as well.



Train With Good Form


Man with barbell on his back preparing to do back squat and training with good form and technique

Next up, you need to ensure that you're lifting with the right form. Improper technique and execution of an exercise can quickly lead to injury, and is common among beginners and even more intermediate lifters.


Lifting with improper form, especially under heavy loads can cause your body to fall into weak and unfavorable positions. This is going to increase your chances of injury by placing large amounts of stress on body parts that aren't naturally strong enough to be tolerating that kind of stress alone.


For example, if you lift with improper form on a barbell back squat, and you lean forwards too much, that will place a lot of unnecessary stress and strain on your spinal erectors, which are not strong enough to hold that kind of weight alone. This would lead to muscle strains and back pain, which would then go on to affect future sessions and limit performance.


Another example could be the bench press, or even something as simple as the push up. Flaring your elbows out too wide under the load can place too much stress on the shoulder joint, which is not strong enough to be holding that much weight. This can lead to shoulder pain over time, and affect not only your training, but activities in everyday life as well.



This doesn't just apply to lifters in the gym either. You can train with improper form on activities such as running and cycling too. For example, running with bad form could place too much stress on the knees or ankles, and lead to serious injury over time.


Instead of immediately jumping into an exercise and lifting near maximal loads or at high intensities, take the time to learn the proper form and really understand how that specific exercise should be executed. No matter how much weight you're lifting or how hard you're training, a bad injury will set you back and may cause your hard work to go to waste.


Start with light loads, and ensure that you can perform the exercise safely and comfortably before advancing onto heavier loads. This is the way that absolutely everybody should be starting out.


Recover Properly


Next up, we need to ensure that we're taking our recovery seriously and actually taking the time to give our body a chance to rest. If we're working hard in the gym or out on the sports field consistently for weeks on end, we need to be able to give our body a chance to rest and recover. If we don't we'll be pushing the limits far too often, and quickly get injured.


You may have seen stories of competitive athletes training multiple times a day, and never taking rest days or even giving their body a chance to recover. It might look like they're being productive and getting lots done, until they run into an injury during training and can't exercise for weeks on end.


This can happen to lifters in the gym too. Even just training hard once a day can lead to injury if we're not careful with our recovery. And no, this doesn't have to be something that takes up a huge chunk of our day.


It can simply mean a 5 minute warm down at the end of our session. It can simply mean getting an extra hour or two of sleep every night if we're currently getting less than 7 hours a night. Maybe it means that you need to take more rest days between workouts.


You also need to ensure that you're doing static stretching and foam rolling, as well as giving your body the right nutrition that it needs to recover and grow. If you don't not only will you limit your gains, but increase chance of injury as well.


Whatever it is, you need to ensure that your body is getting a chance to rest. And no, just eating protein isn't going to get the job done. You should be getting at least 1-2 rest days a week, and ensuring that your time 'off' outside of the gym is really used to recover.


If you've got a physically demanding job, then you may need to try and find a way to allow for more recovery between work and the gym. Or maybe this means that you need to work out less. Basically, unless you've got a very good reason to do so, you should be doing everything in your power to reduce the chances of injury and let your body recover.


The key takeaways from this are:


  • Do a warm down after your workouts

  • Do your static stretching and foam rolling

  • Eat right

  • Take at least 1-2 rest days a week

  • Consider your schedule and what you do outside of the gym

  • Get enough sleep


Fit and lean woman doing lower back stretches at home on a yoga mat

Check That Your Equipment is in Good Condition


This is extremely basic and obvious, but many people are not careful with this and injure themselves in the most easily avoidable ways possible.


It's as simple as checking that your weight machine doesn't have any loose nuts or bolts. It's as simple as ensuring that your weight bench is fully locked into the position before you lie on it. It's as simple as checking that your clips are on properly when lifting with a barbell.


All too often, I see strong lifters strapping extra weight plates onto their dumbbells and doing exercises like overhead presses and bench presses. If you are going to do this, you need to double and triple check that the plates are secure. If they fall and hit you in the face or the head, there's no doubt that will lead to an injury.


And this doesn't just happen to people in the gym either. This could happen to cyclists riding a new bike that hasn't been assembled properly. Or a faulty gear that suddenly locks up during intense riding.


We recommend that you check all of your equipment is in a safe and working condition before using it. It just takes a couple seconds, but could mean the difference between training safely and suffering an injury for weeks or even months.


This should go without saying, but equipment that is damaged or not in good order should be replaced or repaired as soon as possible. If you notice something in your gym that's not working properly and could be dangerous, tell the managers about it!


So check that your equipment is working properly. It's super simple, but is often overlooked and causes a lot of the injuries that do happen in training. Definitely an easily avoidable cause of injury in my opinion.


Know Your Limits and Be Responsible


I see far too many people pushing their limits too hard or too often, and being extremely irresponsible when it comes to their own safety. This is more common among beginners, but can happen to anyone in the heat of the moment.


It's important that we each know the limitations of our own bodies and respect them. If we're not careful, we can put our bodies into very unfavorable positions, under heavy loads or under large amounts of stress.


For example, there are some exercises that require large amounts of flexibility in certain parts of the body, such as the conventional deadlift or the barbell front squat. If we're not careful, and try to jump into exercises like this with heavy loads, we can quickly get injured.


You need to know the limits on what you're currently capable of, and slowly work towards trying to improve it. There's no point training that hard if you get hurt and can't continue to train at all for weeks or months.


Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help


Female bench presser lifting with a spotter behind her ready to help catch the weight if she fails

Next up, don't be afraid to ask for help when you train! Don't be afraid to ask for spotters in the gym when you squat or bench press. Don't be afraid to ask for help unracking heavy equipment if you're not sure whether you can do it on your own.


It's always better to be safe than sorry. Even if you're shy, or you feel like it's inconsiderate to interrupt others and ask for help, you need to understand that your safety is extremely important, and no workout or job is important enough to trump that.


Ask a friend to help you if you've got one at the gym with you. Or if you don't know anybody in the gym and really don't want to ask, you can ask the gym manager or supervisor! They're always happy to help you out. Two people is always going to better than one.


Pay Attention to Pain


Pain during exercise is never good. And no, I'm not talking about sore muscles. It's important that you know the difference between muscle soreness and pain from working hard, and the pain of an injury. I can't describe it for you, but you'll gradually learn it as you become more and more experienced with training.


If you ever feel injury pain when exercising, you should stop immediately and reassess what you're doing. Try to figure out what's hurting and why. Maybe you're using too much weight, or your form is a little off that day. It happens, and future injuries can be avoided.


If you're an intermediate to advanced lifter, most of the time, you'll know if you actually suffer an injury. Maybe you accidentally do a bad rep on the deadlift, and you'll know that you hurt your back, or your adductor, or whatever.


You need to pay attention to your body, and understand what it's trying to tell you. If it tells you to stop, then stop. No ifs, no buts. Probably a good idea to go get that checked out.


Conclusion


All in all, workout injuries are bound to happen to everybody sometime in their fitness career. Even if we take the most careful measures to avoid them, we're all sure to face at least one in our lifetime.


However, following these 7 steps will help you avoid as many injuries as possible and keep you training as safely and effectively as possible. Nobody wants to suffer injuries on purpose.


If you found this post helpful, remember to share it with your friends to that they can keep safe and we can reach more people! We're trying to help as many reach their goals as possible.



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