When I embarked on my fitness journey for the first time, I was scared of injuries. I decided to avoid any unnecessary setbacks and did plenty of research on the subject. The answer was quite clear; injury prevention depends on a mixture of things: plenty of rest, good nutrition, taking care of your muscles, and paying attention to your body as you perform the weightlifting movements.
But how can you truly be safe when weightlifting? The truth is, most injuries happen because of poor technique – or a complete misunderstanding of body mechanics related to weightlifting. The best example is the squat. Most people believe squatting to parallel will help you avoid injury and stay safe, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When you parallel squat, you are putting all the weight on your knees. If you break parallel, you’ll squat like you are biomechanically supposed to do: put your weight on your hips and ankles. Even though most injuries happen because of how you behave in the gym, you can get injured due to external factors, as well. How much you rest and your nutrition are as important as your weightlifting technique.
Without proper rest, your muscles and ligaments – basically, your whole body – begin to malfunction, victim to fatigue and burnout. Your diet is also fundamental for a healthy life as a weightlifter. We all know food is our fuel, especially when we decide to make such a gigantic effort lifting weights, but most people take it for granted.
A diverse diet filled with protein, fats, carbs, and plenty of micronutrients can be the difference between getting to old age with no problems and a crippling injury ending your fitness journey before you reach your 50s. Proper technique, nutrition, and rest go hand in hand. But you have to help yourself as well: stretching and foam rolling can prevent injuries and prehab helps possible genetic issues you may encounter.
When you do these things is as important as how you do it as well: Avoid stretching before weightlifting and foam roll both before and after if you have the time.
Whether you are new to the gym or if you have enough experience to be considered a veteran, there is hidden knowledge that might make or break your gym experience. Thanks to what you just read, you already know the basics – and you can consider yourself ahead of most people. But you need to understand a couple of more things before you can safely embark on your weightlifting activities.
How Can I Make Sure I am Being Safe and Giving it My Best When I’m Weightlifting?
- Body awareness and technique: It doesn’t matter if you are warming up or doing your one-rep max, you should always pay attention to your body. Learn how to correctly perform every technique before trying to lift more weight. The compound movements are simple yet complicated – you have to be patient. When it comes to machines, the same rule applies. Keep it slow and keep it technical. Following this principle will prevent injury 9 out of 10 times.
- Foam roll & Prehab: You not only have to build muscle, but you have to take care of your muscles. Buy a foam roll and a small lacrosse ball to perform self-massage techniques and to release trigger points that might accumulate in your body. It might not seem like much, but tissue mobilization techniques with a foam roll and trigger point release with a small ball is the same as taking your car to the mechanic – if you delay it, you are going to pay for it big time.
- Stretching: When you foam roll, you are softening hardened muscles. Once they are free to move around again, you need to stretch. You should also do mobility exercises. Regain and improve your range of motion. Without a proper range of motion, you’ll be unable to perform the weightlifting techniques properly, leading to injury.
- Nutrition: Having enough macronutrients and micronutrients in your diet is just as important as using the correct technique. When you lift weights, you break down muscle tissue to let your body build newer, stronger muscle to replace it. Without the right nutrition, your body doesn’t have enough fuel to accomplish this goal. If you break down tissue without being able to recover, you’ll injure yourself. Eat enough protein, fat, and carbohydrates to avoid unnecessary problems.
- Rest: You probably know, eight hours a day, every day. It’s a tough rule to follow in our modern, fast-paced world. But you need to rest as much as you need good nutrition. Once you have broken down the muscles and eaten the right meals, you need to rest to let your body rebuild your muscles. Without getting eight hours of sleep every night, your body will fail to recover, and sooner or later, you will suffer an injury.
- Listen to your body: If you feel pain or discomfort, stop. There are no ifs and buts about it. Your body is wise beyond its years and knows how to make it clear when it’s near its breaking point. You shouldn’t confuse muscle fatigue with pain. Pain is usually shooting through your muscles and joints every time and increases when you are using said muscle. Fatigue happens around the muscle and is more related to a tiredness feeling than pain. You can push through fatigue with no problems.
Learning Weightlifting the Right Way and Choosing the Best Options to Achieve your Goals
You are probably wondering how can you learn proper weightlifting routines and where you can pick a routine. Your safest bet would be to pay a professional to help you. If that’s not within your reach, there’s plenty of resources on the internet. Your safest bet would be consulting multiple sources and using what works best for you. Don’t be afraid of trying different things before finding the right choice!
How to Avoid Messing up Our Diet and Staying on Track
Following a strict diet is too hard – lucky for you, it’s unnecessary to do it. As long as you avoid sugar, trans fat, and alcohol, you are doing okay. Of course, you can have a cheat meal every once in a while, and you can drink when you are with friends, but avoid making that a habit. Keep a diverse diet with red meat, chicken, fish, greens, and fruit. Don’t starve yourself and don’t go overboard. And never, ever follow fad diets. They do more harm than good.
Finding the Time to Stretch, Foam Roll, and Rest When you Don’t Have the Time
A gym session is usually one hour to two hours long. That’s more than enough time for everyone to want to run back home when it’s over. If you have to foam roll and stretch, it’ll turn gym sessions into a never-ending chore.
If you don’t feel like it or don’t have the time to do it at the gym, you can foam roll and stretch 30 minutes before bed. It’ll make falling asleep easier, you’ll rest better, and you’ll take good care of your body before sleeping instead of mindlessly wandering through social media. It’s a win-win.
- Do I need to weightlift if I want to get in shape?
No, you don’t have to if you want to get in shape. Studies have shown that walking thirty minutes after dinner will help you get back in shape. You can also try recreational sports if multiple gym sessions per week seem boring to you. But weightlifting is the best method we have to get in shape and the best way to get a great body in the process. Of course, it’s not for everyone, and it’s not the only option. But it’s the most efficient.
- I’ve heard compound barbell movements are not necessary and using machines is the only thing I need, is that true?
If you have decided to start weightlifting, that’s great! Keep in mind compound movements are a must and machines are merely accessories. That’s right: your main workout should come from squats, bench press, rows, and deadlifts. That doesn’t mean machines are bad; they are great if used properly. But If you are short on time, it’s better to stick to compound movements and leave machines for later on.
You should try to get the time to use both, as they are perfect matches for each other.
- I stopped weightlifting for a couple of weeks or months, should I start right where I left off?
Not. Taking a week off is enough time to set you back a little bit. If you are trying to avoid injury, you should slowly work back into your best numbers instead of jumping right in. If you have taken more than three months off, that’s when your body starts to lose muscle mass, so you’ll be in a clear disadvantage to attempt anything that you have done previously.
The best way to go back to the gym after a hiatus is to avoid rushing it. If you let your ego get the best of you, you’ll walk right into an injury trap – leaving you with more time off weightlifting.
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