If you are a regular gym goer you have to be open to the occasional chance of an injury.
Putting your body under any kind of strain with the aim of improving yourself means that you are going to have to risk the occasional pull, stretch or bump.
This article will be written from the point of view of a gym manager, one who has been around different gyms for a number of years and can list off the most common injuries incurred in a gym setting and how to avoid them in the future.
Hopefully it will provide you all with strategies to consider and implement to avoid any of these injuries. A good deal of them are avoidable.
Top 2 Avoidable Accidents
Both of these can be fixed with the use of safety bars or spotters. Remove your ego and include some safety in your workouts and these will not be a worry.
I know not every bench has safety bars on it, but this is no excuse for lacking safety when dealing with heavy weights. If you drop that bar from the locked out position onto your ribs you’ll be lucky to get out without any serious damage.
Or even, if you start pressing and the bar passes over your face and you lose control – imagine a (now aptly named) skull crusher gone wrong, this could lead to a number of issues including broken teeth or any number of bruising or fracture injuries to the facial area.
When you’re doing the squat, you might just decide that you only need a place to unrack the bar from so that you can get under it, remove the bar and then have the space to squat. However, you have to use safety bars.
I can’t warn against this enough. A number of things could happen if you don’t – such as: –
- You get squished and discover just how flexible you are.
- You try to flick the bar off of your back and end up hitting yourself (with a weight) in the spine or glutes.
- You go too far forward and land on your face, or even (and this is a horror story I heard from a friend who works in the NHS) sever your spine.
All of these could be avoided by having safety bars in place.
If you find that you cannot bring the weight back up then you control it down to the bars and then take yourself out of harm’s way. I once shared a video of me failing a squat on my social media, and it sparked a discussion of how to best dump the bar if you fail a squat.
It was decided that how I had done it was probably the best way – in that you control the bar down to the safeties and then crawl out. All that was hurt was my pride – it could have been a lot worse though as I had only put the safety bars in prior to that set.
This goes to show that the main issues in the gym are avoidable. To be honest, nearly all of them are, some will be freak accidents, but there is no excuse to not use the safety equipment provided.
Strains, tears and pulls
Technically these are all the same thing, a strain is a very minor tear within a muscle and a pull might just be what you call a smaller strain.
However, most of these things can be avoided by warming up sufficiently and appropriately.
I include the word “appropriately” as well here as some people seem to think that stretching their upper body, or doing a few curls maybe sufficient for a squat workout warmup.
If you’re going to go do a lower body session then some upper work to open up your shoulders can help, especially if you are doing squats, lunges or anything with a barbell loaded across your shoulders.
However, you will also need to open up your hips, warm up your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and your lower back and core in general. Failing to do this will leave you open to tears, strains and pulls – which by themselves aren’t bad injuries but they can be enough to stop you training sufficiently to reach your goals and just generally put a spanner in the works.
A bit of a tenuous link, but under preparation could come your pre and post workout recovery. What I mean by this is how you look after yourself and your tired and sore muscles in between workouts. Are you doing anything beyond sleeping and eating to aid your recovery? Are you seeing a massage therapist regularly? Are you trying strategies like contrast showers?
For some ideas on what to do for recovery, check out this list;
- Kinotherapy – this is where you rapidly discard of the waste products in your muscles, such as Lactic Acid. This would entail either some light aerobic work or stretching. More commonly known as ‘Active Rest’.
- Complete rest – This is basically just sleep. It is recommended that you 9-10 hours sleep when you are an active athlete. Not all of this sleep has to come at night, 10-20% can be made up in power naps throughout the day.
- Heat Therapy
- Contrast baths/showers – This is one I use, beware though if you finish with cold you’ll feel more awake, but if you finish with warm you’ll feel drowsy quickly. Keep that in mind if you’re about to drive home!
Form and technique
Another chunk of these injuries could also be avoided by making sure you train within your own biomechanical limits.
What this means is that you should adapt exercises to the patterns in which your body can manage – granted, a good deal of people will have patterns that need working on, but in these cases you wouldn’t focus upon building strength just yet, you would have to fix these patterns first.
Adding strength onto a bad foundation is a sure formula for injury and pain.
Just to fully explain this – imagine someone squatting with severe valgus knees (knees that collapse inward on the up on a squat) the squat would look ugly, probably not be to sufficient depth and leave a lot of untapped strength behind.
If this lifter were to continue squatting with this form then they would exaggerate the problem in their hips or glutes (most likely cause of valgus knees) while also creating issues within the knee and ankle joints also.
However, if they were to focus upon their form they could then ensure that they do not succumb to any nasty injuries while training, and also, if their form is like this it is highly likely that they some postural issues in their everyday life which could then be improved by some work in the gym – highlighting one of the true advantages of strength training right there.
To sum up
If you want to avoid injury all of the time, you’re going to be disappointed: – freak accidents happen; sometimes you push things a bit too hard, or even; you just rush yourself in terms of time and don’t take enough care.
However, a good deal of injuries can be avoided by taking proper care.
At the end of the day, even if your gym goals are more aesthetic centred they should still have an element of self-care, so look after yourself as I have described above and you should avoid time out of the gym and a achieve a long, fulfilling time improving yourself.