As much as I hate to admit it, my body is pretty fragile. While I’ve only broken one bone (my pinky toe) in my life, I’ve sprained, strained or torn pretty much every other joint, muscle, tendon and ligament in my body multiple times. Yes I’m exaggerating a little but nonetheless I’ve probably lost years of precious training time due to preventable injuries that I’ll never get back. I’ve learned my lessons the hard way and in the past few years I’ve started to turn this injury-prone ship around.
Let me make it clear that I am not a doctor and the following list is far from all-encompassing- it’s just a personal list of things that have helped me stay in the gym and off the injured reserve. I figured this list would be especially relevant with the New Year is coming up as a lot of people will be diving head first into this or that program. And while not all-encompassing by any means, the following list of items are some of the things I’ve learned that have helped keep me stay on the playing field and off the injured reserve list.
Pain is a signal.
If something hurts (sharp pain as opposed to stiffness or soreness) find the source and figure out what’s going on.
Do daily soft tissue and mobility work on your problem areas.
You should probably spend some time on your hips and ankles every day. If you don’t have a foam roller by now I highly recommend you get one. Read The Supple Leopard and become very familiar with Kelly Starrett’s YouTube channel.
Warm up with some light cardio and dynamic stretches.
Some light bike work until you get a sweat and 5-10 minutes of dynamic movements will greatly decrease your risk of injury and significantly increase your performance.
Do not put your spine in a compromised position.
Don’t “buttwink” or round your back excessively on squats and deadlifts.
Do not allow your knees to go too far out in front of feet on squats or jumps.
A little is fine but try to keep your shins as vertical as possible. Open up your hips.
Do not allow your knees to go inwards on jumps or under load EVER.
Allowing your knees to travel inward is called knee valgus and is highly correlated with knee injuries.
Don’t allow your glute muscles to fall asleep- activate those suckas.
Especially before training.
Try not to sit down all day every day.
Stand up and move around. Don’t let your hip flexors and hamstrings glue together. Try to get 10,000 steps a day.
Don’t become too quad dominant.
Spend just as much time strengthening your glutes and hamstrings as you do your quads. Some coaches recommend a 2-1 ratio of posterior (back) to anterior (front) chain work, which is the opposite of what the average gym bro does.
Wear Olympic shoes if you want to squat ATG but your ankle mobility is poor.
Don’t use gear to prevent pain or hide muscular deficiencies.
If you don’t overtrain, use good form and have proper mobility you shouldn’t have pain. I personally believe the majorityof your training should be without knee wraps, ankle braces or weight belts.
Avoid using the smith machine or machines in general for the majority of your workout.
If you have chronic problem areas, make one, two, or many adjustments.
Remember the definition of insanity.
If you simply can’t squat or deadlift without pain there is no shame in substituting them for safer alternatives.
Along with #13, still prioritize free weights over machines though- Bulgarian split squats are a better substitution for squats then the leg press. That being said, figure out why you get pain from a movement, work on yourself and revisit it later.
Do not do depth jumps from too high a height.
Should not be so high that your heels touch the ground when landing. This for example would probably be a height that’s a little too high.
Don’t heel strike when running.
Take care of your lower back.
You might not want to do heavy squats on Monday, heavy Pendlay rows on Tuesday and then deadlift on Wednesday. See #4.
Don’t have shit posture when sitting.
Tighten your butt and abs and sit up straight (yes I saw you just do this at your desk).
Spend some time every now and then training barefoot.
Will help with #17.
Keep the stress in your life to a minimum.
Cortisol killz gains bro. Don’t worry too much about things that don’t matter.
If you have anterior (or posterior) pelvic tilt, fix it.
Understand your poor movement patterns and use personal cues to fix them.
For instance, my personal cues during squatting are to 1. bracing my core and squeezing my glutes, 2. initiate the movement by sitting back instead of bending at the knees and 3. keep the knees out. Everyone needs their own personal cues though- what works for me might not work for you.
Don’t do plyometrics more than twice a week or on back to back days when just starting out.
Don’t skip the warm up. Ever.
Learn how to brace your core on heavy lifts.
If you can’t do them properly find a coach who can teach you or don’t do them.
Skip the “stability training”.
Unless you’re a professional tight rope walker, the vast majority of sports (and your life) will be spent with your feet on solid ground. Don’t waste your time balancing on stupid shit. With the exception of hoverboards. Those are pretty cool.
Leave your ego at the door. Don’t go heavier than you should.
Compare imbalances between your left and right sides occasionally.
A little imbalance is normal but a lot may lead to problems down the road.
Along with #30, incorporate at least some unilateral work.
Bulgarian split squats are awesome, so are step ups, reverse lunges, one legged bounds and one legged deadlifts. Be careful with one legged jump work not to put too much stress on each leg.
Avoid using stimulants, music, etc. to always train in a 110% arousal state.
Lifts done when super hyped up might increase your risk of injury and they definitely take much longer to recover from. The difference in results between 95 and 100% of your effort is miniscule. Taking stimulants at night may also hurt your sleeping patterns.
Loose extra fat if you have it.
Deload from time to time or take the occasional week off.
It won’t kill you.
Know your temperament.
If you like to train balls-to-the-wall every time you’re in the gym then you probably shouldn’t go every day.
Play your sport often.
Don’t spend all your time in the weight room. Stay functional and keep your movements efficient.
Play different sports with different physical demands.
Play basketball one week, soccer the next, then racquetball then volleyball, etc.
Don’t sit, stand, walk or run with your feet pointed more than 30% out.
Point your feet forwards and create torque.
Don’t spend too much time training, running or jumping on super hard surfaces.
Don’t do maximum box jumps.
Eventually you’ll miss, fuck up your shins or fall awkwardly, maybe tearing your ACL in the process.
Don’t do too much in one day.
Don’t go 100% if you’re exhausted.
If you’re having a bad day if you’re beat up, accept it and do what you can. Come back fresh next time.
Don’t wear elevation masks.
They’re not dangerous, they’re just stupid. And you should get beat up if you wear one.
Don’t lose a finger on a metal basketball chain net
Ala Gerald Green.
Don’t do shallow squats.
Go to at least parallel and get a third party to verify your depth. Most people think they go to parallel but don’t.
Video tape your form from several angles.
Don’t assume it’s correct on any exercise- no one’s form is perfect and yours might not be close. Use full range of motion on all exercises.
·If you don’t know what good form looks like for an exercise, study YouTube videos or ask an expert to show you.
Don’t do plyometrics in a fatigued state.
Goes along with #41 and 42. When you get tired or if your performance drops, stop.
Don’t follow an advanced program if you’re an intermediate and don’t follow an intermediate program if you’re a novice.
Do I even have to say it? Get your sleep, eat your veggies and drink a lot of water.
Maybe the most important tip on here.