Your mission in the gym is to get stronger, fitter, and healthier for the long haul. There’s no time for sitting on the bench because of an injury and having to start again easy when you’re back to training. Even if you can still get in the gym and continue training around the injury, working out at anything less than 100% just isn’t fun.
If you are one that makes one or more of these mistakes, it’s still time to change for the best! Use your brain before you use your muscles.
Dumbbell chest press on the stability ball
When you’re lifting and handling a heavy dumbbell, the last thing you need is for the surface beneath you to be moving. You get to make one wrong move and the chances of injuring yourself are much higher than if the surface were static. Not to mention that if the ball somehow comes from under you, you’ve won yourself a one-way trip to the ER and will forever be known as “the guy who fell off the stability ball and was crushed by dumbbells.
Some say that it’s a great way to work your core, but it has no benefits when compared to a standard DB press. And there are so many other movements like ab rollouts, hanging leg raises, crunches, squats, and deadlifts to train your core in a safe and effective manner.
Bench press - with a bounce
There are lifters you saw at your gym, who lie on the bench and let the bar drop quickly so it bounces off their chest. The theory behind this method is that stretching your pectorals this way will help you recruit more muscle fibers so you can lift heavier.
This method does not work. Also, if you’re using weights that are too heavy, you can injure your shoulders on the way up and your rib cage on the way down. The exercise definitely has more risks than rewards and that makes it useless. A good alternative to this method is the bench press, period.
Bench press - keeping your back flat the entire time
You've done a million you and know all the rules: have a spotter if you're lifting heavy, set your feet flat on the floor, hips width apart, and keep your back pressed against the bench the entire time. You might not have known this, but one of these rules is actually dangerous.
Most likely, this is the way your trainer taught you and all your gym buddies are doing it the same way, but it turns out, it can cause great injury to your shoulders.
Your back has a natural arch. By allowing your back to be slightly naturally off the bench, your shoulders wrap around the bench and this increases stability and lets your chest muscles stretch farther and get bigger gains. The worst part about it is that you'll keep up the bad behavior, since that’s how you’ve been doing it from the beginning, and continuously strain your shoulder.
Using the Thumbless Grip – a.k.a the “Suicide Grip”
“Who cares how you grip the bar? Just use whatever grip feels the most comfortable.”
Well, you should care, and you should care A LOT. Say you’re on the bench doing the bench press. If you lose your grip — this does happen to people, yes — the bar can land right on your throat. If you are a lucky guy, you drop the bar on your chest, but that's not so great either.
People say that the benefits of using a thumbless grip while doing the bench press are that it doesn’t place as much strain on the shoulder tendons and that it allows you to press more with your triceps. Maybe this is the case for some people and if you are amongst them, then please perform the thumbless grip using the power rack or the smith machine with the safety pins set at chest height. This way if something goes wrong and the bar starts to roll, at least then the rack will absorb the impact and not your rib cage.
You ignore pain
When it comes to muscle soreness, there is pain that is tolerable and that you can work through, and then there is pain that you need to sit up and listen to. Not recognizing the differences between the two is extremely problematic because there are some injuries that, if continually aggravated, could require an extended recovery time.
Here are the 5 body pains you never should ignore, thinking you can power through:
- Sudden Head or Neck Pain – If you feel a sudden painful feeling in your head, especially when squatting with heavy weight, you need to stop and have a look at your form. This pain can be a result of a blood vessel being overloaded due to pressure, or a seizing muscle that is having difficulty dealing with the stress of the weight you’re lifting. If you like squatting with heavy weights, concentrate on keeping your shoulders and neck muscles loose so that they take some of the force of the weight, and stop you from getting a serious strain in this area of the body.
- Extreme Groin-Area Tenderness – When performing heavy squats, deadlifts or lunges, if you get a very tight, sudden pain in the groin area, you need to stop, as this is a definite body pain you mustn't ignore. The pain can come from a simple muscle cramp or a muscle-pull, depending on the severity of the injury. Once you try to perform the same action again and the pain still occurs, only with less severity this time, it’s a strong signal that you’ve really pulled your inner thigh muscle. Make sure you stretch that area as much and soon as you can and, if possible, apply ice to help take down any swelling that may have occurred. Give it about four days to a week to heal, and then proceed with your usual lifting schedule once again.
- Sharp back pain – You should always pay attention to any type of back pain you experience, but when the pain is sharp and direct, you should never ignore it. Sharp pain is a good indicator that something is wrong, and the cause could be anything from a slipped disc to a pinched nerve. If you've been performing lifts such as snatches, military presses and any other lifting exercises that require bringing the weight overhead, it means you are constantly loading the vertebra with a lot of excess weight. All it takes is one slight adjustment to your stance for a vertebra to move out of alignment, which could also lead to pain throughout the body, depending on which vertebra is dislocated. If that happens, you need medical attention as soon as possible, to get the issue corrected before lifting once again.
- Runner’s ankle pain – When you’re running and you experience the type of pain in your ankle that makes your foot want to give out upon impact, it’s time to stop, as this could be a sign of a sprained ankle or a strained ligament and you need to look after it. If you enjoy running you need to pay attention to your body and know when enough is enough.
- Shin Pain – Shin splints are another common running injury that can be a result of continual pounding on the tibia bone. If you are experiencing some shin pain, take note of how long it’s been going on and exactly where it’s located. If it’s been two weeks or more, or if the problem gets worse, you could eventually wind up with a stress fracture.
Don’t overlook these body pains when you’re in the gym. Having a high threshold for pain can be a good thing when you are trying to push yourself, but not taking these pains seriously, you could be facing bigger problems at the end of the day.
Not protecting your joints
Your body is like a well-oiled machine, but too much stress placed upon your joints might lead to injury. Strains, sprains, dislocations, and arthritis can all result from a lack of joint care. These are most common in the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees, the ankles, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. If you want to enjoy training to the fullest, you need to take proper care of your joints.
Compression knee sleeves or wraps, serve to minimize the risk of severe injuries without interfering with your workout and reducing your mobility. Knee sleeves are specially designed to offer extra support and to protect against injuries. They are particularly important for those who lift weights (or are into powerlifting) and for runners, who put a lot of pressure on their joints. Compression gear also offers you more stability as it improves your balance.
Jumps in intensity bigger than needed
When it comes to healthy habits, too much of a good thing can backfire, and that applies to exercise as well. Sudden large increases in a training volume, intensity, or both, can sometimes lead to disaster.
Each time you decide to intensify your training, you need to strive for balance and keep in mind where you were a week before, to take it from there.
Never changing exercises
The exercises you perform can create stress on specific parts of your body and not only your muscles but also the various connective tissues that support them. The main reason that most people switch exercises every other month is to try and change the adaptive stress to the working muscles and to give the connective tissue time to repair itself periodically.
While your body can help you figure out when it’s time to stop – through pain, it won’t let you know when it's time to change exercises. The connective tissue is poorly innervated, which means you won't be aware of the damage you're inflicting on yourself until it's too late. Don’t let it get to that. Instead, plan ahead and change each your training routine every 4 to 8 weeks.
Training doesn’t have to be the thing that happens between injuries now and then. Train smart and listen to your body every time it signals you about anything. There's still time to adopt better habits!
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