Avoiding Injury in the Gym: Strategy #1

Yesterday, I wrote about confronting your fear with logic and coming to the realization that the outcomes in your mind are probably not as horrible as they seem.

Today, I want to give you my first piece of practical advice on not getting injured in the gym: keeping proper form.

Before you even think of adding a challenging weight to the bar, you need to be sure that you have your form correct. But don’t let this become an excuse to not add weight for weeks, it can happen in the first day, actually, and you can continue to improve it before the weights get really heavy. If you have a (good) coach who can ensure that you are solid on the movements, then this will expedite things. If you don’t have a coach, reputable videos are a decent stand-in. What you want to do in this case is watch the video of someone performing the exercise properly. Watch several, as a matter of fact. Then, using only the empty barbell (that weighs 45 pounds), film yourself performing the exercise. Compare and see what needs to be tightened up, and ask for review from others who know what they are doing. I have a Facebook Group that I’d love to have you become a part of where you can post these videos and receive feedback as well.

Here are some tips on taking a quality video that people don’t have to suffer through watching. I know that all of these are not possible in every gym setup, especially if you are working out alone, but try and check as many boxes as you can.

Make sure you don’t film in such a way that the viewer needs to turn their screen to watch the video.

Position the camera (phone) at hip height at a 45 degree angle from yourself. This allows the viewers to see all of your joints and not just get a great view of the not-so-shiny 45s.

Keep your entire body (feet to head) in the frame at all times. If you can’t get it that far away, do the best you can.

If you have someone videoing for you, have them do something to stabilize the camera and save your viewers from the tremors.

If you don’t have someone to video, prop the camera up on something about hip height at the 45 degree angle. Fancy people use tripods. I’m cheap and place my phone on weights or whatever is close and high enough.

Cut out the part of the video where you set up your phone, accidentally drop it, and set it back up, as well as the part where you stomp around, stare blankly, or whatever you do to psyche up for your lift. Time is valuable, so be considerate of your viewers. Post only the immediate set up for the lift and the lift itself.

The more you see your form and receive feedback on it, the more confident you become in your execution of the exercise, and the more willing you are to push your limits and make progress.

Now, perhaps you think you don’t need to hear this because you’ve lifted before. Well, even those who have been lifting for some time can still notice breakdown in their form. Here is an example from my own training:

I have videoed my deadlifts, and I had nearly perfected the art of a straight back. Yet last month, I went live on Facebook to attempt a max deadlift. I pulled the weight and was feeling good…until I watched the video and deleted it from Facebook. My back was about as straight as a Lucky Charms rainbow. I thought through it, spoke with someone else, and realized the problem: I had upped my squat volume significantly, and my lower back was likely not recovering enough from that by the time I performed my deadlifts. As a result, my form was breaking down. And it isn’t always the big things, sometimes small tweaks can improve your lift to a surprising degree.

My point is this: it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, it is still a good idea to have a coach check you or at least video yourself, watch it, and post it somewhere for review. Use your warm-up sets, before the weight is heavy, to really focus on your form as well.

One of the most important things that you can do to prevent injury in the gym is to ensure that your form is as close to perfect as possible. Implement these strategies consistently, and your confidence will grow and your fear will begin to dissipate.

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