Here are the first eight of Chapter One’s 38 recommendations on how to avoid injuries while bodybuilding:
1. Never apply the “No pain, no gain” maxim
Never do anything that hurts, don’t train if you’ve hurt yourself, and never train through pain. Cumulative muscular discomfort and systemic fatigue from an exercise done with effort and correct technique, are desirable, but pain isn’t. Any sharp, stabbing, or sudden pain is a sign you’ve injured yourself.
Countless trainees have given up bodybuilding and strength training because of having been hurt from following foolish advice. Those who live the “No pain, no gain” maxim usually regret it, sooner or later.
2. Know your physical anomalies
Modify your training according to any physical anomalies you may have. For example, if you’ve had back surgery, the barbell squat may be an unwise exercise selection; and if you have foot problems, running wouldn’t be a wise choice of cardio exercise. Know your body before you go training it.
3. Seek correction of physical restrictions
With the right treatment you may be able to rid yourself of problems you may have accepted as permanent, or at least reduce them greatly. Investigate the possibility. You probably have restrictions in your muscles — soft-tissue restrictions are at the root of many physical problems and limitations. Seek expert therapists. You may need to look beyond your home area.
4. Don’t neglect flexibility work
Generally, supple muscles are less likely to suffer injury than tight ones. Supple muscles have more give in them than tight muscles, and help protect against injury. Supple and strong muscles provide greater protection.
5. Adapt to exercises
Be patient when learning how to perform a new exercise. Use very light weights to begin with, and only once you’ve mastered exercise technique should you add weight, gradually, and pick up the effort level.
Once you’ve had a lot of experience with a particular exercise but haven’t included it in your program for a few months, take a few weeks to refamiliarize yourself with it before you train it hard.
6. Apply training discipline
It’s easier to use correct exercise technique and controlled rep speed at the start of a set than during the final few reps when the required effort is higher. Hold correct technique and controlled rep speed even on the final “can just squeeze this out” rep. Never break correct form to force out another rep. Perform correct reps only, or end the set.
If possible, train with a partner who can scrutinize your exercise technique and rep speed, and, by oral cues, help you to keep your technique and rep speed correct.
7. Use a safe range of motion
Use the maximum safe range of motion for you for each exercise. For selectorized equipment, such as many leg curl machines, you can manually delimit the range of motion, if required. Remove the pin from the weight stack, then grip the cable that’s attached to the guide rod that runs through the weight stack, and lift it. The top weight plate will rise alone, revealing the guide rod. Expose two holes on the rod, for example, and then use the pin to select the required weight. The gap between the first and second weight plates indicates the reduction in range of motion — two to three inches in this illustration. Fine-tune the reduction to what’s required to produce the maximum safe range of motion for you. Make a note in your training logbook of the setting.
8. Maintain symmetrical lifting
Other than for one-side-at-a-time exercises such as the one-legged calf raise, and the L-fly, focus on symmetrical technique, to apply symmetrical stress to your body.
Don’t let the bar slope to one side during barbell work. Keep it parallel with the floor at all times. Both hands must move in unison. For example, in barbell pressing, one hand should neither be above nor in front of the other.
A critical factor behind symmetrical lifting, is symmetrical hand and foot positioning. If one hand is placed further from the center of the bar than the other, or if one foot is positioned differently to the other, you won’t be symmetrically positioned, and thus will be set up for asymmetrical lifting.
Load barbells carefully. If you loaded one end of the bar with more weight than the other, you’ll lift asymmetrically. A substantial weight difference will be noticeable during the first rep of a set, whereupon the bar should be set down or racked, and the loading corrected. A bar that’s slightly lopsided may not be detectable, but will nevertheless lead to asymmetrical lifting, and perhaps injury.
If you lift on a surface that’s not horizontal, you’ll lift asymmetrically. Train on a level floor. This is especially important for the big exercises, such as the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. Take a spirit level to the gym, and check out whether or not the lifting areas are level, and then use only the ones that are.