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05 September 2011

5 ways to avoid injury at the gym

Professional personal trainer and director of Body Excel Gym, Dave Giloi, provides some tips on how to keep from injuring yourself in the gym.

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Professional personal trainer and director of Body Excel Gym, Dave Giloi, provides some tips on how to keep from injuring yourself in the gym.

According to personal trainer Dave Giloi, there are five golden rules to avoiding injury in the gym. These include:  

1. Avoid or reduce overhead presses

Excessive overhead pressing movements can increase the likelihood of injuries to the rotator cuff group, impingements and pain in the acromio-clavicular joint.

If you must do overhead shoulder presses you can reduce the weight and increase the repetitions and stick to no more than three sets of an exercise.

Perhaps choose only one overhead exercise on your shoulder day. You can still get a great shoulder workout by focusing mostly on movements below the shoulder.

Technique is also extremely important. Keep the shoulders down and back while pressing. Watch in the mirror that both shoulders stay down. Appropriate, gradual progression in weights and repetitions is also crucial.

2.  Avoid or reduce explosive, plyometric exercises

Plyometric exercises can provide great gains in explosive power, but carry with them a high risk of injury.

Unless you have progressed appropriately to be able to cope with the high impact of plyometrics, do not attempt full blown plyometrics. Generally a large foundation of strength is important before attempting these, but also building up from simple jumping and soft landing exercises for months is necessary.

A great exercise to begin with is a two leg step jump, where you jump up softly onto a step and then step back down. Emphasis is on soft, controlled landing and proper technique before progressing to similar but slightly more advanced movements. Legs could be strong but unless they can absorb shock, they will get injured and this can be trained.

3. Do one more pull than push exercise

The chest muscles and other muscles in the front of the shoulder are classified as mobilising muscles. The muscles in between your shoulder blades and at the back of the shoulder are generally classified as stabilising muscles.

This is due to the roles they generally perform. Mobilising muscles will usually tend to shorten and strengthen, whereas stabilising muscles tend to weaken and lengthen. This explains the commonly rounded shoulders of most postures. Especially sedentary individuals.

When you hit the gym and favour bench pressing movements you will only reinforce these imbalances and make them worse. Especially if you neglect working the muscles between the shoulder blades.

The result is usually further rounding of the shoulders and ultimately injury. This can hamper any desired progress in the gym.

The best thing you can do for you posture and performance is give due consideration to these stabilising muscles. Perhaps do one extra pulling exercises or one less pushing exercise. Also beneficial are external rotation exercise, commonly done with bands.

4.  Keep the reps up and the weights moderate

Although muscle growth does rely in some part on high load, constantly training with extreme weights places the joints under a lot of pressure. This can increase chances of injury, especially when form and range of motion is compromised.

Lighten the load and increase reps, slow the movement down and focus on perfect form. Injury will halt any progress you may have gotten from extreme loads. If you are to include high loads in your training vary it from week to week.

For example:

  • In week one use loads of 60% one rep max.
  • Week two use loads of 70% one rep max.
  • Week three use 80% one rep max loads and week for back down to 60%.

This kind of stepped “periodisation” has been shown to show greater gains anyway and will save the joints a lot of pain.

5.  Work with a physio whenever you can

Do not let injuries “fester”. Some injuries go away in time, with appropriate rest and regression, but most gym enthusiasts are not very good at modifying, reducing, moderating, resting or regressing when it comes to training.

Either they are unaware of what changes need to be made to a program, but also fear a loss in fitness.

If you simply avoid working certain areas, compensations and further weakness can occur over time. If you continue to train weak or injured areas, you risk not only directly aggravating an injury, but also may employ compensation movements to avoid further injury which may cause other injuries to form.

A physio will also, more than likely, be able to tell you the cause of the injury and therefore how to avoid re-occurrence. A good physio will refer you on to the right specialist if he/she feels you can get better advice elsewhere.

This is invaluable. And as tough as you think you are and think you can continue training injured, you will be even tougher, injury free.

For more information or to contact Dave on 073 427 9499 or email dave@bodyexcel.co.za or visit www.bodyexcel.co.za

Source: Dave Giloi, Body Excel Gym.

(Health24, updated September 2011)

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