Check out these 5 essential tips if you want to make the best out of your workout regiment, all while avoiding unnecessary pain!
Stretch When You’re Not Working Out
Stretching to cool down post-workout is obvious. But stretching in your downtime — be it during the four-minute countdown on your microwaved dinner or first thing when you get out of bed — is just as crucial. I spend a couple minutes every morning and night stretching my legs to ease pressure in my lower back. And it’s a habit that does wonders for anyone who sits in a cubicle for hours every day. The yoga cat/cow poses are my go-to: get on all-fours and round your back for a few seconds, then arch it, and repeat.
Stop Obsessing About Numbers
Lifting doesn’t injure people — people injure themselves. And hefting heavy weights with bad form is one big reason why. It’s easy to get caught up in adding plates and pushing your PR higher and higher, but hard to acknowledge when form gives and your body bares the brunt of your decisions. Focus on a perfect form before moving up in weight, and don’t concern yourself with the opinions of your fellow gym-goers, who are usually neither concerned nor aware of you (unless you accompany your lifts with Thor-like grunts…every gym has one). Try to lift in profile to a mirror, which is particularly helpful for the deadlift — from this perspective, it’s easy to catch accidental back rounding and to make sure your lats, core, and glutes are engaged and ready to fire.
Don’t Ignore the Core
Strengthening your core has the ability to prevent an injury and relieve pain from one, especially in the lower back.
Here are two moves to keep your core solid:
First, a muscle-firing move. Lie on your back with both legs in the air, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your right hand on your left knee, and push; try to resist any movement — this will force you to engage your core. Repeat on the right knee using your left hand.
The second exercise is Bird Dogs. Get on all-fours, and lift your right arm and left leg in the air, keeping both extended so they’re parallel to the floor, with your back straight and hips level. Hold that for 10 seconds, then repeat, lifting your left arm and right leg. That’s one rep. Do three sets for both exercises.
Do More With Less
Increasing volume and lowering the weight doesn’t necessarily compromise your potential for gains either. In fact, a 2010 study showed that high-volume resistance exercise has the potential to stimulate even more muscle growth than low-volume exercise at higher weights
Program Off Days
Rest days, I’ve learned well, are as crucial as workouts. Incorporating more of them into your routine can have endless benefits: you allow muscles sufficient time to heal and rebuild, so you actually get stronger, faster; you prevent burnout — physical and mental — from doing the same routine over and over; and finally, you give yourself the opportunity to do feel-good recovery activities, like yoga or a massage.
Finally, to help safeguard against injury, adequate sleep is crucial. A study conducted on adolescent athletes in 2014 showed that those who slept less than eight hours were 1.7 times more likely to incur an injury than those who slept more than eight. Make sure to catch up on those Z’s!