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The 5 best ways to prevent injuries

always stretch
always stretchPhoto by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

You can't achieve optimal health and fitness gains if you're injured. The last thing you need on your way to building your body and losing body fat is an injury.

Here are the 5 best ways to prevent injuries to keep in mind as you enter a gym and before you workout:

1. Always warmup for at least 5 minutes. You can use any piece of stationary cardio equipment or walk or jog to the gym.

The joints, especially the limbs, need lubrication prior to putting any weight bearing on them to prevent tears and tendon and ligament damage. So do the muscles. Blood must begin circulating throughout the entire body before any kind of intense exercise to prevent unnecessary injuries.

In addition, warming up also prepares the heart and cardiovascular system for the rigors of intense exercise.

2. No internal or external rotation of the shoulder joint/rotator cuff. One of the most common and easily damaged joints in the body is the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff. Once injured, without surgery, it is nearly impossible to get full function and range of motion back.

The number one cause of all rotator cuff tears is pressurized rotation in it. To understand, simply hold your arm by your side and turn the thumb outward or inward. If you do this with heavy weight or against significant resistance, it could easily lead to a tear in the labrum or cuff.

So whenever you train chest and shoulders in particular, be aware and make sure you are careful with your palm rotation, which leads to rotator cuff activation. The wrists should always remain in a stationary position throughout any plane of motion.

3. Knees should never exceed toes on leg training, especially on squats, lunges, leg presses, and hack squats.

Knees are the other very sensitive joint in the body. When doing squats, always make sure your knees remain behind the toe as you move up and down vertically.

The best way to do this is while being aware and in control of the movement, push the butt back toward the wall behind you first and keep the weight back on the heel. This goes for lunges and leg presses too.

Weakening of the knee ligaments, tendons, and capsule as a whole begins when too much pressure is applied to it. The key is to allow the muscles of the leg take the pressure, not the knee joint itself, when working the legs.

4. Stretch. The quickest way to get nagging injuries is to avoid stretching, and the easiest way to prevent them is to stretch. Tight muscles due to lack of stretching are like a tight rubber band. The tear and break easier, whereas a loose rubber band is more elastic and less prone to breakage.

Some key points: always hold a stretch of a muscle for at least 20 seconds. Pulling on your arm or leg for anything less is not a proper or effective stretch. Also, try yoga once or twice a week. Among other healthy benefits, it ensures your body is stretched together, as a whole, as one.

5. When lifting heavy, always use a spotter. Always start light when lifting. As you increase to heavy weight, it is imperative to prevent injury by maintaining proper form that you have someone assist you for the more difficult reps, where your form will be more likely compromised. This will also ensure the best results.

There are many more safety tips to use when working out, but these are the 5 most important, and a great place to begin. After all, how far can you progress to your goal when injured?

-Greg Mickles