If you want to live a life packed full of meaningful training and sustainable progression without every falling victim to debilitating injuries, here are the 10 commandments of injury prevention that you need to live by. Staying healthy in the iron game isn’t a random coincidence, it’s a choice. Make yours intelligently.
#1 Perfect The Warm Up Process
The pre-training preparatory sequence is not an excuse to BS your way through arbitrary foam rolling and corrective movements, but rather an opportunity to enhance your physical training performances with effective and efficient programming. It’s also rather dubious to skip the warm up all together.
Put as much time into designing a well rounded warm up routine that is specific not only to the training day ahead, but based on your specific weak links as a lifter. If you chose to use an SMR technique, corrective exercise or activation drill, you better damn well see some objective benefit from your practice. If you don’t, move on to something that actually produces results and quit wasting your time.
Make it a goal for yourself to prioritize 6-10 specific drills until you have gained mastery levels of competence on each. As you master a move, switch it out for another more challenging exercise. Quit majoring in the minors, and please, don’t fall into the dangerously slippery slope that is the ritualistic warm up.
Have a definitive reason for using each drill you program. If you can adhere to this simple request, your warm up will be the best 6-minutes you can spend to bulletproof your body long term. Need a simple, efficient AND effective warm up system? Use the 6-Phase Dynamic Warm Up Sequence.
#2 Program For Your Specific Needs and Physical Presentation
Lifters have a hard time pulling their faces out of the latest and greatest programs or exercises. It’s time to actually take a cold hard look at your own physical capacity and not some utopian version of yourself that more closely resembles an Olympia competitor than the reflection in the mirror.
Sure, aspiring to train just like your iron heroes provides one hell of a fire lit under your ass for motivation, but when it comes to staying healthy, knowing what your body needs is priceless. Cookie cutter programs are designed for cookie cutter athletes. And yeah, cookie cutter athletes are the ones with bum shoulders and blown out backs. Whether you like it or not, your unique experiences, both good and bad, have provided you with very unique needs.
Checking your damn ego at the door is tough, but it’s also necessary to stay healthy. Define your strengths and weaknesses as a lifter, and work each training day to improve upon those glaring red flags starting at you in your reflection. Functional weak links eventually break, so before they break you down and leave you hurt, nip them in the ass and live to lift another day.
#3 Train The Spine As A Stable Functional Unit
Your spine was designed to be a strong and stable functional unit built to withstand some serious force, but as soon as things like 6-pack abs and chiseled out V-tapers starts to consume our minds, that simple biomechanical fact of movement gets thrown out the fucking window with endless crunches and side bends.
Want to keep your shoulders, hips and spine healthy? You better perfect the skill of creating massive amounts of internal tension through the stabilizing muscles of the spine, and work hard to keep each region of the spine in a neutral and non-compensated position throughout whatever movement or exercise you are executing.
Just when you start to think that flexing, extending, side bending or rotating your spine under loading isn’t inherently dangerous and you’ve been getting away with it for a while, that’s when injury rears its ugly head. And yeah, every time you stupidly flare up your back, you’re more susceptible to it happening again, but worse next time.
View accessory spinal movement as an advanced progression, and one that should only be used sparingly by advanced athletes with specific goal sets. That means for 99% of the population of there, you do not fit that bill, so start owning a resilient and neutral spine position no matter the activity. Check your ego at the door, and if you’re still worried about your damn 6-pack, see the next commandment.
#4 Match Your Nutrition To Your Training Goals
This one is pretty damn simple, but it’s just another example one of those major aspects of human performance that people just don’t want to come to grips with. There is no out-training a shitty diet, no matter how hard you try.
Sure, endless amounts of mindless cardio and a host of other rather insane tactics can attempt to reverse some caloric surpluses that your emotionally unhealthy binging can cause, but at the end of the day the overall stress to your body as a system is going to be sky rocketed.
If we want to correlate incidence of injuries to something with pretty conclusive data over the course of the past few decades, it is with overuse and overall stress placed on a system. The more stress you place on your body, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, the increased likelihood you will get hurt. It’s that simple.
So instead of punishing yourself or “making up” for your lack of personal integrity in the kitchen with endless exercise, lets try defining the nutritional needs that fit your training and goal set.
Viewing food as fuel for goals instead of creating emotional connections to the stuff on your fork hacking your pleasure centers of the brain, can be a game changer for many. Feed your needs, not your natural tendencies to go off the deep end in your next meal.
#5 Realize That Progressive Overload Is Not The Only Way To Progress
The sooner you realize that adding iron to the bar for a max effort single is only one single way to physically progress your practice, the healthier you will be. Smart lifters who have stood the test of time will tell you that there are hundreds of ways to continuously progress, and prioritizing life long progression in multiple areas of physicality modes well for long-term pain-free success.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing feels better than a well-earned PR that took diligent effort and concentration over a long period of time to achieve, but this cannot be compared to the dubious addition of load to every movement on every training session until one of two things happen.
First, and most often, your performance suffers and weights drop. This is usually followed by the second occurrence, pushing through aimlessly forcing loads until you break down and get hurt. And don’t act like you haven’t done this before, we all have made this mistake.
Find solace in the fact that your strength numbers are only a portion of your holistic performance. Challenge yourself in a myriad of rep ranges, conditioning activities, cardiorespiratory endurance, mobility movements or hell, even your recovery. Being a well-rounded athlete doesn’t mean having to force feed WODs, but rather achieving and maintaining multiple indicators of physical success.
#6 Never Lose Your Ability To Execute Fundamental Movement Patterns
There is no faking the ability to execute clean and crisp movement patterns that look as good as they feel. Moving well takes years of mastery, but once you achieve sound patterns that you’ve worked your ass off to execute properly, don’t ever let them slip.
It’s far easier to maintain a physical ability than it is to create or rebuild one. That’s why placing emphasis and value in programming at least one variation of the six foundational in a training schedule is pivotal to long-term orthopedic success.
Every human being on earth, no matter the goal or skill set should be able to squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, pull and move their bodies through space in a pain-free manor. Use these foundational movement patterns as indicator movements that correlate well with your ability to prevent injuries in your training.
If and when these movements start to feel cranky or even start to cause pain, don’t just shrug it off as the price of doing business, but rather identify the origin of the change before it leads to injury. Use your training to generate data each and every session. And let that data lead you to a long career of pain-free training.
#7 Stop Grinding Out Ugly Compensated Missed Reps
The average lifter can endure an incredible amount of brutality and still stay resilient against injuries, but placing yourself in loaded positions where you are forced to compensate and grind out ugly reps to save face will never be part of any pain-free training program.
A simple rule that I adopted years ago was to never again miss a rep. This seems too simple to be effective without being a pansy and lifting fluffy weights, but when you break it down, you must be that much more strategic with physical preparation and loading schemes to guarantee success than to fly by the seat of your pants.
When you are at the brink of missing a rep, one of two things happens. First, you keep tight, stay the course on your movement pattern and executional technique and miss the rep and the bar comes down on your face. Or secondly, and most commonly, your body goes into strategic sympathetic mode and finds every last compensation pattern to kick in a little extra force output until that rep is grinded out with form that just looks like you’re going to end up broken.
If you are forced to grind out reps with compensation, either you need to fix your technique, or you need to be more strategic about your loading. There are times and places for training through the brink of failure, but for the most part, these types of techniques are sprinkled into programming strategically.
#8 Implement Intensity Intelligently
To get big and strong, you must overload your system, that’s a given. But the way in which you train through the point of failure and physical exhaustion can either be the training variable that streamlines your goals or leaves you injured.
Intensity needs to be respected, plain and simple. And when implementing intensity, your ability to posturally stabilize your spine, hips or shoulders should never be the limiting factor for a supra-maximal set of any exercise. This is the reason why many intensity techniques notoriously break down lifters; they simply choose the wrong setups and positions to work from.
Intensity, not in the percentage based spectrum, but rather the effort based realm needs to target muscles and spare joints. Placing the spine in supported positions, or choosing more posturally friendly setups can shift the focus from stability of the segments of the movement, to the dynamic muscular action.
You should never be worried that your back is going to break during an extended set of shoulder work, but rather the focus should be placed on the actual muscular action of the exercise itself. Take away the doubt in programming intensity by placing the body into a position to work through the point of exhaustion from. That is how you unlock your mental fortitude to push through sets that you never in your life thought you were capable of. And yes, breaking through brinks like that pain-free usually lead to pretty serious gains.
#9 Use Your Off Days To Spark Recovery
If you have goals in front of you that you have not yet achieved, you better not be taking any true “off” days in your programming. Realizing that not every single training session needs to be pushing you balls to the wall and having your head in the garbage can to get insurmountable results.
If the value of a hard training session is defined by the amount of sympathetic stress you can place on your system, your recovery days should be valued by the amount of parasympathetic response you can place on your system to build yourself back up and climb out of that physical deficit training left you in.
If you want to spark recovery, prioritize low level parasympathetic activities like self-myofascial release techniques, bi-phasic stretching, deep diaphragmatic breathing, mobility work, low intensity steady state cardio or other passive recovery techniques. The most effective way to adopt these synergistic strategies together is by utilizing the Performance Recovery System.
Set aside 20-30 minutes every day that you are not scheduled to hit the gym with reckless abandon and get your recovery work in. Overtraining is a myth, and the term should be replaced with under-recovering for the vast majority of people. If you’re serious about staying healthy, don’t under recover. Use these easy methods to spark recovery, not keep digging your hole deeper.
#10 Aspire To Live A Life of Physical Self-Sufficiency
You have one body to live in for the rest of your life, therefore, you need to step the fuck up and be your own best advocate for long-term resilience against injury. It’s not your physical therapists job to keep you healthy, it’s not your chiropractors job to magically crack your spine “back into place” every time you decide to let your ego drive your squat sessions.
And no, it’s not your friends and families jobs to hear you bitch and moan about your highly preventable training injuries that you alone should be preventing with your actions. Injuries are not a noble badge of honor, but rather a likely sign of an amateur who is either too stupid to stay healthy, or in way over his head in training.
If you’re not going to live a physical life that values your ability to stay out of pain, remain injury free and create sustainability in your practices, then you deserve what you have coming to you. And in the worst-case scenarios, injuries can steal from you what you love to do, training hard with meaning and passion.
I understand that injuries do happen, and sometimes, we cannot prevent these things even by living by the 10 commandments, but you know what? If you abide by these rules, the random occurrences in which you hurt yourself become minor compared to the catastrophe, which others dumbly endure.Protect yourself with your brain, protect yourself with your body, and when you combine these two things together you can start to sustain a life of pain-free training.
About The Author
Dr. John Rusin is a sports performance specialist and injury prevention expert that has coached some of the world’s most elite athletes, barbell sport competitors, and over 50,000 clients from all walks of life with his innovative pain-free performance programs and systems, which has gained him the reputation as the go-to industry expert for rebuilding after pain, injuries or plateaus. Dr. Rusin is also the founder of the Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification (PPSC) that has certified over 2,500 personal trainers, strength coaches and rehab pros from across the globe in the pain-free performance training system over the past two years.
If you’re having dysfonctionnement beginning an exercise plan or following through, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle getting out of the sedentary rut, despite our best intentions.
You already know there are many great reasons to exercise—from improving energy, mood, sleep, and health to reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. And detailed exercise instructions and workout partouze are just a click away. But if knowing how and why to exercise was enough, we’d all be in shape. Making exercise a habit takes more—you need the right mindset and a smart approach.
While practical concerns like a busy schedule or poor health can make exercise more challenging, for most of us, the biggest barriers are esprit. Maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence that keeps you from taking positive steps, or your motivation quickly flames out, or you get easily discouraged and give up. We’ve all been there at some point.
Whatever your age or fitness level—even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life —there are steps you can take to make exercise less intimidating and painful and more fun and instinctive.
Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into monotonous or painful activities you hate to experience the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. A little exercise is better than nothing. In fact, adding just modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine can have a profound effect on your mental and emotional health.
Be kind to yourself. Research shows that self-compassion increases the likelihood that you’ll succeed in any given endeavor. So, don’t beat yourself up about your body, your current fitness level, or your supposed lack of willpower. All that will do is demotivate you. Instead, look at your past mistakes and unhealthy choices as opportunities to learn and grow.
Check your expectations. You didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you’re not going to instantly transform your body either. Expecting too much, too soon only leads to frustration. Try not to be discouraged by what you can’t accomplish or how far you have to go to reach your sport goals. Instead of obsessing over results, focus on consistency. While the improvements in mood and energy levels may happen quickly, the physical payoff will come in time.
Many of us feel the same. If sweating in a gym or pounding a treadmill isn’t your idea of a great time, try to find an activity that you do enjoy—such as dancing—or pair physical activity with something more enjoyable. Take a walk at lunchtime through a scenic park, for example, walk laps of an air-conditioned mall while window de course, walk, run, or bike with a friend, or listen to your favorite music while you move.
Even the busiest of us can find free time in our day for activities that are important. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority. And don’t think you need a full hour for a good workout. Short 5-, 10-, or 15-minute bursts of activity can prove very effective—so, too, can squeezing all your exercise into a couple of sessions over the weekend. If you’re too busy during the week, get up and get moving during the weekend when you have more time.
The key thing to remember about starting an exercise program is that something is always better than nothing. Going for a quick walk is better than sitting on the couch; one minute of activity will help you lose more weight than no activity at all. That said, the current recommendations for most adults is to reach at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You’ll get there by exercising for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Can’t find 30 minutes in your busy schedule ? It’s okay to break things up. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can be just as effective.
For most people, aiming for moderate intensity exercise is sufficient to improve your overall health. You should breathe a little heavier than normal, but not be out of breath. Your body should feel warmer as you move, but not overheated or sweating profusely. While everyone is different, don’t assume that training for a marathon is better than training for a 5K or 10K. There’s no need to overdo it.
Health issues ? Get medical clearance first. If you have health concerns such as limited mobility, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before you start to exercise.
Warm up. Warm up with dynamic stretches—active movements that warm and flex the muscles you’ll be using, such as leg kicks, walking lunges, or arm swings—and by doing a slower, easier version of the upcoming exercise. For example, if you’re going to run, warm up by walking. Or if you’re lifting weights, begin with a few light reps.
Drink plenty of water. Your body performs best when it’s properly hydrated. Failing to drink enough water when you are exerting yourself over a prolonged period of time, especially in hot conditions, can be dangerous.
There’s a reason so many New Year’s resolutions to get in shape crash and burn before February rolls around. And it’s not that you simply don’t have what it takes. Science shows us that there’s a right way to build vêtements that last. Follow these steps to make exercise one of them.
A goal of exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week may sound good. But how likely are you to follow through ? The more ambitious your goal, the more likely you are to fail, feel bad about it, and give up. It’s better to start with easy exercise goals you know you can achieve. As you meet them, you’ll build self-confidence and momentum. Then you can move on to more challenging goals.
Triggers are one of the secrets to success when it comes to forming an exercise habit. In fact, research shows that the most consistent exercisers rely on them. Triggers are simply reminders—a time of day, place, or cue—that kick off an automatic reaction. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on. The alarm clock goes off and you’re out the door for your walk. You leave work for the day and head straight to the gym. You spot your sneakers addict right by the bed and you’re up and course. Find ways to build them into your day to make exercise a no-brainer.
People who exercise regularly tend to do so because of the rewards it brings to their lives, such as more energy, better sleep, and a greater sense of well-being. However, these tend to be long-term rewards. When you’re starting an exercise program, it’s important to give yourself immediate rewards when you successfully complete a workout or reach a new fitness goal. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercise. It can be something as simple as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.
If your workout is unpleasant or makes you feel clumsy or inept, you’re unlikely to stick with it. Don’t choose activities like running or lifting weights at the gym just because you think that’s what you should do. Instead, pick activities that fit your lifestyle, abilities, and taste.
Activity-based film games such as those from Wii and Kinect can be a fun way to start moving. So-called “exergames” that are played standing up and moving around—simulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or la petite balle jaune, for example—can burn at least as many kcal as walking on a treadmill; some substantially more. Once you build up your confidence, try getting away from the TV screen and playing the real thing outside. Or use a smartphone application to keep your workouts fun and interesting—some immerse you in interactive stories to keep you motivated, such as running from hordes of zombies !