The Worst Thing that Can Happen to a Lifter: Injuries!
What bad stuff happens to a lifter?
Not missing a lift.that happens a lot. With few exceptions, lifters forget any given lift (unless it is a PR) within a few minutes of doing it.
Bombing out in a contest.that truly sucks! But, after going through all the curse words you know a few times, and perhaps waltzing a bit with the beer bear, bomb outs dont leave a scar.
Some other bad thingsnot making weight, losing your favorite wraps, forgetting to bring your singlet to a meet. These are all crappy
But nothing on earth rivals the ultimate awful experienceGETTING INJURED!
This is truly the dark night of the soul. Being injured is to be confined in hell with a platoon of devils for company.
If you sustain a serious injury some cheerful friend will remind you that if you were a horse, you would probably be shot.
Given how awful injuries are, it makes sense to do everything you can to avoid them.
Here are a few tips I have offered for many years.
- Excellent form on every rep
One of the most common sources of injuries is practicing poor lifting technique. Good technique is not simply to get style points, it is to execute a lift using the optimal mechanical advantage.
When lifting heavy I strongly advise never doing more than 5 reps. If you are doing Olympic style lifting, never more than three.
Doing a lot of reps with a weight that gives you a challenge means that your form will deteriorate as you begin to tire. When that happens you get sloppy, and the stresses begin to fall unevenly on different muscles.
I am aware that some Cross-Fit trainers try to get you to do 10-20 reps of the Olympic snatch. This is a VERY high-risk practice. You may get away with it the first 20 times you do itthen one day you hurt a shoulder and cant comb your hair without great pain.
High rep lifting has a place in anyones serious conditioning program. However, the lifts done should be those that dont put you at risk when fatigue sets in.
My personal favorite high rep lift is the kettlebell snatch. I have occasionally done 100 reps with one hand, then moved the kb to the other hand for another hundred. It is a genuine puke-er of an exercise. However, little risk of injury.
For squats, power cleans, Olympic lifts, deadlifts, and bench press, quit a set when your form deteriorates, or you may be going to the groan bin.
- Listen to your body and know when to back off
Over many decades in the gym I have seen a significant number of lifters earn a trip to the ER by not knowing when to back off or quit trying a lift. If the lift isnt coming off the floor, or you cant get up with it that day, your bod is trying to tell you that its not going to happen that day.
The same logic applies to piling on extra sets to make up for not being able to do your limit lift. You can bury yourself with too much work that makes it impossible for you to recover fully.
- Perfecting your mistakes
Watching people flop and thrash through weigh workouts in a gym is often painful. Few seem to learn how to do a proper lift, particularly in the squat and bench press.
As noted, poor technique can lead to injuries. Poor technique also places a very low ceiling on how far someone can progress with a lift.
Practicing lousy technique is basically perfecting your mistakes. If you want a vivid example of people who work hard to cement lousy movement in place, just go to a public golf driving range.
- Dont do Stupid Stuff
The invention of bumper plates has unleashed a flurry of dumb-s**t behavior. Every pencil neck west of Iceland has decided that dumping a 135 lb deadlift displays massive testosterone.
Dropping a deadlift is a minor issue. However, the practice of routine dumping loaded bars just because thats the way they do it in Cross-Fit is fishing for life in a wheelchair.
I mention this because a few years ago I watched some Yahoo flip a squat bar backward when he was having trouble standing erect. The bar hit him on the lower back. He has not been able to lift anything since.
I always preach keeping as much control as possible over any loaded bar you are handling. If you throw it into space, you have no idea where it may be. The best way to keep your body out of the way of a falling bar is to have some grip on it. An old Olympic lifter trick from the days before we had bumper plates.
Last week I noted that some lifters in my local gym were dumping bars in ways that put them at a lot of risk. I paraphrase a line from Fiddler on the Roof: God must love idiots, he made enough of them.
Fortunately there is no question that the august readers of this newsletter would never dump a bar.