You’ve got your program planned out to the smallest detail.
You’re nutrition is on 100%.
You’ve got the warriors mindset- nothing will stand in your way of achieving your goal.
Your training is going better than planned because you settle for nothing less, until…
I think it was Dave Tate that said something to the tune of ‘the only injuries you want in the gym are freak injuries, like from a cable snapping or plate falling off the bar’ (paraphrased). The reason that is, is because most other injuries will come as a result of your own poor choices. Whether it is bad form, choosing a weight that is too heavy or not backing off when you are beat up, they are avoidable and you have no one to blame but yourself.
I’ve had some close calls.
I’ve had a band come off the bar when squatting and ended up dumping 855lbs of plates on the floor. Fortunately I was ok.
I had a belt come undone at the bottom of a squat and strained my back. Fortunately I was only set back a week or two.
I even had a contact pop out of my eye in the bottom of a squat.
I’ve also had some injuries leading up to competitions that did not turn out as well.
I tore my tricep a few weeks out from a competition doing light overhead db tricep extensions.
Another meet I was prepping for at the end of 2015, I hit a PR double on my squat, a HUGE weight that really put me in a good position to lock in my goal total. But I had the rack height set too high and was unable to re-rack the bar. The bar fell off my back and took my left arm with it. I ended up tearing 50% of my labrum. I was unable to compete. I also have not been able to get 100% of the strength back to this day.
The latter 2 were completely AVOIDABLE injuries. The fact that I hurt my tricep with such a light weight tells me I was severely overtrained and not listening to my body and backing off when I should have. I also should have lowered the rack height with that heavy of a weight. I even went through a competition a year before where I also ran into an issue with rack height and I ended up missing my last attempt on squat as a result.
While we obviously want to avoid any injuries in the first place, unfortunately sooner or later you will likely have to deal with something. Hopefully it will be smaller like a strain or a pull that you only need to back down for a while, rather than something that requires surgery. Please keep the following things in mind to keep yourself as healthy as possible
This includes proper warm ups, rolling, stretching, etc. Stay diligent. Too many people start to back off of their warm ups and stretching when they feel really good. THAT IS THE REASON YOU FEEL GOOD! Something as simple as your hamstring being a little too tight on a max effort lower body day could lead to a strain, or something much worse. Make sure you effectively warm up the muscle you will be training and are loosened up enough to move without straining.
Proper mineral balance is crucial when you’re training hard. That doesn’t just necessarily mean drinking water. If you are not properly hydrated and absorbing all of the water you are drinking, not only are you not maximizing your performance and recovery, you are asking for a strain or pull. There are plenty of products that you simply add to water. I am also a fan of using Himalayan pink sea salt for its sodium content and trace minerals on your daily meals.
For the highly trained athlete, there are a few things that can make a difference. While training and nutrition are definitely most important, a good protein supplement, EAAs, and a good multivitamin can help you recover faster.
If you are injured, whether it requires surgery or not, make sure you see a medical professional and follow their advice. Do your research also, you want to make sure you are seeing someone who works with athletes. I had a chiropractor once tell me I was ‘not allowed to squat more than 135lbs”. At that time I believe my best squat was around the 700lbs. I never went back to him. You need someone that understands the type of training you do and can modify programs to your activity. This also applies for a massage therapist. You don’t want to go to someone and just get a backrub. For someone to get in deep and release a muscle if you have a knot or a pull, will very likely hurt. I’ve actually been brought to tears getting soft tissue work done, but that is the type of work you will need. Lastly, if you are seeing a sports physical therapist, STICK TO THE PROGRAM!! As with the prehab above, don’t slack off as soon as you start feeling good. Odds are, the movements you are doing are something you should probably stick to doing well after you are feeling better, even at a reduced volume, to keep that area strong.
Check your ego
This is probably the number 1 culprit of avoidable injuries. As I mentioned above, if you use bad form or use weights that you have no business moving or simply can't, you are going to get hurt. What sounds better, taking an extra 2-3 weeks to get to a new goal, or try to rush it, get hurt, and be sidelined for 2-3 months? I totally get that you want certain weights to happen as soon as humanly possible. Powerlifting is all about numbers. But slow and steady will always win the race when it comes to weightlifting. You can foam roll and take protein powder, BCAAs and any other supplements you want. You may be able to heal from a muscular standpoint, but your tendons and joints take long to adapt to heavier poundages.
Track your progress
I’ve said it a thousand times, keep a journal and reference it often. There are times when we just have an off day and may not perform as well as we would like, but if you are logging your training, logging your food, and tracking other things as sleep and overall energy, you may be able to recognize certain trends that are impacting your training or recovery. You can adjust accordingly and hopefully avoid injury.
Modify when needed
If you feel like you are beat up, take a break! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train at all, but back your weights and volume down and let your body heal. You recover OUTSIDE of the gym. Keep in mind, the most important thing isn’t always how much you do in the gym, it's what you recover from so you can keep long stretches of progressive, injury free training.
Now I will always have to deal with issues in my shoulder and upper back. I am unable to straight bar bench press or overhead press without pain. I have degenerative issues in my left knee that cause me pain during daily activities let alone the gym, and my right hip often overcompensates for my knee and sometimes gives out. Now, I am the ultimate optimist when it comes to training. There is always something you can do to workout around an injury, and I am thankful that I am still able to train. However, like many of you, it is not as easy to accept the fact that there are certain things I am limited at now. I adopted the nickname ‘quadzy’ when I was regularly competing for my strength squatting, and I am now only able to handle roughly 40% of the weight I used to without pain. While the nature of training is beating yourself up over time, I am definitely more for the worse by my own doing.
It only takes one bad set, one bad rep, to have an injury that could affect you the rest of your life. Train sustainably.