Last night while getting back into squatting regularly, someone else was making some serious mistakes in their form and training program. I was concerned for their health and said something to their friend, hoping he could convince him to clean up his act for his own good. Then, the friend asked me about his own issue relating to some pain in his shoulders when he is doing what his demonstration seemed like dual bent over posterior deltoid flyes with 35 lb dumbbells.
This all leads to my point, to stop lifting heavy weights… if you’re not ready for it. I know you want to get big and strong fast, but this process is a progression that needs to be taken slowly. The muscles in your chest are large and can handle a significant amount of weight, but with poor form (or even with proper form) your shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints might not be conditioned to do the same. It will take correct technique and a significant amount of training to make sure your stabilizing muscles that protect your joints are prepared for a larger load.
Here are five tips to protect yourself and maximize your effort!
1. Warmup! It’s important to perform warm up exercises to loosen muscles fibers that are shorter, tighter, and colder from inactivity. Some internal and externals rotations can really help maximize your bench results without fatiguing your shoulders for the lift.
2. Set a rep range and stick to it. If you’re going for five reps of 135 lbs on the bench press, you’re doing that for a reason. Make sure you can perform all of those repetitions almost perfectly before considering doing five reps of any more weight in the same exercise.
3. Use assistance when necessary. I’m not telling you to let your spotter row the weight from your chest, but protect your joints when performing heavier weights or higher repetition ranges. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of using belts, straps, and wraps often (because I want to strengthen my core and stabilizer muscles), but it’s important to protect your body!
4. Rest! Someone at my facility benches and curls weights every single day of the week. When you isolate a body part and damage muscle fibers to the point that they need to be repaired, you actually have to let them repair before you hit that muscle group hard again! Don’t waste your progress by being reckless.
5. Do it properly! When you walk in the gym, leave your ego at the door. No one is going to be impressed by your 1/3 squats with two plates on each side. Well, no one who knows what they’re talking about. Ask for advice, learn proper form, use a coach, and make sure you are getting the most out of the exercises without risking getting injured.
So there you have it. Be smart. Condition your joints and strengthen your stabilizer muscles. Everyone complains about elbow pain after doing chest and triceps with flared elbows and heavy skull crushers. Everyone complains about their lower back hurting when they deadlift and squat. Avoid being sidelined and train smarter! And as always, stay hungry and fit!