I have a stalker.
It started with emails and Facebook messages. It progressed to voice mails and increasingly desperate sounding texts. Last night, I found a business card on my car with just three words on the reverse, written in tear-smudged ink: I miss you.
It’s not an adoring female fan. Hell, it’s not even a female. It’s my chiropractor.
I’ve never been a “see my chiropractor or soft tissue therapist three times a week just to get out of bed in the morning” type of guy. Still, the last few years either my shoulder, lower back, hip, or neck would take turns giving me stress. Sometimes it was a loving combo of all the above. As such, my chiro and me, well, we got all kinds of friendly.
Now I can’t even remember where his damn office is. And despite all these years lifting my body has never felt or performed better.
I didn’t join a hot a yoga studio or replace basic weight training exercises with a redundant chorus line of mobility drills. I do next to none of that stuff. But I’m hitting the gym upwards of 8 hours a week
The change was more mental. I embraced the rep.
Best Block No Be There
Rule #1: The best way to bounce back from an injury is to not get hurt to begin with.
Rule #2: The best way to not get hurt is to limit your exposure to unnecessary, risky, or just plain stupid shit.
There’s your two finalists for this week’s Captain Obvious Top Weight Training Tip Award. Yet it’s amazing how many smart guys fail to connect the dots between spastic weight training technique and their chiropractor driving a Bentley.
Now perform any type of resistance training exercise horribly and you will get hurt. You could probably rupture an extremity or two toiling away with a Shake-Weight, given the opportunity and hopefully a little privacy.
But as a rule, few forms of resistance training have the “train till I’m in a nursing home” quality as pure bodybuilding.
Of course, not all bodybuilding training. I’m referring to classic, higher volume, moderate resistance, controlled repetition resistance training. Not variations of HIT or Doggcrapp or whatever the kids today call slamming 100 mgs of ephedrine and then grinding out one all-out set of preacher curls. Which I refer to as “let’s tear a biceps so bad it rolls up like a window blind somewhere behind the larynx, leaving the upper arm looking like that creepy old guy in the locker room’s half-shriveled scrotum.”
I mean the good shit. The pure stuff, championed by legends like Lee “stimulate don’t annihilate” Haney, Shawn Ray, and Lee Labrada, who at 50-something still looks “sorta okay” today.
The keys are:
• Higher reps
• Constant tension
• Great technique
• Balanced programming
• Priority to structural (not just aesthetic) weak areas
• Patient, methodical approach
• Minimizing risk and/or managing risks intelligently.
The last point is the Big Kahuna, and I could fill a book with practical suggestions. Here are just a few.
I’m not a doctor or therapist. I don’t even play one on the internet. If something hurts, see someone qualified, meaning someone in person. The internet is a wonderful thing but it’s no replacement for proper, professional medical care. And no, you can’t just foam roll everything. Your rumble roller is not Windex. Spend the money you cheap bastard.
However, what I lack in medical training (insert “but I got an A in gynecology” joke here) I make up for in gym experience and just having gone through life being a really observant SOB. And this is what guys who can train for life do, and don’t do:
Tips To Not Get Fucked
Full Range of Motion. Limited range of motion training has its place. But for the most part, exercises should be performed through the greatest (safe) range of motion, provided tissue/structure is healthy. If you can’t perform a decent number of bodyweight chin-ups through a full range of motion, don’t assuage your ego by jerking or doing a bunch of half reps. Do full range of motion lat pulldowns or even eccentric-only chin-ups until you have the necessary strength.
Control the weight. Lift the weight “explosively, yet under control” is a good rule of thumb. It’s the eccentric or lowering phase where guys get mixed up. For heavier sets, rep cadence is somewhat self-directing. You wouldn’t let a one-rep max bench press just drop onto your chest, unless you wanted to feel your rib cage crack like a box of Wheaties.
However, even moderate loads are usually safer (and better) with a slow, controlled eccentric tempo. It’s also a helpful step if you have trouble feeling an exercise where you’re “supposed” to feel it. Just don’t get silly. We’re talking 2-4 seconds at most, not 30.
Warm-up Better #1. Don’t overdo the dynamic mobility drills. If you’re doing 20 or 30 minutes of bird dogs and walking spidermen you should probably be auditioning for Swan Lake, not weight training. Choose a couple quality drills specific to your needs and the demands of the ensuing workout, do them properly, and then move on. This drill from Tony Gentilcore is shockingly efficient.
Warm-up Better #2. Do better quality warm up sets. Treat your warm-up sets like garbage and you’ll get garbage from your work sets. No matter how light the weight on the bar is, your aim should be to perform the exercise perfectly.
Warm-up Better #3. Do more warm-up sets. Wanna never improve your bench press or squat and get injured to boot? Bang out a few sloppy sets with 135 and then go straight to your work weight.
Strong, healthy guys go up in weight slow, and use these sets to rehearse technique and “get a feel” for how their body is responding. It’s better to spot an off day while you’re still in the shallow water, not neck deep.
Balance Pushing and Pulling. Most dudes need to row a lot more and press a lot less. Train the upper back every day. Even just a few quality sets goes a long way.
Don’t Always Do The Big Lifts First. A great hypertrophy trick is to perform a lighter, “activation” exercise before big barbell exercises, such as a DB squeeze press or pullover before a bench press. If you’re really injury prone, try doing the big lifts third or fourth, even last. Seriously, you won’t die.
Don’t Chase Dumb Weights. I watched a guy on Facebook do a bastardized set of concentration curls with 100-pound dumbbells. His arms measured maybe 15 inches. Yes, big weights build big muscles, but that doesn’t mean you must train every exercise so heavy you pop a neck vein. Some exercises just aren’t suited for maximum loading. Use your head.
Don’t Do Shit You’re Not Medically Cleared To Do. Everybody tells you what you should be doing. You should be overhead pressing. You should be doing behind the neck pull-ups and pressing. You should be doing one-leg Romanian deadlifts on a Bosu ball. Actually no, you should never, ever be doing that.
While there are few inherently “dangerous” exercises, not everyone has the requisite mobility and tissue health to perform every exercise. Yet ego combined with ignorance is powerful, and many guys ignore discomfort and even outright pain so they can obey some asshat on the internet.
Interestingly, some of the “hard ass” strength coaches who preach the loudest either look like shit in real life or are so fucked up they can barely move, much less lift. Trust me.
Press More with Dumbbells Than Barbells. Your shoulders will thank you.
Don’t Do Circus Lifts. I call this “hold my beer syndrome.” Someone online does something cool or badass and you think, “Fuck a duck! I need to do that! Hold my beer!”
While trying new things and pushing the boundaries is a key part of physical culture and the training experience at large you need to take it slow – especially if you’re strong. Putting a delicate joint like the shoulder through a range of motion it’s not accustomed to under a heavy load is just not smart.
My advice? Skip the goofy shit and buy a heavy bag. Learn to throw a proper punch and a few combinations.
Heck, screw the heavy bag and just declare war on a tree.
Exercise and injuries go hand and hand. And a beautiful, mobile body is of no use to anyone if it’s constantly on the couch or shuffling on a treadmill.
But you only get one body, and the real benefits of training come through consistent long-term application, not a few balls-out workouts followed by weeks on a re-hab table.
Train hard but train smart. Your chiropractor can take a bus to work.
Some guys just want to look good. Others are willing to learn what it takes. Which guy are you? Click here to learn more about building the body you want.