Having learnt through years of training as an inconsistent teen, having been going to the gym just to really socialise with friends, not really taking it seriously, ego lifting – the usual phases that beginners go through. Although what happened next would affect my training tenfold!
One back day, after smashing out some weights, my lower back started hurting. NOW, THERE IS A VERY DISTINCT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SORENESS AND PAIN, PLEASE KEEP THAT IN MIND. Soreness feels like “oh, my back feels like it’s been worked out and fatigued”, but pain feels like “someone just tackled me from behind and snapped my ass in half”. I go to the doctors, my doctor says “you’re only young, you wouldn’t have a back problem, just take some panadol and you should be right”. Naive me, I believe him, disregarding the pain, I do as he says and hit the Deadlifts again the next week. The pain intensifies, and finally after 4 weeks of constantly going to the doctors he finally gives me the green light to go get an scan on my lower back and VOILA, L4 – L5 DISK PROTRUSION! (young my ass).
As you could imagine, I was hurt, confused and mad that he couldn’t diagnose me sooner, but his reasoning was logical, I am a teen, how could I of possibly messed up that bad? THE ANSWER MY FRIENDS, IS CRAPPY FORM – From then on, I did lose motivation, I stopped going to the gym entirely, and struggled my way back to the gym after a couple of years. But here I am, back at it again!
I will now share 5 tips that could save you a lifetime of injury, as well as improve your gains significantly:
KEEP YOUR FORM IN CHECK AT ALL TIMES!!!!!!!!!!
I cannot stress this enough. The amount of ego lifters, which are especially prevalent in beginners are astonishing, and you’re watching them thinking “why you pulling that bar with your whole body and not just your back?”. Form is everything, your form allows you to NOT get injured, allows your muscle to be contracted properly, increasing the muscle gains and blood flow in the muscle, allows you to actually look like you’re doing work AND as a result, allows you to improve every week. Mirrors are at the gym for you to not only check out the mad gains you have been making, but also to keep your form in check, and to correct any mistakes made. Obviously, as a beginner, you might not know if your form is off or not.
If you are one of those lone wolves who train by themselves, train next to a mirror, and make sure whatever guide you are following, you follow it to the T, especially for big muscle groups such as Bench, Deadlifts and Squats, proper form is vital and in order to fully maximise your gains, you must start on the LIGHTWEIGHT if necessary. Don’t jump the gun, creating and sculpting a body of your dreams does not come within 8 – 12 weeks, but rather years to fully reach your maximum potential. Although in that amount of time, you can be making ALL KINDS OF GAINS (Hodgetwins pun)
WARM UP, STRETCH, KILL WEIGHTS, REPEAT!
Warming up and stretching are essential ways to keep blood flow up, your heart rate up and warm up the muscle about to be contracted. I always used to warm up my body, whether it’s hitting those light weights, or doing a little bit of cardio before a workout, you wouldn’t want to hit the heavy weights feeling cold and not feeling a pump before hand. Stretching, however, came after I already injured myself.
I realised the importance after injury, but really started taking it seriously when I read the “Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger” – IF ARNOLD SAID YOU STRETCH, YOU STRETCH! Don’t spend too much time stretching, but make sure you stretch well and to loosen up your body and and keep the blood flow active. 10 – 20 minutes stretching is more than enough to start your workout, and ensure that injury does not occur!
One tip I would like to also point out is TENSING/STRETCHING DURING SETS. It’s not necessarily stretching per se, but let me give you a brief explanation. During your sets, you want to practice tensing the specific body part being worked out, and stretching it. From my personal experience, you can really feel the muscles being activated, as well as keeping the muscle pumped up and ready to rock. For example, if you’re training back, in between sets, you want to be constantly stretching out your lats. To get a gist of what I mean, watch this video of the legendary Frank Zane training Sadic Hadzovic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFWFge8Wk1M (Source: Flex TV)
FIND A TRAINING STYLE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
There a thousands upon thousands of workout programs out there, and quite frankly, there are too damn many! Everyone’s body is different, therefore, everyone will reap different results. What may work for you, may not work for others, and that’s a given. What you want to do as a beginner is maybe follow a beginners guide, but do NOT just rely on that to get you where you want to go. Let me paint a picture for you. My body fatigues quite quickly when it comes to working out. Generally, after 2, sometimes 3 exercises, I am already toast and have to result to lighter weights in order to finish my workout. My brother, however, is able to continually add weight, where I continually lower the weight. He also is able to stay on a specific weight longer than I am, so IF I was training the way he did, my CNS (Central Nervous System) would deplete within the FIRST EXERCISE (this is a true story, it has happened many times). Is this because he is bigger and can lift heavier? That can be a factor, but overall, my body works best training at my own pace, using my own methods that I have personally discovered for myself.
Generally, after 2, sometimes 3 exercises, I am already toast and have to result to lighter weights in order to finish my workout. My brother, however, is able to continually add weight, where I continually lower the weight. He also is able to stay on a specific weight longer than I am, so IF I was training the way he did, my CNS (Central Nervous System) would deplete within the FIRST EXERCISE (this is a true story, it has happened many times). Is this because he is bigger and can lift heavier? That can be a factor, but overall, my body works best training at my own pace, using my own methods that I have personally discovered for myself.
This can also count towards your diet, like in my previous post, knowing what body type you are is vital. Some people can have cheat days, some people would gain too much doing a cheat day. The point is, you want to be able to learn enough SO THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR OWN PERSONAL FLAVOUR INTO YOUR WORKOUT TO MAXIMISE YOUR GAINS. Now in saying that, there are good guides out there, and maybe the guide is magically suited to cater for your gains, then so be it. Follow it to your hearts desire.
I would also like to add that don’t be afraid to do NON-TRADITIONAL exercises. As in, exercises you wouldn’t normally see, or exercises that you see YouTube fitness people do, try them out, implement them, and see what kind of pump you are able to get out of it. Each exercise is beneficial, and especially being an injured man like myself, could come in handy in the future if you end up getting injured or still fatigued from last week (leg day), you are able to use the expansion of your knowledge to train around these barriers and still get a good pump.
THE PUMP/MUSCLE MIND CONNECTION! (Having the ability to feel good, everywhere – according to Arnold Schwarzenegger)
The Pump. OHHHHHH YES, THE PUMP IS AMAZING! The pump is what we live for fellas, girls, woman, whoever you are, if you ain’t feelin the pump, you’re doing it ALL wrong (unless you are a crossfitter, in which still proceed to what you’re doing). JOKES ASIDE, there is a saying that goes “The only bad workout is the one that never happened”. Yes, that is correct to some degree, especially when you are not feeling it, but you force yourself to go to the gym anyway, that earns my respect. But EVEN SO, you must give your 110% and not just go through the motions of the workout.
Find a way to pump yourself up even when you are feeling down, watching motivational people like Arnold, Eric Thomas, Fearless Motivation and get to the gym, and FEEL THE PUMP. The reason why I put this separate to proper form is that this is more psychological than it is physical. Arnold says that the worse thing you can do is go to the gym to just “work out” and go through the motion. Training is really much more than just that. Think about it, you are literally pushing yourself to your highest potential by pushing past your limitations. Principles like these can be applied to not just training, but everyday life. If you are just going through the phases when you train – you are probably doing the same in other aspects of your life as well.
PUSHING THROUGH YOUR LIMITATIONS
This is a common trait in beginners, especially those who don’t particularly have a strong personality or are as motivated. The “OMG IT’S SORE, I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE” *drops the weight* is a common problem I get when training with newbies. This is just a tip to help maximise your gains, PUSH THROUGH THESE LIMITATIONS. The mentality you should have when doing a set is “EVEN WHEN IT HURTS, I’M GOING TO DO 3 MORE REPS”.
It especially helps when you have a training partner of the same calibre as you, therefore you are able to push each other. DO NOT STOP WHEN IT HURTS, STOP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD. Obviously, keep your form intact, but push yourself to the limit. Those 3-4 reps you do when your mind tells you to “GIVE UP”, is what’s going to make your body grow the most. ALTHOUGH, KEEP WITHIN YOUR MAX REPS. One rule of thumb I have to not FATIGUE, is stop 1 – 2 reps PRIOR to failure. Depending on your training style of course, but you don’t want to be doing too little is the main thing. Remember, doing MORE in the gym is better than doing LESS, push yourself, break a sweat, show that girl in the gym that you can squat those 3 plates and that your booty is bigger than theirs!
Don’t be an asshole who ego-lifts, to prove to everyone that you’re a mad dog. People really don’t give a crap, and really you’re making yourself look like a clown. Proper form combined with training hard will get you the results. If I was to say one thing, I would leave you with this:
“When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you!”
– Walter Payton