Many of the injuries that bodybuilders suffer from could be easily prevented just by allowing the body enough time to rest.
While most bodybuilders dread hearing the word "rest", many fail to realize that there is far more to rest than just avoiding overtraining. When you perform a tough workout you not only stress that muscle or muscle group, you also place stress on the cardiovascular, neuromuscular and components of the immune system.
For example, many bodybuilders will train their chest 2-3 times a week and spend an hour or more performing dozens of exercises just for the pecs. While this may sound ok to some, when you add in the stress of other workouts it can quickly add up to too much stress in one or more ways. I hear bodybuilders all the time say "I let my body rest by splitting up my workouts" and "I worked chest yesterday so today I'll train my back"… that's NOT rest!
When you train your back, your chest still gets worked, stressed and it also slows down your body's ability to recover from stress and repair damage from previous workouts. So don't kid yourself and think that you can train this way over the long term. It may take years or just a few weeks, but sooner or later your body will break down!
Let me give you a real life example from my experience. I, like nearly every single bodybuilder out there, created muscle imbalance unknowingly by following the workouts recommended in all the books, magazines, etc.
I trained 4, 5 and sometimes even 6 days a week and thought that I was resting enough by splitting my workout. To cut a long story short, after just a few years I had tendonitis in both triceps because I worked chest, tri's and shoulder too often, too intensely and didn't balance out my training.
I also had lower and middle back pain, knee problems and IT band tendonitis because my lower body workouts weren't balanced. I spent too much time doing heavy squatting, too often and neglected important muscles.
These injuries stayed with me for months, years and I still can have an occasional flare up if I don't stay consistent with a balanced training program. I was able to create all this damage by the age of 22… I am now 28 and will have to spend the rest of my life trying to prevent these old injuries from coming back and causing more pain and problems.
Don't do what I did! And if you already have, you better act fast and take a serious look at your training and your goals because if you don't, you will spend the rest of your life in pain and frustrated by all the injuries, big and small.
So here's my 5-Step Formula for Quickly Eliminating and Preventing Aches, Pains and Injuries
Step 1. Rest and Recovery
The first thing you need to do is REST! And no, I don't mean take a day or two off. I mean no workouts for at least a week or more, you need to give your body a chance to reduce the inflammation before you can begin work on eliminating or correcting the cause of the problem.
You may also want to use things like a heating pad, hot tub or massage to help reduce the inflammation and speed up the healing and recovery.
Step 2. Identify Muscle Imbalances
The next thing you need to do is find out which muscle imbalances have created your injury or are causing your pain and work towards correcting them. You can do this quickly and easily by performing physical assessments in which you are looking for strength and flexibility imbalances in all opposing muscle groups.
Step 3. Increase Flexibility in Tight Muscles with Targeted Stretching
In order to correct a muscle imbalance, you need to increase the flexibility and range of motion in the muscles that are too tight and causing a problem.
As we discussed in the previous articles, you have got to know what muscles NEED to be stretched before you start stretching. General stretching may or may not help, it may even make things worse! You have got to target the right areas. Get assessed by an expert.
Step 4. Strengthen Weak Muscles with Targeted Strength Exercises
The other major step in correcting muscle imbalances is to strengthen the weak muscles that are being overpowered by the strong and tight opposing muscle(s).
The same is also true for strengthening. You have to make sure that you choose the right exercises, don't use guesswork when choosing exercises!
Step 5. Monitor and Modify Your Program
The key to long term pain relief and injury prevention is to consistently monitor your progress and adjust your program, for example, as you work on correcting and preventing muscle imbalances the strength and flexibility of your muscles will change and therefore, you must then re-assess and change your program and workouts accordingly.
You will typically see changes in your strength, flexibility and bio-mechanics in as little as 2-4 weeks so I recommend that you re-assess yourself at least every 4-6 weeks.
So there you have it, 5 simple steps that you can take right now to work on eliminating any pain or injuries you currently have AND make sure you never create any new ones to deal with in the future.
Following these steps will not only help you eliminate aches, pains and injuries and it will also allow you to train more intensely and productively to get you the results you want.
By Jesse Cannone CFT, CPRS
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