Bodybuilding is a sport where the goal is to maximally develop the body in terms of mass, symmetry and balance throughout the body. To a lesser extent your gym junkies and casual weights goers who are trying to “tone up” or just get in better shape are doing a form of bodybuilding. But just like any sport bodybuilding isn’t without its injuries.
There are many common injuries that occur in the gym. Soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains and contusions will all occur. These can be the result of insufficient warming up, a lack of concentration, lifting too great a weight or too great a volume of training load. Outside of the weights room insuring adequate recovery both in terms of rest, active recovery and diet are all important.
There are other factors that increase your risk of injury. Poor posture has a very large role to play when it comes to the increased risk of injury in any sport, but particularly bodybuilding and weightlifting. Human posture is something that is getting worse. We see it all day long in the clinic. We have all seen it in public. I mean think about the last time you saw a school kid with good posture. Hard to remember right? People driving desks for a living or looking down at some sort of technological device only serves to aid the negatively changing of our posture. When you break it down how much of your day is spent sitting down with travel, work or study and rest. Probably most of the time in the majority of cases. Changes to spinal curves and mobility, altered length and tone in muscle tissue and altered joint position and mobility all happen as a result not to mention an increase in morbidity rates!
So now imagine after all these negative changes in posture that we go to lift weights expecting our bodies to remember how to move properly, have good mobility, to not get injured? All of sudden it sounds more plausible that we are heading towards disaster. Is the gym to blame for injuries or is it the poor posture that we spend all of our time developing and for that 1 hour in the gym we expect everything to go back to the way it was.
Compare an adult 30 year old to a 2 year old. A 2 year old can squat down, remain in a neutral spinal posture without issue for quite some time. Most 30 year olds would be lucky to squat all the way down without falling over. Likewise compare this indigenous populations across the globe that have never used chairs to sit but have instead squatted. They have maintained their mobility. So something can be said for the old vantage “if you don’t use it you lose it.”
So what can we do in the gym no matter our goals to help prevent injuries and if anything help our posture? Here are some ideas.
- Ensure a correct push:pull ratio is 1:2. That means for every set of pushing (eg. bench press) work you do that you do two sets of pulling (eg. Rowing). Most of life is anterior dominant so our shoulder girdles develop this way. As a result shoulders sit forwards and increase our risk of many types of injuries to our necks, shoulders and back.
- Improve your thoracic spine mobility. General lifestyle activities will generally make this worse increasing risk of neck, shoulder, mid and lower back injuries. Use a foam roller and lie across it every day along different parts of your spine to ensure adequate mobility. Also stretch your chest throughout the day.
- Foam roll and self massage your body: when weight training we are constantly breaking down soft tissue in goal to create hypertrophy. This constant breaking down of tissues can lead to the development of adhesions and trigger points (knots) in tissues. These cause dysfunction to the muscle and possibly pain as well as altered movement patterns. Frequent massage with a roller and ball can help to minimise the impact of these tight areas.
- Get assessed: if you aren’t sure see someone that is. They should be able to assess you for any weaknesses and limitations you may have that may lead to injury. Football players, swimmers, cyclists etc. are all screened in hope to prevent injuries. Bodybuilders should be no different.