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Top 10 tips for preventing injury in the gym

“It’ll never happen to me”.... Unfortunately injuries can and do happen in the gym. Something important to consider when it comes to injuries in the gym, is how they happen. An injury can happen in 2 different ways, firstly you can have an accident like dropping a weight on your foot or falling off a treadmill, we call this an “External Source” injury. Secondly, you can have an “Internal source” injury which comes from a weakness or dysfunction in your body. An example would be hurting your back trying to do a deadlift that’s too heavy or having poor form which causes you to twist your shoulder on an overhead press. “Internal source” injuries are what we are going to focus on preventing. The others are just people being clumsy, which are probably preventable too, but we’ll leave that to health and safety.

Know your limits

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is fitness. Far too many people injure themselves simply because they lift or push their training too hard, too soon. The key to success is to make your workout plan increase steadily and at appropriate levels. There is a point with any form of exercise or physical activity where too much can be detrimental or damaging to your body, rather than helpful. Finding the right starting point is essential too, this is where the help of a qualified trainer or coach, that can do an assessment on your fitness levels, can be very beneficial.

Move well before you move often

What on earth do you mean move well? We mean, do you have proper range of motion in your joints? Are you flexible or mobile enough to be doing what you are asking of your body? If you can barely bend over and tie your shoes, do you think it’s a good idea to try and deadlift 100kg off the ground? Or do you think it’s a good idea to squat 100kgs if you can’t do a deep body-weight squat with your feet flat on the ground? If you doubt that your mobility is good enough, we suggest reading our MOVEMENT manual, as it will help you self-assess weak or inflexible areas of your body and it give you strategies to improve them.

Make it sustainable

Don’t over train yourself. Rest and recovery between training sessions is essential. Without enough recovery time you may have compounding overload of joints, muscles and other soft tissues, that can build up over time. If your training program is not sustainable over a long period of time, due to overloading the tissues, it will end up in injury. We suggest not training more than 5 days in a row without having a day of rest. We also suggest not training a particular muscle group more then once a week.

Core stability

Lacking core stability when exercising can often be a common cause for preventable issues, particularly lower back and neck pain. An easy way to test core stability and balance is by going down on to one knee in a lunge position, then moving the front foot back so it is touching the knee that is on the ground. You should be able to hold this position for 10 seconds without losing balance. If you wobble about, have to put your arms out to balance or you fall and have to place your hand down, your core isn’t stable enough to be lifting heavy weights. You should see a chiropractor, musculo-skeletal therapist or trainer to assess your instability before you hurt yourself.

Change it up

Not only is it boring training the same way repeatedly, but it can lead to over use injury. We suggest moving your body in all the different planes of motion. Don’t just do push/pull movements like bench press vs rows or leg press vs hamstring pulls, incorporate rotational movements like beer crawls, climbing or swimming, to help challenge your core and coordination. Keeping your training varied and dynamic helps prevent imbalances in your movement patterns and keeps your body adaptable.

Keep it balanced

A common mistake made particularly when following muscle building type workouts, is certain muscle groups can be ignored. We suggest you monitor how often you are training and even the amount you are lifting in opposing movements. For example, a mistake would be to train your chest 2 times a week and your back only once, this would lead to over dominance of your chest, which can result in instability of your shoulder joints. Following the same principle, monitoring how much you are lifting on opposing movements is critical. For example if your are regularly bench pressing 100kg, but are only capable of doing a 50kg row, this displays a severe imbalance in strength across your shoulder joint. We suggest the weight balance across opposing movements should be with in 10% of each other to help prevent injury.

Lift/move in good posture

We have all felt ourselves or heard of someone that has “tweaked” their back lifting poorly, it’s a mistake you will sorely regret and can’t be undone. Lifting in good form and with good posture is essential to preventing injury, unfortunately it only takes 1 bad rep to undo 9 good ones. We suggest all reps should be good ones! If you are starting to lose form, this should be considered your fatigue point, not when you can’t push through another rep. When form goes it is time to stop that set, rest and wait for the next one.


Chronic inflammation is debatably one of the biggest problems facing modern health care. Primarily caused by high sugar and refined food product diets, chronic inflammation can lead to a whole host of health issues. When it comes to training in the gym, it’s going to slow recovery from workouts, which ultimately dictates how often you can train. This potentially can lead to over-training issues before you should otherwise experience them. For more information about reducing information from your diet, check out our FUEL manual.

Keep moving

Unfortunately even with regular exercise the affects of living a sedentary lifestyle, such as working or studying at a computer all day, aren’t negated. The impact on the body is areas of muscular tightness, areas of muscular weakness and postural imbalances, which severely increase the likelihood of injury in the gym. Some of the best ways to prevent the negative sedentary affects of sitting are: regular stretching/standing breaks (minimum every 30 min), having a variable sit/stand desk or sitting on a Swiss/yoga ball. For more ideas on how to alleviate the affects of a sedentary lifestyle check out our MOVEMENT manual.

Keep the POWER on

Muscle strength, co-ordination of movement patterns, balance and core stability all have something very important in common... your nervous system. Your brain and central nervous system not only control all of these, it controls every basic function in the human body. For your body to work, move and exercise at its best, the messages your brain and central nervous system are sending to your body need to get there uninhibited. If something gets in the way of these messages, none of the other 9 tips will be of any use to you, as you won’t be able to do anything at your best. A chiropractors sole job in life is to assess and correct any disturbances in the communication of messages coming from the brain to the body. If you try all of the above and are still injured or getting injured you probably need to be assessed by a chiropractor to see if you have a communication problem with your nervous system.

For more information regarding chiropractic care and how it can help you lead a healthier more active life or about us and our practice, check out the rest of our website. To book a no obligation initial chiropractic consultation to see how chiropractic care could help you follow this link or contact us via email or phone on the details below. If you wish to get a copy of one of our 5 foundation manuals mentioned earlier, they are available for purchase from our practice.