Pain in joints can permanently stall progress in training. Follow the advice of a sports doctor to lift weights without pain and risk of injury.
Author: Bill Geiger
Heavy strength training was invented not for healing joints. Sooner or later you notice some unpleasant sensations in the shoulders, knees, elbows or hip joints. Many simply ignore these symptoms until they begin to really get sick. Often this becomes the first acquaintance with the family of "ita": tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis and their relatives.
Instead of enduring pain or raking painkillers from chemist's shelves, learn 11 ways to make workouts safer and easier for your joints.
Even if you do not have any pain now, use these tips. Some of them will be useful both in the gym and beyond.
1. If it hurts, do not do it. Look for a similar alternative exercise
Any sports doctor will tell you that if the exercise is accompanied by pain, it is best not to do it. But this does not mean that we will have to abandon all such movements. For example, people with vulnerable shoulders (I'm among them!) Often face problems in barbell pressures. The shoulders are fixed in one position, and this leaves little room for maneuvers to help circumvent the pain.
Multi-joint movements like bench presses can aggravate problems with shoulder joints. Try isolating exercises, for example, cutting hands or crossover on a rope, and listen to the sensations. The exercises work on the pectoral muscles, but the trajectory changes. You can even work from a different angle.
The options are actually much larger. "Instead of a direct grip in the bench press, you can use the opposite," advises Guillermo Escalante, a sports physician, a specialist in power and functional training, the owner of a physiotherapy center for professional athletes in Claremont, California. – Another great option – dumbbells, because they give freedom of movement. Change the angle in the shoulder joint by only a few degrees, and the pain as a hand will remove. "
"To the above, we can add the results of a recent study that show that because of the reduction in the stability of the projectile, exercises with dumbbells are better recruited by the muscles," Escalante continues. "Because you have to balance the dumbbells, the less weight gives the muscle activation comparable to the bar."
2. Use smooth, controlled movements, and avoid jerks
In exercises that allow you to use inertia and help yourself to other parts of the body, many put extra weight and work in violation of all the rules of technology. And for joints, there is nothing worse than excessive weight, multiplied by poor performance techniques.
"If you spring in squats, wiggle your thighs to finish lifting the biceps, or pull the projectile in the towers, you beat the joints, tendons and ligaments," warns Escalante. His recommendation: unload the bar and start working on the technique, using smooth, controlled movements.
3. Try free weight instead of simulators
The simulators have both pluses and minuses. For beginners, who still find it difficult to balance the projectile, the simulator helps to do the exercises correctly. On the other hand, the simulator makes it work on one trajectory and does not leave the joints with special freedom of movement. Try a similar movement with dumbbells, a barbell or a rope.
Talking about the warm-up is like bothering with reminders that you need to brush your teeth. But this is good advice, especially for those who are older. The warm-up not only allows you to lift more weight – is not this alone enough? – but also makes the muscles and connective tissue more elastic, which increases the amplitude of movement and improves flexibility.
"The warm-up promotes the expansion of the blood vessels, enhances the muscle blood flow and neuronal activation of all the muscle fibers of the target group," says Escalante. – Take 5-10 minutes of cardio to increase your heart rate, and then make a few light warm-up approaches to the first exercise, just do not bring them to fruition. Static stretching is best reserved for a hitch, but dynamic exercises will be welcome. "
5. Instead of rejection sets, increase the time under load
"If you constantly work out to the point of failure – even in easy endurance approaches – you will have problems with joints," warns Escalante. "It's a good idea to complete the approaches to failure, at least for some training."
According to Escalante, refusal sets inevitably lead to errors in technique. By itself, the working weight does not have a serious effect on the joints, until you break the biomechanics of the movement. As well as the pace of muscle hypertrophy, by the way. "A recent experiment has shown that hypertrophy is more affected by time under load, and not by weight," says Escalante. "I'd rather make 3 on 12 than 3 on 6 with a couple of extra pancakes, but I'll keep the muscles under load all the time using smooth, controlled movements."
6. Limit the techniques of intensification in short intervals
"We love to plow until the smoke from the ears is knocked down, and the techniques for intensifying the training came up just for that," says Escalante. – If you constantly work on wear and tear, sooner or later something will break down – for example, joints. Periodization of training, which involves alternating the nature of the load, perhaps the best way to avoid it. You continue to exert stress on your muscles, but you include periods of active recovery in the schedule, during which the weight decreases, and you no longer work to failure. "
"I'm a big fan of wave-like periodization," adds Guillermo. "Instead of devoting whole weeks to light weights, hypertrophy or super-heavy sets, I prefer to use all of the above in one week."
7. Use pre-fatigue to reduce weight
In most cases, you begin training with the basic compound movement, for example, with squats, bench press, deadlift or press above the head. With pre-fatigue before sit-ups, you make an isolating movement like leg extensions; this leads to easy fatigue of the quadriceps even before the squats begin. If the squats were the first, you would need 200 or 240 kg to complete the approaches in the hypertrophy range. After pre-fatigue, you will have enough 140 or 160 kg to stay within 8-12 repetitions. And the less weight, the lower the load on the joints.
"I like the principle of pre-fatigue, because it allows a little relief in the base exercises," says Escalante. – In addition, the reverse order of the exercises gives the joints and muscles more time to warm up, because in single-joint movements you are not close to those weights in the heavy fundamental lifts. If you are a bit tired before the "big" exercise, you do not have to hang extra pancakes on the bar. And muscle training will remain at the proper level.
8. Connect techniques that reduce the pace and take away the inertia
Not all intensive training methods require submaximal working scales; Reducing the speed of repetition is a simple way to relieve the load from the joints. "Every time you slow down the movement, you increase stress for the muscles and reduce stress for the joints," explains Escalante. – Controllable movements expose muscles to more stress, and this is the direct path to hypertrophy. At the same time, they remove the inertial component, which often causes injuries. Finally, slowing down the repetition rate, as a rule, means a reduction in the working weight. "
One of the appropriate methods for doing this is to do the exercises on the contrary, stopping for several seconds not at the top, but at the bottom point of the trajectory. This technique is especially useful for increasing the strength indicators in the initial phase of movements.
9. Try to bend / unbend the joints not completely
A generally accepted point of view is to do full-amplitude motions. But when you fully unbend or bend the joint, which most often occurs in pressures on the chest and triceps, as well as in leg exercises, the load from the muscles goes to the joints.
"All the pressure rests on a separate joint, and the muscles get a breather," Guillermo says. – In the joint, you get the maximum contact spot between the contacting surfaces. This is especially harmful if, say, you press with the feet of 250 or 400 kg. Moreover, the time under load decreases, which means that you will have to pay for muscle growth. "
If you know the pain in your knees, Escalante warns about the last 10 degree of extension. They maximize the pressure on the articular surfaces and can exacerbate the problems with the meniscus or kneecap. If you are doing leg extensions, the first 10 degrees are also dangerous. "My advice is to stick to the average portion of the range of motion," he says.
10. Less accept NSAIDs and prescription medications
Before training, bodybuilders often rake off all anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs from the chemist's shelves to ease the aching pain in the tendons and joints. The first lack of symptomatic treatment of pain – you can accidentally aggravate the trauma, and you learn about it immediately after the end of the analgesic. The second disadvantage is that the constant intake of medicines becomes a blow to the liver.
11. Work weights gradually increase
Most athletes interested in muscle growth are trained in the range of 8-12 repetitions. But this does not mean that from time to time they do not want to work a little on strength. As a rule, such a desire is manifested by hanging on the bar more 20-30 kg. Such a sharp increase in the load affects not only the muscles, but also the connective tissue.
"If you are thinking about a radical change in the training scheme and waiting for a response from the muscles, let the body adapt," Escalante advises. – If you were practicing within 8-12 repetitions, first drop to 10, after a while – to 8, and only then to 6 repetitions in the approach. And when you get used to heavy weights, you can quickly switch between 4PM and 10PM schemes. "
Guillermo also adds that at the start of the power or mass-selective phase of the training cycle, tendons and ligaments grow slower than muscle tissue. "They can become a weak link and be in the area of high risk of injury," he says.