Few things are as devastating to someone who is highly involved in their workout program as joint pain. Joint pain may come on over time, slowly creeping up until you simply cannot do an exercise any longer or it can come on suddenly thanks to one wrong move while performing a lift.
In either case, there is one thing that you’ll always have in common: you are sidelined, frustrated, and may be feeling hopeless you’ll ever workout again.
Joint pain can go on to be chronic if you aren’t careful and don’t treat it properly, which could in fact limit what you can do well into the future.
The best defense is fixing the problem before it starts.
By taking care of a few of the most common mistakes people make in the gym, you can do your best to ensure that joint pain doesn’t come into your future.
Let’s go over five important things to note.
1. Never Lock Your Joints
The first thing to note and always remember is that you should never lock your joints into position. For example, when doing a shoulder press, never lock the elbows into place at the top of the lift.
They should be straight, but never fully locked. When you lock them like this, you take all of the tension of the muscles and transfer it directly onto the joints. This is often far too much weight for those joints to bear.
In addition to putting you at great risk for pain, you’re also going to be lessening the stress being placed on the muscles, reducing the strength gains that you see.
At first it may feel like you are now keeping your arms bent the entire time, but watch yourself in the mirror and you will see that you can still be straight, just not locked.
And, pay extra attention to hyperextending. If you are someone who does have joints that hyperextend, there’s an even greater chance that you may come into this problem.
2. Always Pay Attention To Knee Tracking
The next quick tip to remember for joint protection is to always pay attention to your knee position. When doing exercises such as squats, lunges, or leg press for example, make sure that your knees are moving directly over your toes.
Many people will allow the knees to either move inward or outward, which will result in a grinding force on the kneecaps, eventually leading to joint pain.
If you notice that this is occurring quite frequently, you may also want to assess the strength of your inner and outer thighs as well as your glute muscles. If any one of these muscle groups is much weaker, it could be the reason you’re experiencing this problem.
Knee problems are extremely common so being constantly aware will save you from years of nagging pain and limited capabilities.
3. Contract Those Abs For Back Protection
The back is another area of your body that you need to safeguard as best as possible. Anyone who’s ever dealt with back pain before knows that this can take you out of the game completely.
One of the best ways to prevent back pain and injury is to simply think of squeezing your abs at all times during your exercises. This will help to lift up the hips, ensuring that you aren’t developing a sway back, which is one of the leading causes of back pain.
The minute you back starts to sway, you’ll be placing more tension and stress on the vertebrae, which can then lead to problems.
This will be especially important as well whenever you have weight over your head such as in a shoulder press, bench press, or overhead squat.
If you aren’t sure how your back is positioned when doing these exercises, have someone film you while you perform them. Often this will help you get a much better picture what you really look like.
Remember how you ‘feel’ you are during the movement and how you actually are often don’t align.
4. Add Weight Slowly
It’s also vital that you add weight slowly. One common cause of back pain is progressing faster in terms of your muscular strength than what your joints can handle. Your bones will grow stronger with regular strength training, but not at nearly the same speed your muscles will.
As you begin approaching very high weight levels as you get stronger, take the increases as slow as possible. Instead, add more reps, add more sets, or use advanced training techniques until you feel that your joints are finally ready to haul more weight.
Putting too much on your joints too soon will lead to nagging pains and even stress fractures if you aren’t careful.
5. Change Your Routine Often
Finally, make sure that you are adjusting the exercises you’re doing in your workout routine often as well. Overuse injuries are very commonly associated with joint pain, so by adding more variety, you can help avoid this.
Tendonitis, for instance, while not related strictly to the bone, is still a bone related condition that can occur when heavier weight is being used, or when an exercise is being performed too frequently.
Tendons connect muscles to bones and when the loading is too much for them to handle, they’ll become inflamed, leading to great pain and possibly stopping you from doing the exercise entirely.
When you have tendinitis, rest is often the only thing that can cure it.
So there you have a few quick tips on what you can be doing to ensure that you side-step joint pain and injury. While muscle aches, pulls, and strains will heal relatively quickly so aren’t that big of a deal in most cases, the same cannot be said for bones. Once injured, they can take a considerable time to heal and have you ready for your normal workouts once again.