Too many times people throw themselves into an exercise routine with the expectation that if they heave as much weight as possible, enough times, they’re going to see the results they want. In reality, the result they’re likely to see is an injury that sets them back significantly in achieving their fitness goals.
Whether you’re just starting out or finessing your current exercise routine, it’s essential that you always take the time to ensure you’re practicing proper form. If you don’t, you are cheating yourself by lessening the positive effects of your workout and opening yourself up to serious injury. Aside from maintaining proper technique as you build strength and flexibility, you should also focus on the nutrition your body needs to function, recover, and grow.
Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition
Before your workout, it’s a good idea to eat foods high in carbohydrates in order to maintain the energy you’ll need to power through the session. Carbs also stimulate muscle protein absorption, which is necessary for muscle growth and recovery.
Be sure to take advantage of the benefits of whey protein before and after your workout. By taking whey protein about 30 minutes before a workout, you give your body time to absorb the protein and fuel your muscles. The amino acids in whey will immediately begin repairing the damage done to your muscles during a workout, promoting faster muscle recovery and reducing injuries. Following up with additional whey within 30 minutes of finishing your workout can encourage your body to continue to recover.
Though much of the information about workout nutrition focuses on a balance of carbs and protein, it’s also important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet in order to take in essential nutrients. To ensure your bones and joints are strong enough to handle high impact or weight-bearing activities, you need plenty of calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D.
It’s not just about what you eat. Staying hydrated is essential to preparing for exercise and preventing injury. Sports drinks are a great way to hydrate during a workout as they replace essential electrolytes like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium that leave your body as you sweat. Because dehydrated muscles, joints, and other tissues are more prone to tears and injury, you should also drink plenty of water throughout the day.
The Importance of Proper Form
Poor form is the cause of a variety of fitness injuries, including sprains, tears, dislocations, and fractures. It’s important to practice an exercise properly from the beginning and keep a sustained focus on these over time. Otherwise, your body will learn to default to an incorrect posture or range of motion. If you’re doing an exercise incorrectly, you may not immediately notice any pain, though your body is likely wearing down, eventually leading to an injury.
Keep in mind, nearly every exercise you do will actually involve your entire body in some way. The basics of proper technique for most exercises will relate to the alignment of your spine and joints. Your back is one of the most injury-prone areas of your body. In most cases, keeping your chest up and out and pulling your shoulder blades together will to properly align your back, minimizing the stress placed on your spine.
Identifying a healthy range of motion is also a key element to keeping proper form. Often, this involves paying attention to where the tension lies in an exercise. For example, if your goal in performing a chest press is to work your chest muscles, you should stop the motion when your elbows are parallel to your shoulders. Allowing your elbow to fall below this point will shift the tension to your triceps. Doing this isn’t necessarily wrong, but understanding this relationship will help you to target specific areas of your body and gradually increase your range of motion.
When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to refer to guides for specific exercises before committing to a large number of repetitions.
Improper weightlifting techniques pose an especially great risk of injury. When you lift a lot of weight, your body can easily become misaligned, putting extra strain on your muscles, tendons, and joints. Particularly in the early stages of training, it’s better to lift lighter weights with proper form than to rush into using heavy weights with poor form. Research also suggests that longer rest periods between sets can increase muscle growth and recovery when weightlifting.
If you’re serious about achieving your fitness goals, performing exercises correctly and following a nutritious diet is essential to your immediate and long-term success. Working with a personal trainer or an experienced workout partner is one of the best ways to create a solid foundation for your workout regimen. By seeking guidance from someone who really knows what they’re doing, along with other resources, you can help to ensure that the work you’re putting in isn’t doing more harm than good.