In 15 years of training, I’ve never been injured.
The occasional nagging pain, stiffness or soreness, yeah. But a serious injury that kept me out of the gym for weeks or months? Not once.
Now keep in mind, I did all kinds of crazy shit back in the day. From competing in full-contact kickboxing to lifting heavy weights with questionable form at the gym.
So I wasn’t “playing it safe” by any stretch of the imagination. I simply knew that I had to do a few things consistently to make sure my body was recovering and ready for action.
Since starting calisthenics training a couple years ago, I felt even the slightest joint and muscular pains subside. I am much stronger and more resilient today than I was in my early 20’s. And I know I will be much stronger and more resilient in my 40’s.
Oh, but there was one thing…
I stayed injury-free with one exception.
Residing in Ecuador earlier this year, I played soccer 4-5 days a week. And one day, during a full-on sprint, I felt a pull in my lower ab/groin area.
It wasn’t painful at first but it got worse over time as I didn’t allow it to heal. In fact, I did the opposite of allowing it to heal. I pushed harder every week, doing my Stronger Than Iron training, hiking in the mountains, playing soccer and being on the go almost every day.
What can I say? I have the energy (and hormone) levels of a young breeding bull and didn’t feel like taking the necessary time off. I wanted to get after it. Every day.
Fast forward 5 months and the pain had gotten almost unbearable. I couldn’t train my abs anymore because it hurt so bad. Running or playing soccer was a sheer test of willpower (or plain stubbornness).
I was forced to take a step back and train around the injury. It never kept me out of the gym but to this day, I still feel a slight pain in my groin area when sprinting or doing any sudden twisting motions (think kicking).
Other than that, I’m as good as new. A lean mean heart-breakin’ machine.
Here are 4 strategies that kept me injury-free in 15 years of training.
4 Steps To Never Get Injured In Training
Don’t get too heavy
I believe one of the main reasons for getting that injury was the fact that I had gained weight. I was shoving in a ton of food and training like an animal to put on size.
I pushed my body harder than ever before in my life. And I got what I wanted.
Within a couple months, I gained a solid 4-5 pounds. Keep in mind, we’re talking about muscle, not fat. But to your system, it doesn’t make a difference. Heavy is heavy, regardless if you’re jacked or carrying a spare tire around your waist.
I was never a big guy to begin with. When I got into lifting weights, I went from a scrawny 67 kilos (at 173 cm) to over 80 kg at my heaviest. Not “heavy” by your standards, but too heavy for me.
My body doesn’t like being that big and it let me know every day. Every time I gain weight I get stiffer, slower and less mobile. Strength goes up, yes, but everything else suffers in the process.
That’s why you see bodybuilders get injured all the time. They’ve grown out of proportion, beyond a level the body can handle. These folks are pushing the limits of what the human body can do. But in all the wrong ways.
Yes, get as strong and as big as you like. But if you get too heavy, regardless if it’s lean muscle or pure fat, something’s going to give. It’s just a matter of time.
Never chase a number on the scale.
Eat less junk
Health hippies around the world love to throw around the term “inflammation”. Guess what the biggest driver of inflammation is in the body?
No silly, it’s not gluten, milk or non-organic broccoli. The main driver of inflammation is chronic overfeeding. Habitually eating more than your body burns causes an inflammatory response unlike anything else.
And once you have accumulated enough bodyfat through years of overeating, things start to get really fun, as bodyfat in and of itself is highly inflammatory and further perpetuates this systemic downward spiral.
Eating a high-calorie diet is a burden on the body, no matter how you look at it.
Yes, it is necessary to intermittently eat more in order to maximize your development. But it comes at a cost.
And I’m not only talking about the sheer amount of food you put in your body. Quality matters.
Refined carbohydrates (sugars and flours), refined fats (vegetable oils and trans fats) and chemical food additives (i.e. thickeners, preservatives, flavorings) are the worst offenders.
Notice something here? Yeah, you’ll only find those things in the junk they sell for food at your local supermarket.
Minimize the consumption of these “foods” as best as you can. I say minimize because I don’t want you to become a fruity little vegan who only eats sprouted greens sprinkled with pixie dust.
Go ahead and eat some of the “good stuff” here and there. But don’t make it a daily occurrence. Base your diet on real food: Eggs, quality dairy, lean meats, fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts… you get the picture.
That is how you fuel a strong and healthy body.
Optimize your training
This is an article on training injuries and I haven’t even addressed training yet. How come?
Simple. The majority of gym injuries happen as a result of what you do outside of the gym.
If your body is strong and healthy, the likelihood of you getting injured in training is minimal, unless you’re really asking for it.
Warming up properly is important, yes.
Training with good form is important, yes.
But if you fail to follow the other strategies outlined in this article, all that won’t be enough to keep you injury-free.
Gym injuries are a result of bad lifestyle habits, not bad exercise form or insufficient warm-ups. They are the physical manifestation of shitty diet and lifestyle habits.
But back to the gym. How can you maximize your development (gains bra) without getting injured in the process?
Base your training on natural movement patterns and avoid exercises and machines that lock you into position. Let your body move freely during your exercises.
Calisthenics training strengthens your joints and tendons because it allows your body to move the way it was designed to move. Man-made exercise machines do the opposite.
If you train at a gym, focus on weighted bodyweight and free weight exercises. You don’t need to avoid all machines. In fact, some machines can work very well with your body. But those exercises should only serve as a supplement in your training routine.
In addition to choosing better exercises, you need to train harder without chronically running yourself into the ground. Don’t do endless sets and reps in an effort to get big. No. Go to the gym, pick a handful of exercises and do 2-3 hard, progressive sets. Done.
Controlled periods of “overreaching” (training beyond your current recovery capacity) are fine, but don’t let it become your norm. I’ve made that mistake in the past only to find that you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym 6 days a week to see results.
Train harder, but train smarter.
Don’t play soccer
Soccer is the most dangerous sport in the world.
I trained and competed in full-contact Kickboxing for over 6 years. But I’ve never seen more people get injured than in a friendly game of soccer. It’s the nature of the sport. Fast pace, short bursts of action, big bellies.
“Big bellies? What?”
The main reason so many people get injured playing soccer is that they’re out of shape. Their bodies are not used to doing strenuous work (or any work for the matter). Their joints and tendons are already holding on to dear life, just waiting to *pop*.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Victor, soccer is an absolute pussy sport.”
And I agree 100%. But the fact remains that people get injured in this game more than any other sport. It’s vicious on the joints, tendons and ligaments.
If you’re not in a state of peak physical health, don’t play soccer. If your joints and tendons are not in perfect condition, don’t play soccer. Simple as that.
You see, getting injured and standing on the sidelines for weeks or months is nothing to brag about. It’s a sign of weakness and incompetence. Be better than that. Follow these 4 steps and keep making gains into old age. Injury free.
We’re only getting started.
Thank you for reading