To get results in the gym, you have to be willing to push yourself. You have to be able to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to force your body to adapt. But how do you do that without getting injured? The answer is three-fold.
First, ensure that you are pushing yourself to “functional failure” and no further. Functional failure is the point where, due to fatigue, you can no longer perform another repetition of a given exercise with correct form. People frequently injure themselves by allowing their form to be compromised in the name of reaching a number… say, 15 reps. It’s far better to end the set prematurely having maintained perfect technique than to muscle out that last rep at any cost. Your body learns what you teach it. If you teach it terrible form, that’s what it will learn. It’s been shown that the body can learn a new movement (and will perform it as such from that point on) after as few as 500 repetitions. If you teach your body incorrect form, it can take as many as 5,000 repetitions performed correctly to de-program the old way and program in the new.
Secondly, recognize that the exercise isn’t over until the set is over AND the weight is put away. The two most frequently times of injury in the gym are the last repetition of a set and while racking your weights. We go to great lengths to utilize picture-perfect form during the set, then stoop, crouch, lean and twist to our heart’s content when we put our weights away. Weight is weight, whether you’re lifting it during a set, between sets, or putting it away AFTER YOU’RE DONE. Utilize proper lifting technique ALWAYS.
Thirdly, and most importantly, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you’re performing a set of bench presses (a chest exercise), does it make sense that you should be feeling it primarily in your shoulders or your neck? Make a point of knowing what muscle or muscles are MEANT to be worked by a given exercise and pay close attention during the exercise to ensure that that’s where you feel it. If you don’t feel the exercise where you’re supposed to, STOP. Re-focus and take another crack at it. Either adjust the exercise so it works the appropriate muscles or find another exercise. Otherwise, you’re simply training your body to do the exercise with the wrong muscles (the results of which I’ve made a living correcting).
So, keep your form, stay focused and listen to your body and you’ll get the results WITHOUT the injuries. Happy lifting!