05 Jun 2009 21:11
Not so long ago an acquaintance asked me if I would take a look at his routine. He knew I was a regular gym goer and lifted some decent weights so he thought he'd get my opinion.
Being the nice guy that I am I critiqued his routine and offered to look at his form as well. I gave him an explanation and an alternative for everything so he had some flexibility with concrete reasons backing everything.
The next week he handed me a new routine. With an arm day! He had completely scrapped my advice because his workout partner (who couldn't lift much and knew even less) said he needed lots of arm work or there was no point in going to the gym. Needless to say I never went and critiqued his form. Instead I suggested what he should do with his “new” routine. Tactfully of course.
Then one day he called on me to critique his deadlift form (I'm a nice guy remember). After watching a 'warm-up' set I told him it was absolute garbage and I was surprised he hadn't slipped a disk yet. His partner, who must have ears like a fox, heard me, saying, "Whatever, that guy doesn't know anything. Look at how much he's lifting, obviously your form is good if you can lift this much. Just forget that guy."
Realizing I had lost the battle I did the opposite of what I'd normally do: I bit my tongue and finished my workout (tougher to do than the actual workout).
Months later, lo and behold, he’s plagued with injuries not surprisingly related to poor deadlift/squat form. Particularly he's experiencing several shoulder problems which we all know are automatically correlated with bench pressing and shoulder pressing…not his horrid lack of hip mobility or mobility in general.
I've been free from 'major' injuries for quite some time now (knock on wood) which, despite earlier disregard, somehow lends credibility to my training. So said acquaintance returned for more advice. This time his questions involve training AND injuries rather than just training. I'm sure you can imagine how sympathetic I felt and you can guess how much advice I gave him.
Originally, my advice was dismissed because I couldn't lift as much, yet my advice was sought after when I was deemed to be injury free.
Weight on the bar and good form are not factors to be considered separately. They go hand in hand. You can't lift heavy weights without knowing good form and you can't get stronger without staying as injury free as possible.
But wait a minute. You also can’t get stronger without lifting heavy weights. Since remaining injury free is a prerequisite for lifting heavy weights…none of these factors I’ve discussed can be escaped.
The mentality of the trainee in this anecdote is common. Believing that you are practicing good form, and know the movement, because of the weight you use is a big mistake. Thinking form work is something that should be done post-injury is just as big. Combining those two is catastrophic!
Movement, technique, and ‘prehab’ work should be integrated into training or even precede any heavy lifting. These are not after-thoughts. Perhaps, when discussing strength work, instead of speaking about getting stronger, we should simply speak of getting BETTER.
We can't train safely and effectively without realizing form, strength, and injury are inter-related. You've seen the pieces of the puzzle but if you'd like to know more take a look though these pages and post in the forum and we can help you put it all together. And if you're like the guy in this story that's ok too, we'll help you, but don't expect the story to end differently if you're not prepared to take the advice to heart.
Many of us know this trainee, have come across this trainee or may have even been this trainee. The big difference is that alot of us got smarter about our training and our injuries. However, it doesn't quite end that way for this guy.
The person that I based this on has come crawling back for more info. He recently pulled a 500+lb deadlift and I don't think I need to describe how it looked. As a result of his training he has injured his back and shoulders even more, yet hasn't seeked any sort of answer as to why or how.
Somehow he found out the time I go to the gym and one morning he caught me there, again. I was doing a warmup for overhead squats and he came over and said "don't hurt yourself", commenting sarcastically on the lightly weighted barbell I was using. He went and did his set of decline bench and came back when I was doing a working set and mentioned how he tried OHs but gave up because he just didn't have the shoulder flexibility for it and it wasn't an exercise for him. Which means he couldn't put enough weight on the bar or had to dump it nearly every attempt. Basically after every set he would come over to me about some pain here or how he was working around injuries, blah blah, and he would not stop about a pain he had below his shoulder blade. Finally I told him to go and try some scapula dips and scapula pushups and see how that went. By some miracle it had eleviated his pain. He came back and asked how I knew that so I told him maybe his lower trap was tight and it was pulling a bit, causing discomfort. To which he replied, hahaha the trap is up here dummy. I don't think I have to tell you where he pointed. He finally left shortly after but what a workout. One time he even said he had to deadlift with a rounded back because it hurt to bend down and grab the bar with an arched back!
To sum it all up his back pain has gotten so bad that he's going to doctors, pt's, and even the dreaded chiro! If only he would've taken me seriously in the first place…