If you train hard enough and long enough, weightlifting injuries will happen. It’s simply part of the game when you’re pushing your body to the limit in an effort to build muscle, strength, and optimize health.
Plus, father time eventually comes a-knockin’ for even the smartest of lifters.
You won’t recover quite as fast, those dull aches will grow in intensity, and hell, your progress may slow to a trickle.
The sobering truth is your training must adapt the older you get and the more time you spend under the bar.
Here are six foolproof tweaks to reduce pain, boost performance, and make you look better naked without living in the gym.
1. Slow Down Your Tempo
In the case of joint-friendly training, slowing your tempo down will increase your time under tension. You’ll create the skin-splitting, muscle-building pump of metabolic stress while protecting your joints. With the exception of well planned explosive movements, slow down the eccentric (down phase) of your lifts to reduce joint stress while putting more tension on your muscles.
On your lifts, try a 3-1-1 tempo. This means take 3 seconds down and a one-second pause at the bottom before starting your next rep.
The Payoff: With this method, you’ll create more muscular stress while protecting your joints.
2. Add Pauses to Your Reps
If you’ve missed a bench press “off” your chest or get stuck in the hole on squat, you’ve hit a dreaded sticking point. Unfortunately, a lack of control in sticking points is when most injuries occur.
You’ve probably seen these examples before:
- A lifter bouncing the bar off his chest in a feeble attempt to muster a few more pounds.
- A lifter bouncing out of the hole on a squat, only round his back and let out a blood-curdling scream before the weight comes crashing down.
Neither are optimal for longevity or performance. Instead of using momentum, practice pauses during your reps.
The Payoff: You’ll learn to hold an ideal joint position when your body is most vulnerable, building resilient movement patterns and bone-crushing strength at the same time.
3. Increase Your Range of Motion
For a muscle to contract optimally, it should be in an extended position. Instead of relegating yourself to partial rep exercises, increase the range of motion and drop the weight, especially on higher rep, hypertrophy-based exercises. Doing so will simultaneously improve tissue length and joint mobility while reinforcing the movement with stability on the upcoming muscle contraction.
The Payoff: For pain-free muscle growth, always lift with precision control and with a full range of motion when possible. That
4. In Some Cases, Reduce The Range of Motion
While it’s important to work through a full range of motion, you must only do so in a range of motion you can control.
Consider a common example: deadlifts. If you can’t “pull” from the floor with a neutral spine, your risk of injury skyrockets. In the of deadlifts, you’d be much better off pulling from blocks or changing to a sumo or trap bar stance to put your spine in a safer position.
The Payoff: Yes, lifting with a full range of motion is important, but only if you can control it.
5. Take Shorter Rest Periods. Strategically.
With technical, explosive, and near-maximal exercises ensure you’re getting plenty of rest (2-3 minutes+) between sets to optimize technique and performance.
But once you’ve moved onto your higher rep, muscle-building work?
Working out with shorter rest periods improves your work capacity and gives you a better pump.
The Payoff: Doing more work in less time makes your workouts more efficient and effective, especially if you’re racing the clock throughout your workout. Heck, you might even knock out what most of us tend to neglect:
6. Reduce Axial Loading
Axial loading, or “top-down loading” from compound exercises like squats, cleans, deadlifts, etc., is excellent for boosting total body strength, muscle, and improving bone density. However, your body begins to handle axial loading less effectively as you age.
Don’t eliminate compound lifts completely, but if you’ve been training for years you’d be wise to dial back your lifts 5-10%, a few pounds, or drop the number of reps you’re doing.
Building a high-performance body comes down to training in a way that improves your life, not consume it.
The Payoff: Underpinning your success is your ability to stay consistent, which is only possible if you’re healthy.
The Big Takeaway
Tame your ego, my friend. Make these small tweaks to your training and you’ll be able to boost intensity and performance, without compromising longevity.