Weightlifting can be extremely dangerous if you do not have the proper training. This is especially true for powerlifters, who often focus on maximizing weight and decreasing repetitions. Moreover, multi-joint exercises that involve both the lower body and upper body can be particularly dangerous, as these exercises require proper technique around all joints and a high level of expertise.

Most of what you will learn about proper technique and injury prevention will be learned through training with an instructor or group, as well as thorugh your own personal experience. This is a gradual process that will allow you to adjust your technique as you become more proficient with the exercises. However, there are some things that both beginners and advanced weightlifters can do in order to prevent injury, and some of these are quick and simple tasks that are really easy to do.

External Support via Bracing

Have you ever noticed that powerlifters often wear a type of sleeve around their knees? In some cases, if a powerlifter has had a previous leg injury, you may even see a full on brace, but for the most part, knee compression sleeves tend to be a little more popular in the sport. There are a couple reasons why.

Perhaps the most obvious reason to wear a knee sleeve when lifting weights is to provided more stability to the knee joints. The highest level of stability comes from lockable hinged knee braces, but these are usually reserved for those recovering form surgery, and they aren’t very practical in the gym. On the other hand, knee compression sleeves are much more simple, cheap, and easy to slip on, but the support is usually quite minimal.

More recently, some stronger knee supports for weightlifters have hit the market with good reviews. These supports are different from other more common knee compression sleeves in two ways. First, they come in a plus sizes, which is necessary in order to accommodate the large legs of weightlifters. One of the most common sizes is a whopping XXXL, which up until recently has been largely unavailable. Second, they are usually made with slightly thicker and definitely stronger material, which is necessary in order to bear the load of heavy weights (and body!), as well as to provide even better pound-for-pound support than their traditional counterparts.

Optimizing Stretching

Stretching is widely known as a way to decrease musculoskeltal injuries such as strains, but this is eaasier said than done for weighlifters, especially those pushing themsleves to the limit in terms of maximum weight. Actvities like yoga can be great to improve general flexibility, but too much flexibility can lead to excessive joint laxity, which may predispose different parts of the body to a higher risk of injury.

Generally speaking, there is no clearly defined way for weightlifters to stretch, as this will vary by program, goals, size, and each individual’s body. However, it appears that dynamic stretching may be best for weightlifters, at least before a lifting session, as this will help with flexibility without causing a reduction in peak power output, and it conveniently contributes to your warmup as well. After the workout, static stretching may be prefered to stay loose for the next session. Foam rollers are also a great recovery tool, making sure you’re prepared for your next workout.

Summary

If you have injury prevention in mind while lifting, you are already on the right track to achieving your lifting goals without sacrificing your health. Braces can seem like a hassle, but there are now some great braces out there for powerlifters that are quick and easy, and most importantly, highly effective. Stretching can help as well, but given the optimal stretching routine will vary by individual, we recommend exploring this avenue in a group setting with your powerlifting peers.

Why is Recovery Important?

If you’re already fairly well-versed in working out and have an optimal routine put together, then you may already know some of this information. Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning why recovery is one of the most important aspects of your training regime.

First, and most obvious, proper recovery will make you feel better. This is usually in the form of decreased soreness and fatigue, but the benefits extend beyond that. An effective recovery means you will be more prepared for your next workout, allowing you to get the most out of that subsequent workout. If you are not fully recovered, you may not be able to attain as many reps or a certain weight, so it really does affect your overall performance and goals.

Tips and Tricks for Effective Recovery

After a hard day in the gym, it can be easy to simply go home, lay up on the couch, and just eat. While eating is an important part of recovery, we will focus on the more physical aspects here. Instead of getting home and sitting around, or taking a long hot shower, try drawing a cold bath. This is most effective when you have just finished a leg workout. Sitting in a cold bath (ideally an ice bath, but that’s not always practical) will decrease the swelling and lead to way less post-exercise pain and stiffness, and ultimately help reduce the risk of injury.

After this immediate recovery period, you can then focus on warming and stretching (let’s say around 24-48 hours post-workout). For example, this could be a good opportunity to sit in a hot tub, take a warm shower, or do a gentle warm-up to get the blood flowing. In any case, you can follow either of these with a good stretching session. The warmth will help relax the muscles and promote circulation, which will make for easier and more effective stretching, and will also aid in reducing soreness. The main reason most people don’t do the warming immediately after their workout is because that can sometimes enhance the swelling and inflammation that is already occurring immediately after the workout. SO you can diminish these negative effects, wait a bit, then use the warmth to aid in your stretching.

Compression

Compression apparel has become fairly trendy lately, and while the direct effects on performance are still being debated, it seems clear that compression socks are really good items to have for recovery. Nightlynurse.com has a great selection of various types of compression socks, including compression stockings you can wear to work if you are going straight from the gym to your workplace.

Compression socks aid in recovery by promoting circulation without adding too much heat to enhance any existing inflammation. The socks basically help push blood back up the legs towards the heart, which can help eliminate lactic acid more effectively. Again, while there is some anecdotal evidence that they might improve performance, this hasn’t been confirmed and may vary from person to person, but the benefits for recovery have been well documented.

Summary

If you think carefully about your post-workout recovery, then you are already on a great track for success. Making sure you give yourself enough time can be tough sometimes, so the methods listed above will hopefully spark some ideas to help make your recovery period as efficient as possible. Good luck, and keep it up!

Let me first point out something.  I have heard a lot of noise about foam rollers lately.  Some are against it and some others consider it the eighth wonder of fitness.  I would like to take a more balanced view.  Seen from the outside, there are pros and cons in the whole thing.

One thing is for sure: if you do things properly, even those that might seem destructive can wind up being very beneficial.  The same goes with foam rolling.  Crossfitters around the world are finding out the amazing benefits they get from a good use of foam rollers.

Given that CrossFit is an intense program, crossfitters seek for alternatives to avoid injuries.  A good foam rolling is a solution they have found.

Foam rolling provides a great myofascial release

When muscles undergo a great amount of stress, they tend to get sore if the warmup is not effective. This can lead to painful muscles, hence affecting your routine.  If a muscle develops a knot within its fascia, the consequences for the proper development of CrossFit are affected.

CrossFitters have found out that foam rolling helps get rid of muscle knots.  Therefore, they have discovered that a trigger point grid foam roller has amazing results against those trigger points.   By trigge points I mean those parts of your muscles where fascia has built up into a painful muscle know.

Foam rolling prevents injuries

When you are continuosly massaging your muscles, you make them stay relaxed and ready for action a longer time.  This is definitively a great way to prevent injuries.  It is like a warmup before going into CrossFit.

Athletes usually take 15 min prior to their workout into foam rolling. This helps the muscles to get ready for the strenuous demands of CrossFit.

Of course, there are injuries that can be prevented and others that cannot.  However, CrossFitters do feel the difference when they roll on the foam roller prior to the routine.

Foam rolling helps injuries to heal faster

Last but not least, I will point out that all this foam-rolling helps injuries to heal faster.  As I stated before, there are some injuries that cannot be prevented. Very seldom but there might be.  If you have a steady foam rolling routine in place, your muscles are “trained” to heal much faster.

Needless to say, this is an enormous benefit to your workout.

Conclusion

So, the question rises.  Should you use a foam roller too?  Well, yes.  But make sure you use it properly.  As the title of this post suggests, CrossFitters are putting it to good use.  So can you and reap the same great benefits.

box_nelI hear a lot of my gym buddies talking about how they love the gym, but get often get bored of it. One could argue they aren’t true gym rats, but I totally get what they mean. It’s not so much about the gym atmosphere in general, but rather, the fact that their particular workout programs become monotonous and routine after some time.

Of course, switching up the exercises to provide a new challenge while still targeting the same muscle group is one strategy to counteract the gym lethargy, but eventually this will become just as routine, and chances are you picked the exercises you are already doing for a reason. For example, many experienced weightlifters will schedule or organize their workout based primarily on what they require for their goals, but then a secondary factor can be what equipment is commonly available at certain times. Therefore, many weightlifters and other gym-goers are restricted to how much variety they can add to their workout at the gym.

Boxing

I was recently convinced to try out a new boxing gym with a friend of mine who I frequently hit the gym with. I myself focus a little more on gym-specific exercises and power lifting, and I wasn’t looking for anything new at the time, but I figured what do I have to lose?

The real question should have been “What do I have to gain?”! First of all, if you think boxing is a sport only for tough guys who like to get punched in the face, it’s not. I was shocked at the variety of people I saw in this boxing gym, from total newbies like me, to experienced fighters training for an upcoming fight. It was unreal to watch, and one of the best parts was everyone was welcoming, supportive, encouraging, and overall friendly.

That being said, what I was most interested in was the workout (of course). For someone who is used to heavy-lifting, I was extra curious about the workout when I noticed there were hardly any weights in the gym at all. I quickly learned that boxers often avoid weights, or at lease powerlifting, as they need to maximize their strength AND speed, all while keeping their overall weight as low as possible. So how do they get so ripped, but yet weigh in like a feather?

The answer lies in their workout structure. Boxing workouts work on a round-to-round schedule, whereby everyone is on the same “stop-and-start” schedule, for lack of a better way to put it. A speaker will make a buzzing sound at the start of the round, and then everyone begins working. My workout consisted of a good solid warmup, three rounds of shadow boxing, three rounds on the heavy bag, three rounds on the speed bag, three rounds on the reflex bag, individual work with a trainer mixed in there depending on the day, and then some skipping, core exercises, and cool down exercises. Rounds last for three minutes and you get a one minute break in between. At no point did I ever lift a weight, but WOW was I ever sore the next few days! The speed bag was definitely the hardest for me, but as I learned it I could feel my reflexes and coordination improving, and shortly it become one of the most fun exercises for me. Plus, it set my shoulders on fire!

I quickly realized how focused boxing is on training for cardiovascular fitness, but the constant exercise involving punching, as well as more standard exercises under your own body weight, really allowed for every muscle group to be worked hard. This style of exercise is perfect for dropping weight in terms of fat, while at the same time putting on a bit of muscle and getting absolutely ripped.

Last, but not least, it was an extremely fun challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed! It’s a great way to mix up your workout routine, and even boxing alone would be way more than enough to get in shape and stay in shape. It’s affordable, and all I really need was a good pair of boxing gloves, and once I became a little more experienced, I also benefited from investing in a nice pair of boxing shoes, but the latter isn’t necessary if you’re participating on a recreational basis.

At the end of the day, I simply encourage you to keep an open mind for different types of exercise that could benefit you. For me, I found boxing to be an incredibly exhausting workout that hit various aspects of fitness that I didn’t even realize were weaknesses for me! Looking back, I could have figured this out on my own, but having been stuck in the gym mentality forever led me to believe I didn’t need anything else. You never know how much fun you might have trying out some different exercise programs, and no matter what you try, your body will thank you!

Power Lifting vs Bodybuilding

Power Lifting vs Bodybuilding

Power lifting is a sport that originated with bodybuilding and both power lifters and bodybuilders have essentially the same goals, to get bigger and stronger.  You can use the techniques in power lifting to enhance your bodybuilding efforts.  The thing that separates the two is the competition.  When a power lifter competes his goal is to move as much weight as possible, while the objective in bodybuilding is to become as big and defined as you can.  That being said there are bodybuilding competitions, the most famous being Mr Olympia but the judging is subjective rather than objective in power lifting.

Power Lifting

There are three events in a power lifting competition, the squat, the dead weight and the bench press.  Unlike a bodybuilding competition, no one is concerned with definition, symmetry or how bulked up you have become they are concerned with how much you can lift.  There is no need for you to learn poses that showcases your muscle definition, nor do you need to shave your legs instead you focus on endurance and raw strength.  Competitors in power lifting are placed in classes based on age and experience and they compete in all three lift categories.  If you’ve never been to a power lifting competition the video below will show you what it is all about.

The Training

Training for both the bodybuilder and power lifter is not that different; both try and push themselves to attain the next goal.  Both are dedicated to health and fitness and a good diet.  You won’t achieve success in either discipline by living off of fast food.  Diet is a critical part of any training regimen and that includes staying away from bad food and fueling your body with what it needs.  Building muscles and strength requires clean proteins and plenty of vegetables.  Bodybuilders, more so than power lifters pay close attention to their diet and what will allow them to lose weight quickly.

Discipline

Power lifting and body building can have similar workout routines, both disciplines mean plenty of hours in the gym.  Both will work closely with a trainer to plot out a routine that will yield the best results.  The power lifter pushes themselves so they can lift more weight, the bodybuilder does the same thing to develop and hone muscles. You will likely see both of them in the gym on a daily basis, whatever your style is discipline is part of reaching the pinnacle of your sport.

 

Dangers of Steroid Use

Why Athletes Use Steroids

Why do athletes use steroids to build muscle mass and what do they actually do?  Weightlifters and bodybuilders will use steroids because it will enhance your muscles, make them more defined and it will do so quickly.  Professional competitions in both weight lifting and bodybuilding competitions have banned the use of steroids, and taking them comes with risks…lots of risks.

How do they Work

The amounts of anabolic hormones in your blood are raised and this stimulates the growth of your muscles.  You end up with muscles that are larger and more defined, and this is what every bodybuilder is trying to do in the gym every day.  The anabolic steroids you will find in gyms are mostly testosterone based and the extra testosterone will allow an athlete to train harder and longer.  Make no mistake, this comes with a price.

The Risks of Longterm Steroid Use

Anabolic steroid use, especially in the long term comes with many health risks and not just your physical health.  The mood swings while taking steroids can be extreme and longterm users are no stranger to depression.  Some people can become very aggressive and “roid rage” is a real thing.  It’s not just your mental health you’re going to have to worry about it is damaging to every major organ system in your body.  Here are some of the things that steroid use can do.

  • Shrinking Of The Testicles.
  • High Blood Pressure.
  • Higher Levels Of Cholesterol.
  • Liver Disease.
  • Enlargement Of The Prostate.
  • Loss Of Sexual Libido.
  • Menstrual Problems.

If you’re new to bodybuilding or you play any competitive sports the temptation to use steroids can be enormous.  You can build muscle naturally by changing your technique.  Work out consistently 3-4 times per week, and increase the amount of weight you are lifting while at the same time lowering the reps.  You should be trying to do three sets of each exercise and yes you may have to work up to that.  You should feel muscle fatigue at the end of the sets…not pain.

Bodybuilding goals or any fitness goal for that matter has never been achieved overnight.  Bodybuilding shouldn’t just be about getting cut, it’s also about improving your overall health. Steroid use is anything but healthy and you really need to weigh short term benefit against your long term health.  Achieving your goals through hard work is always better than taking a shortcut, no matter how tempting.  The world doesn’t need your roid rage either.