It’s all very well saying you’re going to work out hard until you have the strong muscles you’ve always wanted, but that’s no good if the first thing that happens when you go into the gym is you pull something and immediately have to go rest. Occasional injuries may sometimes seem unavoidable when we exercise, but you can take steps to protect yourself and prevent them happening in the first place.
The most obvious starting point is making sure you warm up properly before your session. Start yourself off gently before you work up to something more strenuous. The same goes at the end of the session; cool yourself down slowly rather than coming to an abrupt stop, waiting to feel your heart rate slowing again. Don’t forget to include some gentle stretching, as long as your muscles are warm when you do it.
Other steps involve the actual muscle-building exercises themselves. You need to be wearing the right gear and using the right equipment. That means shoes that fit, don’t rub and offer the correct level of support; clothes that allow you freedom to move (not jeans) without being distractingly baggy; not too many layers if you know you’re going to be getting warm; and weights that are the appropriate size and shape. Free weights are often the best option, but those with balance or mobility issues may prefer being able to sit, which can be easier with machines.
You also need to think about what you’re doing between sessions. Proper recovery periods of a day or two between each workout to allow your muscles to heal and grow are essential. If you do receive an injury, even a minor one, wait until you’re better before training again. Exercise may make you feel sore, but if it’s outright painful – or even if you’re just too tired – you should stop immediately. When you do return to training, ease yourself back into it and don’t overdo it too soon. Include cardiovascular and flexibility exercises alongside strength training for balance.
Recovery is important, but going too long between exercise sessions can cause problems. Your muscles will begin to weaken and stiffen again. Not only do you risk losing any progress you’ve made, but you’re more likely to give yourself an injury when you restart.
Stay healthy, and your muscle building will be more successful.