In case you missed the first installment you can view it here: The Complete Bodybuilder’s Guide To Health And Injury, From A 20 Year Gym Veteran
The most common injury of most people is their back. Most people get “bad backs” because their backs SUCK!! They do not work their back, therefore expecting to avoid a back injury your entire life is a stupid expectation. We also sit on our asses a lot more than our ancestors did, so throw into consideration with the popular paleo myths.
The other big reason your back may suck is because your abs are weak. The vertebrae in itself is extremely weak without support from abdominal muscles. So you may find that working your abs or simply working out will help a back issue. The abs are the first muscle group to contract in anything we do in order to give strength to the vertebrae.
The last common reason for a bad back is weak hamstrings. I’ve seen this time and time again with people who get deadlifting injuries. Their hamstrings are too weak for the workload or too tight for the movement. Therefore it’s important to work the hams directly and also stretch when you can remember to.
I’ve had a couple small tweaks in my lower back from deadlifting over the past 20 years, and they were directly related to hamstring neglect or over-extension at the lockout position. This may help someone avoid a back injury.
Another common injury I had over three times in my teens was from performing power-cleans. For those who aren’t quite familiar with a power-clean, it’s a very common movement in crossfit. It’s where you take a barbell from waist level and pull it up to your shoulders while flipping your hands upwards. It’s all a big simultaneous motion that is heavily involved in technique almost more than strength.
While many will share a different opinion than I do on this, I do not lift in quick and jerky motions. I lift exclusively for “time under tension” and making the muscles actually contract the most in any given set. I have found this more important as I’ve gotten older and “gym old.” Gym old is when you may not be very old but you’ve been in the gym many years.
To help avoid this sort of injury it’s important to build strong shoulders and a solid base, and personally I avoid movements like this altogether.
Don’t be fooled as a beginner; simple exercises such as pushups, dips, pull-ups, curls, and rows will all work to also strengthen muscles such as your shoulders.
Your body grows everywhere from muscle stimulation, otherwise we’d all be extremely disproportionate from working out. I’ve never seen a guy with abs bigger than his chest, or a back smaller than his waistline.
The biceps become a very vulnerable muscle group to injury, especially as we age. The tendons do not seem to get as strong as the bicep muscles can get and training biceps too heavy can result in a bicep tear. This is a terrible injury to have and if it comes fully detached your bicep will roll up your arm, probably never look the same again, and require reattachment and a 6-8 month recovery period.
I have PARTIALLY RUPTURED both of my bicep tendons, the right bicep twice!! I shit you not it took about a year and a half before I could do curls pain free and I could not do hammer curls at all as they aggravated the tendon too much. I could not do certain back movements such as wide grip pull-ups for a very long time either.
A partial rupture is not as bad as a full rupture but still sucks, trust me!! The number one sign of a rupture is a popping or cracking sound that comes from your joint when it happens. It will feel/sound like something pops and your elbow cracks.
If your arm is still in tact and the bicep doesn’t roll up your arm then chances are it’s a partial rupture. This is a sign to back the fuck off bicep training for awhile!!
The first thing you want to do is get to a Doctor if you can and get an MRI to access the damage. From that point you’ll want to consider physical therapy. I used to think that I could heal myself and that there was nothing a physical therapist could do for me that I couldn’t do myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong!! Trust me, they can do things that will have you healed MUCH FASTER than you could ever rehab yourself!!
If you cannot go to a Doctor then I’d recommend ordering a tens unit. A tens unit is one of those little devices that runs off a 9 volt battery and sends vibrating stimulation to your muscles through electrodes.
You want to get on this to avoid scar tissue buildup and mobility issues. The longer the injury persists, the greater chance of scar tissue buildup and mobility issues, specifically with the supination (twisting range of motion) of the wrist that is controlled by the bicep.
What you want to do is hook one electrode to the top of the forearm and one electrode at the lower base of the bicep. The bicep tendon actually ties into the top of the forearm, right near the bend in your arm. A lot of people do not know this and specifically work on just the bicep muscle itself when the real issue lies in the tendon tie-in at the very top of the forearm.
You want to shock the shit out of your arms, I’m talking as much as you can stand. My Tens unit would go from level 1-10 and I always put it to level 10 and just sat there and took the pain for 10 minutes. It worked wonders in helping to heal the injured tendons and break up old scar tissue and prevent new scar tissue.
If money allows I’d recommend the ultrasound unit over just the simple tens unit, but a tens unit is still a great thing to have if you cannot swing the $$ for the ultrasound models.
Personally, the only pain I’ve had with triceps is in my left tricep tendon and it’s aggravated the most from doing skull-crushers (lying tricep extensions) to the forehead.
My recommendation is to either A. avoid this movement altogether if this is you, or B. Go behind your head more on the negative part of the lying tricep extension. (This is what I do, along with lightening the workload and simply squeezing my muscles harder rather than going as heavy as I possibly can).
BIO-FREEZE, DMSO GEL, ACETAMINOPHEN
Now, where acetaminophen comes into play with this is easy…you’ll be crushing it into a powder with a hammer and adding it to your DMSO gel to make your own transdermal pain management gel. The DMSO gel has healing properties on it’s own but when acetaminophen is added to it, it creates a stronger joint formula that will absorb through the skin and directly to the joints.
BIOFREEZE is what the physical therapist used on my bicep tendons and they put it on my arms before running an ultrasound wand over my bicep tendons. This not only helped the ultrasound wand glide easier over my arms, but it was a very relieving gel for pain and much stronger feeling than other products intended for similar situations.
KNEE PAIN AND ARTHRITIS
I’ve had stiff knees, sore kneecaps, and what seemed like arthritis in my knees for a long time. What aggravated this the most in the gym was going too damn heavy on hack squats. One day I decided to do 8 plates per side on the hack squat machine, and the next morning I could not bend my knees to get out of bed. It was like my legs were locked up and no matter how hard I tried my knees wouldn’t allow my legs to bend.
Eventually it got better but it was not only scary at first but extremely painful. I would recommend training lighter on exercises that can aggravate knees or avoiding certain movements altogether. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO SQUATS TO GET BIG LEGS!!
I honestly haven’t done a barbell squat in about 6 months. I mainly stick to leg presses. My legs have not gotten any smaller and in terms of dicing them up I’ve found that any pressing movement that works the muscle to exertion and/or failure is beneficial for size and strength.
The biggest reason I haven’t done squats in 6 months is because of……
Hemorrhoids are funny until you actually get them. THEY FUCKING SUCK!! I suppose after spending 20 years in the gym and straining I was due for something like this to happen. It started with blood on the toilet paper from wiping after a bowel movement, then progressed into internal hemorrhoids that would stick out like an external hemorrhoid.
After a colonoscopy and numerous bouts of hemorrhoid pain I finally went to a doctor to seek treatment. I went in for a process called infra-red coagulation. While this isn’t a pleasant experience it’s much better than having them cut out surgically. Statistically, 7 out of 10 people are treatable with this process and it’s strictly for internal hemorrhoids or prolapsed internal hemorrhoids.
What the Doctor will do is stick a clear “ice-cream cone looking thing” up your ass, shoot the hemorrhoid with numbing medication, and put an infra-red gun to it in order to coagulate it at the base of the hemorrhoid. This entire process takes under a minute to perform and the worst part is the thing they stick up your ass because it’s about the diameter of a shot glass, maybe slightly larger.
Aside from feeling like you’ve been violated the process isn’t as bad as you’d think. It usually takes a few visits to fully cure the hemorrhoid(s) depending on the size of them or how many of them there are. The week after the process you don’t want to do anything strenuous. Stick to just doing cardio for that week following the procedure. They’ll also prescribe you these hydro-cortisone ass suppositories that are recommended to be shoved up your ass twice a day to reduce inflammation.
Diet also plays a major role in hemorrhoid control and/or healing. You want to avoid foods that can aggravate your digestion or make bowel movements harder (gluten, dairy, wheat) At least avoid these things until your problem is fixed anyways.
WRIST PAIN AND FOREARM PAIN
I can remember having intense pain in my wrist area and forearm area when I was a teenager. Curling would hurt the most and it felt like someone was sticking my forearm in a vise and trying to snap it. It eventually went away on it’s own despite not even backing off the movements.
To this day I honestly think it’s “growing pains.” I’ve had other guys report the same thing to me and my advice was to work through it. One thing I would do over if I could was I would have lightened the workload and made my biceps work harder by squeezing the muscles harder. This is harder for newer trainees though because they do not have the same mind-muscle control that a veteran lifter has.
Another thing that may help is wearing wrist wraps. I have some wrist wraps made from Harbinger that I occasionally wear when my wrists are giving me shit. Doing pushups with my hands on a floor can occasionally bother my wrists as well, therefore I will grab dumbbells and do my push-ups on dumbbells and occasionally wearing the wrist wraps.
SHIN SPLINTS AND ACHILLES TENDONS
I’ve had sore shins and Achilles tendons from jogging before…numerous times. It got worse as I got bigger and there comes a point where you develop a body that isn’t necessarily suitable for a runner. But the thing is I still believe in jogging, despite what people will say about bodybuilders running (many are against it).
My recommendation is if you experience sore achilles tendons or shin splints then shorten your time on jogging until you get more accustomed to it. You may want to start off with a 10 minute jog and then transfer to a brisk walk or other cardio machine if you’re in the gym. Hopefully over time this pain will go away. I believe the body is very good at adapting to physical movements.
I have never fully torn a muscle in my 20 years in the gym, but I’ve had micro-tears in my pecs from heavy incline bench pressing. A micro-tear is exactly that, a microscopic tear that can leave small signs of bruising and that can be often felt while performing a movement. I’ve seen numerous micro-tears in the upper pec region of lifters and some in the upper quad area.
For a micro-tear you just need to back off and take time off from that movement for a few weeks. Remember that small injuries can lead to bigger injuries and what started as a micro-tear could become a full blown pec tear if you don;t back off and let it heal!! Applying bio-freeze may help with pain here and it’s something I’ve done several times in the past.
Come back tomorrow for The Complete Bodybuilder’s Guide To Health And Injury Part 3: How To Heal And Remain Injury Free