How To Avoid Injury In The New Year – Part 2: The Do’s And Don’ts For The Novice Gym Goer

Are you planning on joining a gym for the first time in the new year? We often start the year with a fresh outlook, a new year and the intentions to becoming a “new you”. For the first few weeks this seems to be seamless: We have signed up to the new gym, exchanged the Christmas gift vouchers for gym clothing and gone to the gym every day for a week. So far so good!

Where people drop off is not knowing when to work hard and when to rest, and very commonly we see an influx in injuries come the middle of January. If you are new to the gym and want to get the most out of the new 12-month membership the key is to stay injury free.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to keep you injury free this coming new years:

Do’s

  • Start with lower weights and work your way up from there, trust me you will need great self-control but this is my biggest tip.
  • Have rests of up to 60 seconds between each set of repetitions (or reps – which is the amount of consecutive repetitions of an exercise you do in one go).
  • Week one: 1 x 10 of any weights – Lift 1 set of 10 repetitions on week one of a new program, one set is often enough to build motor unit connections – literature shows no significant difference in doing one set compared to three sets in your first week for building strength and getting muscles working. Take it up to 3 x 10 on week 2.
  • Invest in a personal trainer – it is wise to employ a professional to help with technique, planning a program and generally helping you navigate around a gym.
  • Use machines first then graduate to free weights to get the muscles used to an activity without over loading yourself with a wayward weight.
  • Ask fellow gym goers and staff questions on exercises or technique. Fellow gym goers love to help and you are better to know if you are doing it right than wrong.

Don’ts

  • Don’t start heavy – we are often very eager in the first week, if you are starting to struggle on your 3rd rep you have gone too hard too soon.
  • Don’t go to the gym every day. You need to rest a muscle group up to 48 hours after you work it out, especially at the start of a new programme, think of the strain they will be under after a new activity, rest and recuperate to avoid injury.
  • If you do go to the gym 2 days in a row do not do the same exercises you did the day before, for example if you do bench press on the first day, do not do it on the second day.
  • Don’t forget to work out your ‘core’. This is what arms and legs connect to, and if this isn’t strong then arms and legs will not properly benefit from the effort you are putting in and compensatory movements can result.
  • Don’t grunt while you lift, yes there is plenty of research to suggest that if you grunt you can generate more power in an exercise (Sharapova’s serve, or forehand, or backhand…) but no one likes a gym grunter.

The cardinal sin is to increase load rapidly. We adapt to change gradually and if you go from zero to 100 in the space of January you will likely cause injury. A good balanced 12-week program with small gains weekly is what would set you up well to get the most out of the 12 months membership you signed up for.

If you have any questions around injury prevention pop in and see one of highly skilled Physiotherapists and Bend + Mend in Sydney’s CBD.

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