If you missed Part I of this series, be sure to catch up here: Programming.
Welcome back to this series on The 3 P’s of Why People Get Hurt in the Gym. In part 1, we discussed why improper programming, and specifically exercise selection, can cause pain. Exercise selection is part of a larger concept in exercise training called periodization: the rotation of exercise variables such as sets, reps, intensity, and the exercises themselves throughout a training program.
Within this realm, many people get hurt when they do too much. While it is certainly true that making progress in the gym involves getting out of your comfort zone and creating just that right amount of soreness—otherwise known as overreaching—do too much and we are now in the phase of overtraining, the effects of which can border on self-destruction. Recovery is just as important as the training itself and should be taken just as seriously.
Good sleep and healthy eating form the basis of proper recovery, but periodization is just as important. For example, if you lift hard and heavy for 3 weeks, and are feeling sluggish the fourth week, I would still encourage you to train that week, but I would absolutely advocate that you cut down your sets, reps, intensity, or any combination of these 3 variables for that week. Our goal is not to increase weight for the sake of saying we did, but to tone it down so that we can make even more progress after a week of recovery.
Periodization is of even greater importance for elite athletes and powerlifters. Right before a powerlifting meet, powerlifters often take upwards of a week off from an aggressive training program, and if they do step foot into a gym, the weights are submaximal and the focus is on technical proficiency. This allows for adequate recovery in time for the meet, so that they can perform their best. Furthermore, there is an intricate rotation of sets, reps, and intensity within the training program itself. In an endeavor as extreme as powerlifting, managing fatigue and training stress in order to eke out a few extra pounds is the name of the game—it could be the difference between first and second place.
Most people will never need to periodize with the dizzying complexity that elite athletes and powerlifters do, but the main takeaway is still the same. If you are feeling rundown and in pain, take a step back in the gym. Who knows, after a week or so of submaximal lifting and focused recovery, you might be ready to get after it again more than ever before. Just remember that doing too much can actually get
Stay tuned for the final installment of this series, in which we’ll discuss why preparation is the name of the game to staying pain-free!
By Jeremy Lau
Jeremy Lau is a Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.
As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.