No pain, no gain.
It’s a saying familiar to anyone who has tried one or or more of the gym workouts or home workouts popular today—but it’s only partially true. Minor discomfort, such as breathing hard while knocking out sprints or a little next-day muscle soreness after increasing the intensity of a bodybuilding workout, is sometimes necessary if you want to make gains. But significant pain or continuous, nagging discomfort is usually a sign of something else—most likely, an injury.
If you’ve ever felt a twinge in your back while deadlifting, had your shins lock up while jogging, or had to pull back from your workout routine to nurse an inflamed shoulder or knee, you’re not alone. Injuries are extremely common among people who try home workouts or gym workouts on their own. Fortunately, overuse and other exercise-related injures can usually be avoided, and the easiest way to reduce their likelihood is to hire a personal trainer.
“A personal trainer will help you develop proper movement patterns and muscular balance,” says Sam Faulkner, exercise scientist at Virtual Performance and a professional personal trainer himself.
But what if you can’t afford personal training? Or your schedule is too complicated to allow you to work out under the supervision of a personal trainer at the gym? Should you just throw in the towel now and spend more time on the couch where you’re only in danger of wearing out the buttons on your television remote?
Not if you sign up for a personalized workout routine from VP Workouts. Our artificial intelligence system, also known as Niesam, was designed and programmed by exercise scientists to create workout plans based on your individual fitness level, movement proficiency and goals.
Want to know more? Keep reading, because in this article we’re going to explain the causes of the five most common workout injuries and how Niesam’s customized workout plans can minimize your chances of encountering them.
1. Low Back Strain
“When it comes to low back strain, most of the time it’s the result of poor technique,” Faulkner explains. “For example, if you do a hinge movement—like a deadlift or kettlebell swing variation—and arch your back instead of kicking your butt back towards the wall, you can cause injury. To avoid this, you need to practice proper bracing and think about stacking your body.”
If you’re working with a personal trainer, he or she will show you the proper form for performing hinge movements before prescribing them—and so will Niesam. Each workout routine he programs is packed with short instructional videos to assist you in perfecting your form on every exercise.
“In the exercise video for hinges, you’ll learn how to flex your low abs and glutes to stabilize your body,” Faulkner continues. “Niesam will teach you to drop your rib cage down so all of your muscles are stacked in a line like they should be under a load.”
2. Wrist Strain
Faulkner says that many wrist strains are caused by barbells. “Barbells don’t have that big of a diameter, so when you grip them, your forearms have to flex super-duper hard,” he explains. “As a personal trainer, if I’m working with a client who has pain in the wrist, I’ll have them use fat grips—which widen the diameter of the barbell so gripping it puts less strain on their forearms—or prescribe exercises that eliminate the need to squeeze.”
In additional to factoring in the information you give him initially, Niesam learns from you as you complete each workout routine. Inform him that a particular exercise is causing pain and he’ll modify your plan accordingly. “He might have you do the same exercise with a kettlebell rather than a dumbbell,” Faulkner adds. “Kettlebells just lay in your hand and you don’t have to grip them.”
3. Biceps Tendinitis
Faulkner says biceps injuries are very common, especially when bodybuilding. “I see a lot of younger guys trying to deadlift using what is called an under-over grip,” he explains. “This is what powerlifters use where they have one hand supinated and one over the top. But it builds a muscular imbalance. And in that supinated hand, they’re putting a ton of strain and pull on the front of their shoulder and bicep.”
Faulkner also sees biceps inflammation due to people pushing themselves to failure on exercises like pushups. “That’s going to wear down your muscles,” he says. “The front of your shoulder is connected to your bicep up front, and when you push yourself to failure, you can overuse that front deltoid, causing inflammation.”
Niesam is going to reduce your likelihood of developing painful biceps tendinitis by teaching you to work each exercise with the most efficient technique. “He’ll never have you push yourself to failure because you can’t recover well if you do,” Faulkner says. “Let’s say one of your goals is to do 100 pushups. He’s going to give you exercises to help you get stronger in the horizontal pushing plane, not have you try to do pushups every single day.”
4. Runners Knee (aka Patellofemoral Syndrome)
Faulkner says knee pain is often caused by muscular imbalance from front to back. “If your glutes and hamstrings are weak, you’re not going to have any support when you try to use your quads for an exercise like a squat,” he explains. “Your leg can’t function as one unit. That puts a lot of pressure on that knee joint, causing pain.”
We programmed Niesam to expect common imbalances and incorporate exercises to eliminate and prevent them. “Warm ups are an example,” Faulkner says. “If your workout routine is going to include a squat, Niesam is going to get you to activate those glutes and hamstrings as well as your upper back first. This will get you feeling more stable.”
5. Rotator Cuff
Poor form is at the core of many rotator cuff injuries, Faulkner says. “If your shoulders are in an internally rotate position—which means they are rolled forward—while you’re doing any sort of presses like overhead presses and bench presses, it’s going to cause a shoulder impingement,” he explains. “Your shoulder won’t be gliding in the right position and that can cause injury.”
But much like a real, live personal trainer, Niesam will instruct you to avoid this. Through education in proper form and the right warmup exercises for muscle activation, he’ll make sure you’re getting the most from every press while protecting your rotator cuff. “Niesam is going to have you do exercises to activate your upper back first,” Faulkner continues. “That will help you get your shoulders back and avoid pressing in a weird position.”
If you’d like to experience convenient, virtual personal training with a customized workout program from VP Workouts, download and sign up for a free 14-day trial today.
By Angela Rose for VP Workouts