At the gym the other day I was doing some bench presses. I wasn’t doing anything too heavy and I was pretty confident I’d be fine. My routine was going to be ten reps and five sets at about 60% of my one rep max. I got about five or six reps into my fourth set and things started getting harder. I wanted to finish out the set, so I pushed myself through the grind and around the ninth rep, I felt my should pop out a bit. I had a spotter and had them reset the weight on the bench for me. I didn’t push anymore. I just packed up and went home. I hadn’t made it anywhere near my full time in the gym.
There was one thing I did right that day and one thing I did wrong. I’ll start with what I did wrong. I pushed myself hard enough to actually aggravate my shoulder. It ended up setting me back a bit because it was sore for three or so days afterward. Because it was my shoulder, it kept me from doing most upper body workouts for those three days. You don’t need to hit that ‘grind’ every time to see gains. You can very easily see progress just going until your breathing or form change. Stop there and avoid injury.
I was talking with a guy at the gym a few months back and he was telling me about his bench pressing story. He is currently going to the gym to rehab an injury to his elbow. I guess he had been pushing about 400 pounds on his one rep max during his normal routine and was trying to push forward to 405 pounds. He hit the grind at 405 and tried to will himself through it. He ended up ripping the tendon in his elbow from the bone, which set him back significantly. He’s now doing 375 pounds on a bench press, more than three years later.
What I did right: I stopped as soon as I knew I had pushed too far. I didn’t keep going on benches or even any other exercises and that ultimately let me get back into the routine much quicker. I just bailed out, went home, and rested myself. By doing that I was able to stay on track and push my quest for fitness forward.
I’m not saying don’t push yourself. That’s not what this is all about. I’m saying don’t push yourself too hard. Know your body, and be patient. You can’t add five pounds to your one rep max every week. Eventually your gains will slow down or even plateau. Embrace that and be careful while you’re doing it. You could cause yourself a few days, or worse end up in the hospital, if you push too hard. This is about being healthy, not about how much weight you can life, so you can show off to your friends.
Have you ever injured yourself while working out? How bad was it? Did you recover? How long did it set you back? I want to hear your story.