Guys – let me be real for a second…feeling like your workouts are hurting you sucks. As a former college athlete, when the thing that used to make me feel superhuman started leaving me feeling debilitated, that was a huge cause for concern.
Unfortunately, most guys make one of two choices when faced with this: 1. They either throw in the towel and decide that they are too old to keep working out, or 2. They decide to keep pushing forward as they always have until they inevitably get injured.
For many years I was on the second path. Fortunately, I had some key events play out that helped me realize there’s actually a third option – change how I was exercising to still workout hard but not in a way that creates more issues.
The good news for you is that, since I have already been down the path you are on, I can give you the cheat code for the exact steps you need to take to choose Option 3.
There are only four things you need to know, and once you start to implement them, they will completely shift how you view your workouts and what your body is capable of.
1. You Are Using Too Much Motion
The first reason your workouts are hurting you is you are using too much motion when you exercise.
In order to go “full range of motion”, you are completely blowing past the signals your body is sending you to tell you to not move as far. Because of this, you are constantly feeling tight and achy after your workouts and feeling like you need to stretch, massage, or roll out.
All you have to do to switch this up is to stay within your symptom-free motion. You can still use your full motion, but it has to be YOUR full motion, and it has to be symptom-free. This means no clicking, no popping, no zinging, no pinching, no pain, and no stretching feelings while you are doing the exercise.
The only things you should be feeling are your muscles squeezing and – eventually – fatiguing.
2. You Are Using Too Much Speed
The second reason your workouts are hurting you is you are using too much speed when you workout.
The truth is, most guys really suck at slowing themselves down when they lift. They think a “slow” tempo is a three-second eccentric, and they only follow the “slow and controlled” model when they aren’t too fatigued. As soon as they start to tire, all bets are off, and it becomes about flinging the weight up to get in the last few reps.
Let me be very clear – if you are moving too fast, you are going to hurt yourself. There is no question about it. It is just a matter of time.
The flipside to this is you move exceptionally slow while you do your lifts. Like anywhere from five to 10 seconds or longer for one part of the movement. You do a lot of isometric holds. And you do not, under any circumstances, fling the weight up just to appease your ego by telling yourself you did another rep.
Slow down when you move. Be disciplined with your actions. Embrace the fact that it feels challenging and see that as a sign that your body is changing for the better.
Stop trying to get out of actually having to do the work and lean into the fatigue that comes with it.
3. You Are Not Focusing Enough On Squeezing Your Muscles
The third reason your workouts are hurting you is you are not focusing enough on squeezing your muscles while you are doing each exercise.
You are distracting yourself with your music, with the weight moving up and down, or with how you think you look in the mirror.
None of that matters at all and, in fact, all of it will likely lead to worse results, less consistency with your workouts, and more time spent being achy and injured.
The only thing that you should be focusing on when you are doing an exercise is squeezing your muscles.
That. Is. It.
You may be thinking, “But I won’t be able to lift as much weight…”
Yup, and that doesn’t matter.
Your body doesn’t change because of the amount of weight you lifted. It changes because of the amount of challenge it underwent, how long that challenge lasted, and how frequently that challenge was present.
Weight does not equal challenge. It never has and it never will. The physics don’t add up.
However, when you focus on squeezing your muscles, you will be able build strength, muscle, and endurance faster and easier with far less chance of injury than if you distract yourself while you exercise and try to use more weight.
So, keep your mind-muscle connection strong the entire time you are doing an exercise and not only will your results improve, but your body will be able to keep coming back to your workouts without injuries or issues.
4. You Have Too Many Muscles That Are Inhibited
The fourth reason your workouts are hurting you is you have too many muscles that aren’t working well, aka are inhibited.
When you have muscles that aren’t working properly, other muscles have to pick up the slack and do more. When you workout, these muscles that are doing extra often get overworked, leaving your body feeling achy, sore, and injured.
One of the best ways to address the inhibited muscles is Muscle Activation Techniques®. Unlike traditional activation exercises or corrective exercises that just make the problems worse, MAT® addresses the inhibited muscles directly and gets them working better one by one.
From there, they can be reintegrated into traditional exercise, taking stress off the muscles that were having to overwork.
While MAT® has to be performed by a trained practitioner, it will be 100% worth your time, effort, and money to find somebody to tune your body up.
If you are in the Chicago area, including downtown Chicago as well as the Chicago suburbs like Schaumburg, Palatine, Inverness, Barrington, and Arlington Heights, you can schedule a time with me to fully assess your body and figure out your underlying compensations here.
In my early 20s my identity was tied up in being an athlete – strong, mobile, fit, explosive – everything I thought a world-class performer should be. But the truth was that how I was exercising was jeopardizing my health and function.
Fortunately, I was able to change paths before I suffered any major injuries, and you can do the same. All you have to do is combat the four main issues above and you will be well on your way to feeling like your strong, athletic self again without being concerned about getting hurt.
And, if you’d like my direct guidance with implementing these key principles when you workout, you can join me in the Exercise For Life Membership. I will teach you exactly what you need to know while you build your strength, fitness, and athleticism from home, even if your joints are already feeling a little achy.