We’ve all been there before: we’re in a really good exercise groove and motivated to push ourselves and keep improving, and then… INJURY!

Not only is this painful and distressing but it can also completely derail all of your training efforts and plans. The best way to treat an injury is to avoid it in the first place. So, be sure to follow these 6 tips to help you do exactly that.

1. Always Warm Up – The Right Way.

Most folks make the mistake of not warming up at all. And those that do often do it completely incorrectly. An effective warm up should elevate your body temperature, prepare muscles and tendons for the required activity, lubricate joints and switch on the neural system. Depending on what activity you will be doing, warm up by completing a pyramid warm up (i.e. do the movement with a light weight for a high number of reps and then progressively reduce the reps while increasing the weight) for 4-5 sets before beginning your actual working set.

2. Avoid Passive Stretching.

Stretching can and does temporarily lengthen a muscle but it also creates a miscommunication between the brain and the muscle in question. This can easily lead to over stretch injuries. Studies have shows that passive stretching before intense activity reduces performance and can actually increase the risk of soft tissue injury. You can however incorporate active stretching such as gentle swings replicating the training movement.

3. Fix Imbalances.

If you spend a lot of your day sitting, chances are that you have some kind of muscular imbalance and/or tightness which can increase the risk of injury. Be sure to learn about how your body should work, fix the weak muscles and release the tight ones (by foam rolling and self myofascial release).

4. Focus.

It’s important that you understand how to do each exercise properly and what muscle/s you are targeting. If all you think about is lifting the weight, you will likely start to use other muscles just to complete the set. Ignore the weight and just focus on the muscle you are targeting. Create a really strong mental connection with that muscle and resist the urge to use any other parts of your body to help you lift/move the weight.

5. Don’t Chop and Change.

Most people change their exercise program way too frequently because they crave constant variety. Unfortunately, not only does this lead to poor results, it also leads to inadequate adaptation and therefore increased injury risk. Stick with a program for 10-12 weeks making sure that you progress through the rep ranges and weight used to improve results whilst also reducing your risk of injury.

6. Seek Professional Help.

If you’ve got a nagging pain or lingering issue, don’t try to be a hero and push through it. Get some professional advice from your GP, chiro, physio or osteo. You may actually need some serious treatment and/or surgery.