How to Save Your Joints in the Gym

If you’re an avid gym-goer, you know the pain of achy, creaky joints. But luckily, there are ways to ease the strain on your body and help keep your muscles and bones from feeling like they’re about to snap at any moment. With so many different machines, exercises, and trainers at our disposal today, it can be hard to know where to begin to either avoid or remedy joint pain. Luckily for you, we’ve got some great tips to help save your joints in the gym!

As I have talked about on EFI before, a significant shift I am making is working on learning from other disciplines and other fitness experts.

I focus on learning from other fitness experts, as fitness is an incredible field. It is so huge with numerous areas of specialization. My exercises for injuries are one area of specialization, but there are other areas like muscle building.

At first, I would wonder, what can a bunch of meatheads living in the gym teach me? When you live and breathe a specialization in fitness and do everything you can to master that specialization, you learn things others don’t know.Hypertrophy-MAX-Program-Save Your Joints in the Gym

That is what Vince Del Monte, a professional fitness model, and Ben Pakulski, competing in Mr. Olympia in 2013,  have done for me.

They have a 12 Phase program called Hypertrophy MAX which helps guys build muscle. They sent me an advance copy, and I have reviewed the first 3 phases.

My first thought was, what can these guys teach me? But I worked hard to keep an open mind and listen. I am glad I did, as I learned a lot from them.

I wanted to share with you a few of the things that stood out for me while watching the DVDs:

Hips Behind the Shoulder During a Biceps Curl

When doing a biceps curl, keep the hips behind the shoulder to prevent compensation movements from the body. This will target the biceps better and lead to better results.

Elbows Together with the Pec Fly Machine

If you use the pec fly machine, focus on the cue of “bringing the elbows together” to increase chest recruitment and to make the exercise more challenging.

Train the Traps in Multiple Shoulder Positions

I liked Ben’s suggestion on changing the shoulder position when working the traps. For the average individual, they need to focus on decreasing the activation of their upper trapezius but for those that are looking at targeting them, look at targeting them in multiple shoulder positions. Train the pitfalls with the shoulder joint in protraction, neutral, and retracted. Plus, contract the triceps to keep the biceps out of exercise.

Hip Rotation During Leg Extension

We can argue about leg extensions being good or bad, but it has many good uses and appropriate times to use them. Something to remember is a common mistake people make when using the leg extension is external rotation of the thigh (femur) at the hip joint. This creates poor muscle contraction and poor muscle development and puts unnecessary stress on the knee, leading to injury, like patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Movement & Muscle Contraction

You need to learn the movement and appreciate learning the proper muscle contraction. This was mentioned over and over again by Vince and Ben. It is an excellent point.

How to Save Your Joints in the Gym

As I mentioned in Fix My Shoulder Pain, the technique is the only reason people injure their shoulders in the gym. Ben said it in another way: negative tweaks to your technique, especially when you get fatigued, can stress and damage the joint, increasing your risk of injury. One other thing you can do to keep your joints safe is to slow down the movement. So important.

Do the Triceps Press at Shoulder Width

Suppose you are doing a black rope tricep pushdown or a short bar triceps pushdown. In that case, this leads to shoulder tucking, decreases the space in the shoulder (subacromial space), and increases the risk of shoulder impingement — plus, it recruits the chest (pectoralis major) into the exercise. When performing the triceps pushdown, use a long bar and have your hands in line with your shoulders. This is more challenging, and you won’t be able to do as much weight, but your shoulders will thank you.

How You Do Something Now Will Affect Your Longevity When it Comes to Exercising

A key to your longevity when exercising in 10 to 20 years is how smart you train right now. You can get results and train smart. If you do not train smart, you will get injured and have to quit the gym and your sport.

Move Away from the Bench When You Row

When doing a single-arm bench row, the hip of the kneeling leg is greater than 90 degrees, and shift your weight away from the kneeling legs, so most of it is on the straight leg on the floor. This loads up the working shoulder/back muscles and makes the exercise harder. Plus, it opens the shoulder and prevents shoulder impingement as the triceps press down.

I still have more to watch, and I look forward to it. I might have to wait for one of my flights in January, but I am looking forward to it.

If you would like to check out Ben and Vince’s program.

Take care.

Rick Kaselj, MS