3 Programming Tips To DECREASE Gym Injuries

Everyone is always looking for the “quick tips“, “secrets“, and #lifehacks to keep themselves from getting injured in the gym.

The reality of the situation is, just like everything else in life, injury free training is something you’re going to have to work for, and stay consistent with to actually achieve.

That being said, I do truly believe if you skip all the fitness industry gimmicks and focus in on some quality programming ideology, you can mitigate much of the inevitable injury risk that comes with training. Here’s what you need to know.

(Back Pain? Check out this video on how to train around/with it!)

Before We Begin:

Stop worrying. 

Yes. It is beyond me or any other coach on this planet to completely eliminate the injury risk of training be it in the gym or otherwise. There will always be freak accidents, there will always be factors outside of our control, and you could very well get injured doing all the right things. You should still train anyways. 

Take that stray injury as a source of pride that you are using your body, experiencing life, and keeping yourself healthy to the best of your abilities, and then keep chugging along like nothing ever happened.

The “injury risk” of training (despite it being laughably low) is somehow always used as the reason to why you shouldn’t go to the gym. Yet, how often do we discuss the risks of not training at all? 

Ignore the fear mongering, ignore the keyboard warrior telling you you’re going to break your back, and most importantly ignore those that would try to stop you from bettering yourself.

Your body is strong, resilient, and most importantly adaptable. There is no reason to live in constant fear of injury and pain.

1. Introduce New Stimuli Slowly

If you want a true #lifehack to avoid DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from gym related exercise or even potential injury…always introduce new stimuli slowly.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t always have to #sendit. (Even though I really REALLY want to)

Our body is amazing at adapting to new stressors (be it a new exercise, a novel set/rep scheme, or a variation you’ve never done). HOWEVER, it needs time to actually adapt to these new stimuli as opposed to just sustaining damage from them.

It can be tempting to want to try and max out a brand new movement. But, your body will thank you in terms of the soreness you feel the day after and your potential injury risk if you just “undershoot” your first session with the new stimulus. I’m not saying you have to sandbag your workout, but it’s probably best not to shoot for that RPE 9 to 10 effort right out of the starting gate.

Hold yourself to a solid RPE 6-8 effort, feel things out, and see how your body responds the next few days, before making any decisions on jumping up in intensity. This will give your body the time it needs to actually adapt to, and recover from the new stimulus. Additionally, you aren’t going to wake up the next day feeling like you got hit by a truck. This means not only did you avoid pain/injury from your new exercise, you also didn’t screw up the rest of your training week by being too sore.

From here, you can focus on increasing your intensity with the new training stimulus from session to session to be able to train hard and progress things safely.

2. Practice Load Management

While most people will jump straight to technique and form when it comes to injury. We actually don’t have the data to support certain techniques are more injurious than others (Read that again).

Training load on the other hand IS an established factor in injury risk. “Training load” take’s into account all of an individuals cumulative stress related to training (physiological, psychological, and mechanical). This goes far beyond just your sets, reps, and weights.

Without worrying about the ins and outs of training load too much, an extremely easy way to manage some of this total load is to give an RPE rating to the entirety of a training session. 1 being the easiest training session you’ve ever done, 10 being you were about 20 seconds away from death.

If you notice a trend in your training that your giving a lot of 9-10 ratings on your sessions, it’s probably a good idea to change things up to mitigate some training stress that could cause potential injury over the long term.

Additionally, you can load manage the literal load you are placing on the barbell. Variations like tempos and pauses, as well as beltless lifting all force load off of the barbell. This helps to mitigate mechanical stress while still allowing you to train hard and are a great idea to place alongside your normal heavy competition lifts.

When considering the hard question of “why you got injured“, understand that you should be considering all of these different sources of stress as a whole, and not trying to blame it on one singular reason.

3. RECOVER (Stress and Sleep Management)

Finally, I find that there is an under emphasis on establishing the life habits that actually allow our body to recover. Stress and sleep management should hold just as much importance in your life as how you are actually laying out your training does.

Everyone is so caught up on finding that secret “recovery” drink, gel, cream, you name it…all the while they are sleeping 5 hours a night and overwhelmed in their day to day living. But yeah, you’re totally not recovered because you ran out of CBD oil last night…

Skip the fitness influencers sales pitch. Go to bed. Start focusing on get a quality 7 hours of sleep every…single…night before you even begin to think about complaining about your lack of recovery.

Additionally, the stress in your life NEEDS to be addressed. If you have unresolved stress you can stop worrying about it’s impact on your gains, and understand that it’s quite literally killing you.

Chronic stress can lead to symptoms such as pain, insomnia, headaches, low energy, and chest pain to name a few and over the long term leads to more deadly consequences like heart attacks and stroke. Don’t just brush it off.

Program” in time/activities for you to destress. This looks different for everyone ranging from meditation, music, time with friends, reading, hobbies, mindfulness, etc. Just do what works best for you. If your stress extends beyond what you yourself can address you should seek the help of a professional to better help you manage and understand your stress.



Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.