1) Know Your Weaknesses
If you’re unaware of what your physical limitations are, then a future injury will likely tell you. It’s important to know which areas need improvement so that you can have a game plan to resolve the weak links before they cause an injury.
2) You Can’t Make Progress if You’re Sore/Injured
The worst cases I see are the ones who not only train with pain, but the ones who try to make progress while they’re in pain. If your hip is sore (or worse, painful), then you shouldn’t be adding weights to your front squats. Listen to your body.
3) Have Options
The answer to improving a movement isn’t always to practice it with more reps. If a specific movement doesn’t feel right, sometimes the best way to improve it is to work around it. These regressions or lateralizations will allow for progress without stressing the body towards an injury. For example, if the strict barbell press doesn’t feel right, regress to a push press, a kettlebell press, a kettlebell snatch, and/or a TGU. If regressions and lateralizations still don’t feel right, see a physical therapist.
4) You Don’t Get Strong in the Box
A WOD applies a significant amount of stress on the body. If you are able to recover and adapt to this stress, you will get stronger. However, if the stress is more than you can recover from, you will be heading towards the path of decreased performance and injury. How do you stay out of the red? It’s simple, focus on recovery (sleep, diet, mindfulness, recovery exercise).
5) Train Unilaterally (single arm, single leg)
We’re inherently asymmetrical. So when we perform bilateral tasks (walking, cycling, rowing, barbell lifts), we feed into this asymmetry. If this goes unchecked, it can lead to overuse injuries on one side and/or compensatory injuries on the other. I recommend performing at least one unilateral training day per week. If you are unable to do this, I highly recommend incorporating TGUs into your warm-up routine.
6) Everything is Limited By the Core
It all starts and ends with the core. From breathing to high-threshold lifts, the core is extremely important for maintaining quality movement patterns. A common problem occurs when lifters sacrifice their core stability to complete a movement. When this happens, the shoulders and hips are forced to not only move the body, but to stabilize it as well. This “double duty” sets these joints up for an injury. To prevent this from happening, make sure your “knots” are tied to the right place and that core stability is a priority during lifts.
7) Know When to PR
There’s a reason why you can’t PR (achieve a personal record) every time you workout. Improving performance is a complex system that involves many variables. If you go for it with every lift, every time, then you risk cumulating more stress than you can handle. This not only decreases performance and prevents gains, but increases the chances of becoming injured. So what should you do? Be patient. Set specific goals. Make a plan. Focus on PRing only a few things at a time. Work on Rules 1-6. Listen to your body’s readiness.