How to avoid injury during chest training
Sculpting a strong chest is not just important to look and feel good on the surface. It is important for posture and to avoid painful achy body movements as we age.
But it’s important not to get injured in the process. Shoulder and chest injuries are some of the most common injuries seen among weightlifters and bodybuilders and it happens to the best of them. Even pro athletes experience muscle injury from time to time.
So, what is the best way to avoid injury in order to keep making progress in your fitness journey? Well, there are many reasons injuries occur. In this article, we are going to talk about the different chest muscles and their functions. Then we are going to give you some tips on how to avoid injury to your chest muscles.
The anatomy of our chest muscles
There are three target muscles of the chest:
- Pectoralis Major
- Pectoralis Minor
- Serratus Anterior
1) The pectoralis major
The pectoralis major is the biggest and most superficial chest muscle of the three. It makes up the majority of the mass in the muscles of your chest and spans over your clavicle, ribs, and sternum connecting to your upper arm bone near your shoulder.
Its main function is adduction and rotation of your arm toward the front of your body as well as flexion of the joint in the shoulder.
2) The pectoralis minor
The pectoralis minor is located just under the pectoralis major and attaches to your ribs and scapula (shoulder blade). The main job of this muscle is to stabilize your shoulder blade and allow forward and downward movement.
3) The serratus anterior
The serratus anterior is also a stabilizing muscle. Though it is not technically a chest muscle, it is grouped together with your other chest muscles as it is located underneath your shoulder blade and attaches to your ribs near your pectoralis. Its role is to move your shoulder blade forward and upward. It also supports breathing by lifting your rib cage.
There are lots of great exercises that target specific muscles so you can get the results you want. For more details on the best inner chest workout exercises check out this article.
When exercising these muscles, it is important to avoid injury at all costs. So how can you do that? Here are some tips on the best ways to avoid injury to the chest muscles.
Always use proper form when exercising
This should go without saying, but proper form during an exercise is not only vital to getting the results you want, but it’s a solid way to prevent injury. If you don’t have proper form when lifting heavy weights this can lead to injuries lasting weeks, months, or even years such as a pulled chest muscle. Though it is not always a very serious injury, it certainly can be.
Injuries such as this can vary from a grade one with mild damage to the muscle fibers and might take two to three weeks to heal to a grade three which denotes a complete rupture of the muscle and could even require surgery.
Get plenty of sleep
So many people underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to fitness. Never mind it is vital for our overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep by even an hour less than the recommended 8 hours per night increases the risk of injury by 1.7 times in young athletes.
Without adequate sleep, your muscle cannot recover from fatigue. This means that whatever work you put in during your training could be negated if you lack proper rest and recovery. Once the muscles are broken down, they need time to build back up stronger. So be sure to get your beauty rest.
Don’t go too heavy
I know you want to make those gains, but you’re not going to be able to do that if you go in too heavy on a set when your muscles are not ready for the weight. Progressive overload is important if you wish to make progress in your muscle growth, but there is a balance to it.
If you are not quite ready to increase your weight, another way to progressively overload is to train with continuous tension. This simply means not pausing between reps during the entire exercise.
Make sure you have proper blood flow
It is important to have proper blood flow while lifting. This doesn’t necessarily mean deep-release work just before your chest exercises such as intense stretching. In fact, stretching too deep before a chest exercise such as a bench press can increase your risk of injury.
Instead, try using the knuckles of your middle and index fingers to lightly massage the chest and arm muscles to get the blood flow moving. This will help to warm the muscles so they are not stiff and help to avoid muscle strain.
Always do stretching and warm-up exercises
Specifically, light stretching between your warm-up sets. Ideally, you should be doing four to five warm-up sets before your working set. This not only prevents injury, but it helps with muscle activation which will give you better results overall.
Use accommodation sets
Accommodation sets are used in between each workout as a test to make sure the weight you want to lift is not going to be too much for you. Have you ever gone from bench press straight over to incline press thinking you’re warmed up? Well, you’re not wrong.
Your chest muscles should be warmed up at this point, but the incline press focuses on different chest muscles than the bench press and those muscles might not be able to handle as much weight, not to mention the position of your body will greatly affect the muscles that are activated.
This is where accommodation sets come in handy. If you are going into the incline bench right after the bench press, use a weight that is much lighter than you think you’ll need and do anywhere from 6-8 reps. This will let you know how your shoulder is handling the weight, allow you to adjust the bench position if needed, and help you gauge the amount of weight you can safely lift for an effective workout.
How to avoid injury when working out
Proper form is crucial to making progress and avoiding injury and you need to be getting at least eight hours of sleep for recovery time. Be sure not to go in too heavy with the weights unless you want to risk tearing a muscle.
Blood flow, stretching, and warm-up exercises are all excellent ways to improve your workout and help to prevent injury if you plan to jump right into the next workout after finishing up the last one, try utilizing accommodation sets as this will help you gauge the weight needed for that particular exercise.