“I want to feel ‘pain’ John. It doesn’t feel like I’m actually doing anything unless I’m pushing myself to the limit and really ‘feeling it’. But now I find that my strength gains have reached a plateau, regardless of how hard I push myself. Not only this, but I’ve been warned that some of the exercises I’ve been doing for years are actually DANGEROUS! What does contraindicated even mean?!”

It’s not about the ‘pain’

I’ve heard this many times before. Guys like this tend to drown out the gym music system with their grunting and groaning… they may even be shouting their way through their weight training.


While everyone has their own way of getting through the next rep, the problem occurs when they start endangering their safety by using too much aggression in their workouts. Getting psyched up for your session is fine, but you need to maintain proper control.

The key to developing any kind of strength through weight training (strength endurance, power or maximum strength) is to overload your muscles. The last few reps of every set, regardless of workout type, need to be performed when your muscles are fatigued; in terms of ‘pain’ this is necessary. However you have to employ the correct technique, if not you will reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and may risk causing long term injury.

Maintain your form!

For example, when performing bench presses you must not arch your back, and when doing bicep curls your body should not swing backward or forward. These mistakes, alongside many more, are often the result of using too much aggression.

Weight Training Injury and Gains_1

To ensure your training continually progresses you need to vary the intensity of your workouts, and the options to do so are endless.

You can experiment with more or fewer repetitions and sets, lift weights that are either heavier or lighter in conjunction with this, or use different weight training systems on a progressive, systematic basis.

You can even ‘move’ the weight differently, at a slower or faster speed or different angle than you normally would. This means using your mental muscle as well as your physical muscles. But this determination and attention to detail in your program will bring about continued positive muscular adaptation.

Remove the risk of injury

When it comes to dangerous exercises and contraindication, let’s start by understanding the term itself. When an exercise carries an unnecessary degree of risk to the person performing it, fitness professionals refer to that exercise as contraindicated.

In regards to weight training it could mean that the exercise is loading soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) or joints in a manner that is likely to cause injury. The injury itself may not be immediately apparent, but rather accumulative – over time the soft tissue becomes increasingly strained and damaged.

A good example of such an exercise is the ‘Behind the Neck Lat Pull Down’, which results in extreme rotation and hyper-extension of the shoulder. Gym professionals would recommend performing this exercise with the bar in front of the body, pulled down towards the chest – this is safe and more effective.

Pulling the bar down and to to the front works the latissimus dorsi muscles in anatomically correct manner, as the muscle fibres run at an obtuse angle from their attachments – away from an imaginary line running through the centre of the body. Once again, maintaining the correct form will promote greater strength and size gains.

Getting stronger is not all about going heavier and heavier all the time, nor getting louder and louder! Remember, discipline and form are as important to your gains as the effort you put in.

Read more from Expert John Shepherd.

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