Could you give me some pointers on training hardcore without getting hurt in the process?


The key to safety in the gym is practicing common sense. One of my training partners once broke a toe because he wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing. After a set of pullovers, he absentmindedly left a dumbbell dangling off the edge of a flat bench — an accident waiting to happen.


Sure enough, he got back to the bench and the dumbbell toppled onto his foot, breaking his toe in one fell swoop. This accident could have been prevented with a little common sense. Here are a few safety tips to put you on the road to injury-free performance.

  • Always use safety collars to ensure that weight plates don’t slip off and cause an injury. This applies to squats, bench presses, curls or any exercise relying on a barbell or dumbbells.
  • Use a weight belt, wraps, straps and gloves to support heavy lifts. Mother Nature did not intend for you to lug 200 pounds on your back. Wear a belt to protect the lumbar region of your spine. Put on knee wraps for heavy squats to support the integrity of your tendons and ligaments.
  • Never rest dumbbells on a bench. The importance of this edict was graphically explained earlier.
  • Train with a partner you can trust. Screen your partners carefully. Select someone who cares about making progress as much as you do. Ty “Ropeman” Felder was one of the best training  partners I ever had because we’d match each other set for set, rep for rep. He was always there to spot me on any heavy lift to ensure my safety and to help me handle the weight. Of course, a compatible training partner is also a superior motivator. Rope was one of the first people to suggest that I could break Arnold Schwarzenegger’s  Mr. Olympia title record. His confidence in my ability was inspiring, and it helped me stay focused. Negativity breeds negativity. Positive energy brings out the best in people. Train with a partner who believes in you. It can’t work any other way.
  • Don’t whip a tired horse.  The easiest road to an injury is training when you are tired, lightheaded or low on glycogen due to an improper diet. Go home, get some rest and eat some complex carbs. Then get back in the gym and kick some butt. Do the right thing. Don’t abuse your body. You can’t be fit and healthy if you are walking around on crutches or hobbled with low back pain.

Your body is not dumb if you let it be smart. That’s a truism of training whether you are a beginner or a veteran of many wars in the training jungle.