My training has been going well since I’ve been back in Australia. At a minimum I’ve maintained the size I put on in the states and friends have started to note that certain weak body parts are growing bigger. I have however had a few set-backs or obstacles if you will, which I am overcoming at present. Of course a week and a half ago I suffered a calf strain while doing seated calf raises (and it has been healing well). Yesterday I was unlucky again.
While in the states I noticed I was beginning to experience some mild pain in my right hip while doing leg presses. I thought at the time it might be related to my back pain but figured in the end it was some irritation of some of the soft tissue somewhere in the vicinity of my right hip. The pain wasn’t anything terrible while training at Gold’s but I did note that the pain started to become worse since I have been back training in Sydney (most notably while performing leg presses). I knew something was wrong when I was leg pressing heavy earlier this week and it was fairly sore afterwards (even the next day).
Yesterday I started my leg workout with hamstrings. Hamstrings felt great and I didn’t have any problem. I made sure I thoroughly warmed up my legs with light sets and stretches for a variety of the important muscle groups. I decided I would use around 70% of the maximum weight I was using on Wednesday for leg press and see how it felt. While performing the first set I did experience some pain which diminished towards the end of the set. During my second set however I felt something unusual about mid-way in. It felt very similar to when I had strained my calf the week before so I stopped immediately. I reduced the weight down to 50% of what I used on Wednesday and a few minutes later I tentatively lifted the weight off the stoppers. Straight away I knew for sure that I had caused a muscle strain to the quadriceps on my previous set and I stopped training.
So what factors could have contributed to this injury?
Overtraining: About a year and a half ago when I became a bit more serious about competition I noted that my legs were lagging behind my upper body. I was training my legs hard once a week and my legs were okay but they just weren’t up to par. I spoke to some of the bodybuilders in my gym, particularly the ones with good leg development (not that there were many). Most of them suggested I start training my legs twice a week. I was a bit hesitant but I thought I would give it a try anyway. To my surprise it really did work and I put some good leg mass on in my first few months and an inch on my thighs after one year. I made sure to include one hard day where I lifted a bit heavier and included more overall volume and one day where I would lift up to around 70 – 80% of my heaviest load and train with less volume but stick to mainly compound exercises for quads. I felt it would be too taxing on my body to train super heavy all the time. A good question is whether or not this is overtraining. Lots of people train at least some body parts twice a week so I don’t know if it is. I’m sure the person with great leg genetics who trains legs once a week will tell you I was overtraining. The fact is I was getting average results training legs intensely once a week and excellent results training them twice.
Too Much Leg Press: Since I injured my lower back in June 2010 I haven’t squatted really at all. It just tended to put too much pressure on my lower back so I had to find alternative exercises which would build my legs up. The leg press I found to be a great option as it seemed to provide great resistance for the quads and glutes without that stress on the lower back. I took to doing a lot of leg presses. I would also include exercises like hack squats and smith machine reverse lunges for my compound training but leg press was my favourite. I would sometimes do eight sets of leg press for my quads and nothing else. In this case leg press was the main exercise which seemed to exacerbate the irritated muscle tissue. I think part of the reason this injury occurred was doing too much of a good thing too often as far as leg press is concerned.
Ignoring the Early Warning Signs: I was experiencing pain which started out mild and gradually worsened in severity over numerous weeks. Of course most people know that when something hurts, you should stop doing it. However often times bodybuilders will experience niggling pains reasonably frequently. If we were to stop training a body part completely every time a very small injury emerged we would never get anywhere in terms of physique development. Also over in the states I was getting such great results from my leg training (and the pain wasn’t really getting much worse until I started training back in Australia again). It is difficult to stop training a body part completely for three or four weeks while it heals when your progress is moving forward in such a satisfying way. Ironically my body has been just as stubborn and forced me to stop training for at least the same period of time. The best idea if experiencing pain is to either give that body part a rest until the pain is gone and the injury has healed or to train around the injury by discovering exercises which do not cause pain or exacerbate the problem. If the pain still doesn’t improve or gets worse you might consider seeing a health care professional. It is not a good idea to continue training through the pain with the same exercises as I did, since as you can see you may make the injury worse.
Poor Technique: This can certainly cause injuries. But I think in my case this was probably not the cause unless I was completely unaware that the way that I was performing the exercise was putting stress on a certain area of my quadriceps. My form was always smooth through an appropriate range of motion. I like to place my feet parallel a little less than shoulder width apart and I keep my knees in line with my toes. I think that if there was any involvement of form it must have been minimal.
Lack of Warm-Up: This can be a contributor to injuries but I could not have been happier with my warm up. I performed stretches and numerous light warm up sets for each muscle group so I don’t think it played a part in this injury.
Injuries are not something anyone who trains to improve their physique likes to experience. I hope that people who read this will notice some of the things I may have done in a less than optimal fashion and make changes to their own programs if necessary. For me though it’s time to give the old legs a bit of a rest for a while so my injuries can heal completely and I can return gradually to training them as intensely as possible.