The old saying of ‘no pain no gain’ is only true under certain conditions in the gym. It’s important to draw a distinction between the type of pain that indicates a good workout, and the type of pain that indicates injury. The first of these has many names, most commonly the ‘burn’ or the ‘wall’. It is a feeling that should set in at around your 7-10th rep during every set, and is a sign of impending muscle failure. This is the good type of pain that should be felt exclusively in the muscle group you are targeting during a given exercise. It is a type of pain that you will probably learn to enjoy, because you will associate it with a job well done. The burning sensation in the muscle is caused by a release of lactic acid, which is eventually what prevents the muscle from performing to the point of injury. It is the body’s inbuilt safety mechanism.
The bad type of pain in the gym is anything other than the one described above. You should never feel pain of any kind, other than a feeling of exhaustion in the targeted muscle group. You must listen carefully to all signals given by your body during a workout – they serve as an early warning system and are there to prevent potentially serious injury. This is particularly important for any discomfort in the joints. You should never feel any sort of pain in your knees, shoulders, wrists or elbows during any exercise. These areas are susceptible to injury, as they form a connection point between different parts of the body. Bodybuilders tend to be particularly vulnerable to shoulder problems, as so many workouts (bench press, lat pull downs, seated rows, military press) involve the rotator cuffs in the shoulders. That is why it is important to include strengthening exercises for your shoulders in your workout plan.
The other type of discomfort sometimes felt in the gym is a type of light-headedness or nausea. Some bodybuilders will tell you that feeling sick in this way is a sign that you are doing well, as your body is being pushed to its limits, and wants to lose as much resistance as possible by throwing up and losing excess weight. This may have some truth to it, but in general if you feel sick, dizzy or faint, this is a clear sign that you need to stop. You may end up hurting yourself if you pass out whilst doing a high-risk workout, such as the bench press. One way to avoid these symptoms is to make sure you fuel your workout. Eat a substantial breakfast at least one hour before beginning your workout. This way your sugar levels will not be as easily depleted in the gym.