Stay safe when lifting weights


Stay safe when lifting weights

Lifting weights, along with aerobic exercise and flexibility moves, should be a vital component of a well-rounded exercise program.  Building and maintaining muscle mass is crucial for staying strong and independent, especially as we grow older.  But the last thing you want to do is injure yourself while doing strength training.  Injuries are an exerciser’s worst enemy.  Once injured, not only will you likely experience pain and discomfort but it also has the potential to keep you out of the gym for several days to several weeks or even months. 

Whether a newbie to weight lifting or a seasoned pro, practicing safe strength training is a must.  Here are 10 rules for lifting weights safely to help you get the most from your strength workouts while avoiding injury:

1.  Warm up before lifting

Before engaging in a weight lifting session, be sure to warm up your entire body.  Take a brisk walk or slow jog for 10 to 15 minutes.  The American Council on Exercise reports that warming up reduces the risk of injury by increasing your body’s temperature, improving joint lubrication, and boosting blood flow so your muscles can work better.

       2.  Always ask for help when in doubt

If you’re new to strength training and are unsure of how to perform an exercise or use a particular piece of equipment, ask for help.  If working out in a gym, inquire of a trainer or knowledgeable gym member to help you so you know what you are doing. 

3.  Use proper form

Having good form is a must.  Lifting weights using proper form means you will be aligning your body correctly while moving smoothly through each repetition. One of the biggest causes of injury while lifting is poor form.  It is best to start off with lighter weights in order to understand and achieve the right alignment and form before moving on to heavier weights.  When lifting, concentrate on slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents. 

4.  Wear appropriate clothing

You would think it wouldn’t matter what you wear when lifting weights but it does.  Restrictive clothing such as jeans, prevent you from performing an exercise such as squats correctly and can lead to a loss of balance or injury.  Wear comfortable clothing allowing you to move all body parts easily along with comfortable athletic shoes helping you to stabilize yourself better.

5.  Focus on tempo

Just like keeping the beat when playing a song, keeping the tempo when lifting weights is very important.  Tempo helps you stay in control.  When lifting, have a certain number of counts you do and then on the descent, do the same.  This gets you into a rhythm.  When feeling stronger and more confident, you can switch it up – for example, taking three counts to lower a weight and one count to lift it – this can be a useful technique for enhancing power.

6.  Be aware of your surroundings

Whether you strength train at home or in a gym, be aware of your surroundings.  Weight equipment should not be positioned close together and make sure you have enough room when extending out your arms or legs, avoiding accidentally hitting someone else or another piece of equipment.  Make sure the floor you are standing on is not slippery and that you feel you are firmly positioned not to fall.

7.  Stop lifting if you feel faint or dizzy

If at any time you feel faint or dizzy, immediately stop lifting weights.  The same goes for if you are having difficulty breathing – sit down and rest.  The last thing you want to do is pass out while in the midst of lifting heavy weights, resulting in a serious injury.

8.  Be sure to breathe

This would seem to make sense but many people will unknowingly hold their breath while lifting weights.  If you find yourself holding your breath, be aware that your blood pressure rises.  Consciously be in the habit of exhaling as you work against gravity by lifting, pushing, or pulling the weight, and inhale as you release the weight.

9.  Have a routine schedule for lifting weights

Having a consistent, regular exercise program is ideal for getting and seeing improvements in your strength, power, endurance and overall body conditioning.  Strength training is no different.  To make the kind of gains you are looking for, performing a complete upper- and lower-body strength workout two or three times a week is best.

10.  Take time off each week

Even though lifting weights regularly is important, also important is taking a few days off.  Strenuous exercise like strength training can cause tiny tears in muscle tissue.  As the tears repair themselves, your muscles grow stronger.  It is advised to allow 48 hours between sessions for muscles to recover.  A good workout regimen for weight lifting might look like this – do upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, upper body on Wednesday, and lower body on Thursday.