Weight lifting is a great way to increase muscle mass and get in shape, all while boosting your metabolism. However, there are certain precautions that must be made to avoid injury. Weight lifting injuries can range from an immediate fracture, to chronic aches, pains and strained ligaments. Pulling a muscle is also a common weight lifting injury. Here are 10 useful tips to help you avoid weight lifting injuries while doing your regular workout:
1. Start Small and Work Your Way Up
Whether you're a bit overconfident about your weight lifting ability, or you plan on lifting the same amount of weights you did 10 years ago in college, lifting weights that are much heavier than you're currently used to is one of the quickest ways to suffer an injury. If it's your first time in the gym, or it has been awhile since you last lifted, start off with smaller weights and slowly work your way up to heavier ones. Overexerting yourself by lifting weights that you aren't ready for can lead to severe aches, pains and strains.
2. Don't Compare Your Weights to Others
One of the biggest mistakes you can make at the gym is trying to secretly compete with someone else who is lifting. While it is important to constantly push yourself to lift more, you don't want to let your ego get in the way of your goals, or your overall health for that matter. Stick to the weights you are comfortable with, and slowly work your way up. Don't let the person next to you influence whether you are grabbing 80 pounds when you should be grabbing 40 pounders.
3. Get a Spotter
Having someone to spot you at the gym is important for avoiding weight lifting injuries. To increase muscle and build strength, you have to constantly push yourself so that you don't plateau. However, lifting more than you are used to can be very dangerous if you are doing it alone. Ask a gym buddy or fellow gym member to spot you whenever you are attempting to lift weights that are well outside your comfort zone.
4. Proper Form
Knowing the proper form for certain weight lifting exercises is crucial for avoiding injury. Don't be foolish enough into thinking you understand how a certain exercise works if you've never done it by yourself. If you see someone at the gym performing a certain exercise you'd like to try, just ask for some friendly advice or instructions. Also consider investing in a few sessions with a personal trainer who can instruct you on proper form for exercises you are unfamiliar with.
5. Use the Safety Stoppers
Some fitness equipment come with catch racks or safety stoppers that can help prevent weight lifting injuries. A catch rack is a safety device that can be used while doing squatting exercises, which will catch the barbell to help prevent getting pinned or throwing out your back. Safety stoppers on certain machines can also be used to prevent heavy weights from falling or crushing you. Make sure you look for such safety devices when attempting to lift heavier weights.
6. Lift in a Slow, Controlled Manner
When pushing yourself to lift heavier or work harder, you may feel tempted to flail about recklessly with the weights you are using. Do not do this. A key to preventing weight lifting injuries is to not only use proper form, but to lift in a slow, controlled manner. This will also allow you to focus on isolating the muscle you're targeting for the best workout. Sometimes, people get so focused on finishing a repetition or set, just for the sake of looking good or to rush through their workout, that they aren't even working out their muscles properly.
7. Warm Up
Studies are now showing that stretching before weight lifting is not as beneficial as a good warm-up. Get the blood flowing to the muscles you intend on working by doing the appropriate warm-ups. For example, try doing dynamic warm-up exercises, like arm hugs to loosen your arm and shoulder muscles, or knee highs to help warm up your leg muscles before weight lifting.
8. Wear the Proper Attire
It's surprising to see the number of people who come to the gym and start lifting heavy weights in jeans and flip-flops. Don't be one of these people. Imagine if you were wearing flip-flops, which caused you to lose your footing while weight lifting. For weight lifting, attire is important for safety and comfort, not for style-points.
9. Stay Hydrated
Don't become so focused on your workout that you forget to keep yourself properly hydrated. Most of the human body is comprised of water, and when you are weight lifting, you are sweating a lot of that water out. Make sure to always replenish when you get the chance, and even invest in some sport drinks to help with proper hydration and electrolyte balance. Dehydration can lead to a whole other type of weight lifting injury that can even land you in the hospital.
One of the most common mistakes for inexperienced weight lifters that can lead to injury is holding their breath. In most cases, you feel tempted to hold your breath at possibly the worst time - when exerting a tremendous amount of effort to complete a rep. Don't cut off your body's oxygen supply when it needs it; make sure you are breathing while you are weight lifting.