Strength training offers numerous health benefits and should be included in every home workout program. However, you need to take a few precautions to reduce the risk of injuring yourself. Here are a few tips to help you stay in the game and off the sidelines:
Use Good Form
Performing strength exercises with poor form and technique is one of the main culprits that can lead to injuries, causing your workout program to come to a screeching halt. It’s plain and simple; you need to know how to do each exercise correctly if you want to minimize injuries and get results. If you’re just starting out or haven’t exercised in ages, I recommend hiring a qualified Fitness Professional (find the best in your area!) for at least a few sessions to get started. They’ll set you straight right from the beginning – it’s worth it!
Start Out With Lighter Weights
Using weights that are too heavy is another sure-fire way to end up with a sprain or strain. If you’re a beginner, start out with a weight that you can lift comfortably for 12 to 15 repetitions. As you start to feel stronger, gradually increase the weight. It’s important that you focus on using good form on every repetition of each exercise – a tough task if you’re using a weight that’s too heavy and can’t control. Remember: Never sacrifice perfect form for the sake of completing a repetition.
Use Controlled Movements – Avoid Momentum
Be sure to perform your exercises in a controlled manner, without using momentum. The goal is to make your muscles do the work, not momentum! Fast and jerky motions will actually reduce the tension in muscles and tend to put more stress on the joints – not a particularly good combination, especially for older joints (like mine!). A good guideline for safe lifting speed is 2 seconds for lifting the weight and 3 seconds for lowering the weight. However, there’s no need to get crazy with this and count off every second. Just be sure to keep the weight under control, lowering it slightly slower than the speed you raise it with.
Warm Up First
Colder muscles are much more prone to injury than warmer ones, particularly when it comes to strength training. A warm up prepares your body for exercise by increasing blood flow to your working muscles. Five to ten minutes of an easy-paced cardiovascular activity such as walking, jogging or biking will do the trick – you just need to break a sweat.
As a general rule, you should breathe out (exhale) as you lift the weight and breathe in (inhale) as you lower the weight. However, if you just maintain a normal breathing pattern during the exercise, you’ll be just fine. Just like lifting speed, you don’t want to get hung up on breathing patterns; just focus on doing the exercise properly. Also, never hold your breath! This can cause your blood pressure to quickly skyrocket, causing all kinds of problems. Again, just breathe normally & you’ll be good.
Use a Spotter When Needed
Some strength exercises you choose may require a spotter (a person to assist you). Barbell exercises such as squats and bench presses put you in very dangerous and vulnerable positions if you get stuck and can’t complete a repetition. If that’s the case, you’re going to need some help and that’s where a spotter comes in handy. Not having one can be disastrous. Trust me – lying on a bench with a barbell near your neck that you can’t move is not a good situation when nobody’s around. Make sure you have a spotter for those exercises or simply use dumbbells which you can always just easily put down.
Allow Enough Recovery Time
Avoid working the same muscle groups on consecutive days. That can lead to overtraining, making muscles and joints more susceptible to injury. Whether you exercise all your muscle groups in a single session or specific muscle groups on different days, you’ll need to allow for enough rest in between sessions in order for your muscles to recover. If you’re doing full-body workouts (1 set – 10 -12 exercises), 48 hours is usually sufficient. For those “harder core” folks blasting 1-2 muscle groups per session, recovery time could be as much as a week or longer. Remember: Recovery time is different for everybody – listen to your body! If you’re still a little sore or fatigued, take a nice walk and hit the weights the next day – they’ll still be there.
As with any physical activity you do, there’s always the possibility of suffering an injury – things happen. Even if you follow every tip I just mentioned, there’s no guarantee you won’t feel some aches & pains along the way with strength training. But for the most part, following these tips should keep your injuries to a bare minimum (hopefully non-existent!), and allow you to reap the benefits of strength training for a lifetime.
I hope that helps,
PaulShare With Friends: