Lifting Weights and Being Safe
Weight lifting is a good way to lose weight, build muscle, and get into great shape. If done unsafely, it is also an easy way to cause severe or lifelong injuries. Outwardly, lifting weights seems simple, and many take it up by watching and copying others’ technique. But those techniques may be flawed, and it is important to be safe in designing and practicing a weight lifting routine.
What’s the Risk?
Weight lifting is actually quite safe. A study found that weight lifting was significantly safer than a variety of other sports practiced by school-aged individuals. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t health and safety risks of which the smart lifter must be aware.
One significant risk is muscle tears. These are most commonly caused by lifting too much weight or by performing too many repetitions, though improper technique can turn even a safe amount of weight and number of reps into damage.
Back injuries are also frequent. The musculature in the back plays an integrative role in many core motions. While a certain technique may not strain the immediate muscle groups it targets, if the muscles of the back and spine are weak, they may fail to provide the necessary core support.
Tips for Safe Weight Lifting
With those facts and risks in mind, here are a few tips and techniques that are essential for lifting weights safely.
Know the Exercise
Before performing a single rep, it is essential to understand the ideal form for the specific exercise. It is easy to grab a bar and start lifting, but this hasty practice often leads to bad technique and inefficient results.
To perform an exercise well, it is essential to know its target muscles. Practice the exercise before a mirror or with a qualified trainer to ensure that your form matches that of the outcome. Also, pay attention to the muscles that are activated while working through the sets. One common symptom of poor technique is compensating for weaker muscles by using others that are not in the target group. Such compensation may make the exercise seem easy, encouraging the use of unsafe levels of weight that in turn cause muscle tears.
Training increases strength, improves flexibility, and makes other changes in the musculoskeletal system that determine what exercises are possible and safe. One common mistake when designing a program is to focus only on weight, count of sets, and number of reps. But the type and complexity of motion is also critical in designing a good program.
Beginners may wish to stay away from exercises with complex motions, techniques which rely on highly tuned coordination in addition to core strength. It is also wise to avoid exercising lesser used muscles when starting out. Core strength exercises will boost the effectiveness of major muscle groups. Only once the core is strong should a lifter branch out into working supporting muscles and rounding out the program.
Maintain a Safe Speed
It isn’t enough to have good form. Lifters must also use a safe speed when exercising. Lifting too quickly, or holding a lift and bouncing the weight in a ballistic stretch, places the joint under extreme strain that will likely lead to injury.
A lifter’s goal is to maintain control of the weight at all times. If a technique begins to feel like the weight is moving on its own, or in ways that are not in keeping with the exercise, slow down and regain control over the weight’s movement. If necessary, reduce the amount of weight to a safe limit. A good tempo might involve raising the weight for two seconds and lowering it for three. In any case, the lowering of the weight should always be slower than the process of raising it.
Use Proper Gear
This one is a little less known. There is gear designed to help you lift weights more safely. The two best products are weight lifting gloves and weight lifting belts.
We highly recommend you purchase a weight lifting belt if you do any workouts with a barbell, such as squats and deadlifts. The belts will make sure you keep your back straight and secure through the whole motion. You can check out some of the best weight lifting belts on the market.
Nothing is more demotivating to body builders than injury. It breaks the momentum of a good program, impacts performance goals, and may delay returning to the gym to continue training. But by keeping the above tips in mind, and by learning the aspects of good form, lifting weights can become a safe and transformative aspect of a well-rounded exercise regimen.