Avoiding Injury When You Start Lifting Weights
Nurse Susan provides some tips on how to avoid injury when you first start lifting weights.
When they first start working out, many people shy away from specific exercises, especially resistance training moves, because they are afraid of getting hurt. This is even truer for seniors, people who are brand new to the gym, and people who have dealt with injuries in the past.
These concerns are understandable, but you should not let a fear of an injury stop you from making progress in the gym. Whether you are seventeen or seventy, resistance training will help you build strong bones and muscles, have a faster metabolism, and safely perform everyday tasks. Read on for some beginner tips that will teach you everything you need to do to avoid injury while lifting weights.
Ease into it
If you are new to the gym or are returning after a long break, taking on too much, too quickly is a recipe for disaster. Ease yourself in and start with easy movements that will help get your body acclimated to working out again.
If you have never lifted weights, start with light dumbbells or do exercises with an empty barbell. Remember that it is easier to add weights if you need more of a challenge than it is to take weights away if you find you have overestimated your abilities.
It is also fine to start with bodyweight exercises if you are brand new to lifting weights. Bodyweight exercises will help you nail your form so that you do not hurt yourself when it is time to add weight.
Do Not Shy Away from Squats
Squats, especially with a barbell, are intimidating for a lot of people. But, they are an essential exercise that just about everybody should be doing them.
If you want to strengthen your legs but are scared of squats, it might be tempting to use a leg press, leg extension, or hamstring curl machine. The problem with these machines, though, is that they isolate the leg muscles and are not great for overall mobility.
Squats not only strengthen the muscles in your legs, but they work the muscles in the upper body and the core, too. They also mimic movements you do outside of the gym, making them a functional exercise that directly translates to real life.
Hire a Trainer
If you do not know how to squat correctly (or do any other kind of resistance exercise), you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer to teach you the basics. A trainer will help you learn proper form and give you tips on how to progress over time.
Some people worry about the expense of hiring a trainer. But, if you are brand new to the gym, it is worth it to hire a professional to help you avoid costly injuries later on. You will pay more upfront, but you will save a lot of money further down the road. Plus, research shows that one-on-one personal training is an effective method of changing your attitude about physical activity.
Do Not Ignore Your Core
You use your core muscles all day long -- they help you stand up, stay balanced while you walk, and support your back when you bend over to pick something up.
Without a strong core, you are much more susceptible to injury, especially while doing exercises like squats or deadlifts that can put a strain on your lower back.
Core work does not just mean sit-ups. sit-ups are one of the least effective exercises you can do to improve overall core strength. Instead, opt for exercises like planks, which work all the muscles in the core, including the back, abdominals, and glutes.
Challenge Your Balance
Another great way to improve core strength and overall stability is to challenge your balance regularly.
This does not mean you have to do crazy exercises like standing on a BOSU ball while you do bicep curls. Instead, practice standing on one leg throughout the day. Or, you can do single-leg exercises like split squats or single-leg deadlifts.
These exercises challenge your core and will help you improve your balance, which decreases your risk of injury. This is especially important for older individuals who are struggling with a decline in equilibrium.
Take Extra Precautions if You Are Lifting Alone
Working out at home can be a great option for people who cannot afford a gym membership or prefer not having to share a workout space with a bunch of strangers. It is important to take some precautions when you are exercising alone, especially when you are lifting weights.
Install a mirror to make sure you are practicing proper form during your lifts, and even ask a buddy to come over to spot you and join your workout. If you are looking for easy ways to supplement your weight lifting in the gym, use basic resistance equipment at home like resistance bands or forearm, wrist, and grip strengtheners that exercise key forearm muscles.
Let the Past Go
If you used to be an elite athlete or could once lift extremely heavyweights, it is tempting to try to jump right back up to your old performance level. If you have taken a significant amount of time off, though, this approach is just setting you up for injury and disappointment.
Let the past go and accept that it is okay not to be the same athlete or gym-goer you once were.
Refer to the first tip -- start slow and work on gradually progressing with proper technique. This will help you establish a lasting habit while preventing injuries that could force you to take even more time off.
Know When to Rest
Finally, it is vital to make sure you are taking ample time off to allow your body to heal. When you are first getting started, it will not take much for your muscles to be sore. Give them time to recover and forget the old "no pain, no gain" adage.
Take at least one day off between lifting sessions, or at least avoid working the same muscle groups two days in a row. Letting your body rest allows you to perform better in the gym without overtaxing your muscles.
If you are new to weightlifting, do not be nervous. Keep these tips in mind, and you will have no trouble staying safe while getting stronger.
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About the Author
Nurse Susan has always been passionate about helping people heal. After she retired from a lifelong career as a nurse, that passion did not go away. She loves to use her expertise to write about the best ways to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.