You lift weights to get stronger and leaner. The wrong approach, however, can do the opposite, and you end up with an injury that takes you out of the gym for several weeks instead.
To prevent a painful injury, remember these specific strategies when you pick up a barbell to stay healthy and get stronger.
1. Use good form
It should go without saying that you should use proper form when lifting weights. But it’s tempting to read an article or watch someone else doing an exercise, and then try it yourself without really understanding the proper movement patterns.
You’re better off mastering the basics, such as squats, presses, and rows, before getting creative. If you’re not sure how to begin weight training, invest in a session or two with a personal trainer who can instruct you on your form.
2. Increase weight gradually
You’re lifting weights to see gains, so it’s tempting to increase your weight load to advance more quickly. But trying to heave too much weight is a surefire way to create an injury. Add just 10-20% every week or two, and make sure you can do 12 reps of an exercise with good form before piling more weight on.
3. Always warm up
Heading straight for heavy weights without first preparing your body is a bad idea. A warm-up takes just 5-10 minutes and gets your body ready for the work ahead. It raises your core body temperature, increases your metabolic rate, and gives you better control over your muscles by speeding neural pathways.
For your warm-up, do two to five minutes of light cardio, such as marching in place or riding an exercise bike. Then wake up some of the joints you’ll use during your weight lifting routine, but without any weight. Bodyweight squats, shoulder circles, walking lunges, and jumping jacks for three to five minutes should suffice.
4. Schedule rest
Weight training tears down muscle fibers so they can grow stronger and thicker. But this growth happens when you rest. You should always take off for 48-72 hours between heavy lifting sessions to facilitate growth. If you want to train on consecutive days, work different body parts. For example, lift for your chest and back on Monday and for your legs and abs on Tuesday. Take one full day off per week, too, to give your body a chance to recuperate.
5. Stretch regularly
Long-held stretches before your warm-up aren’t really necessary, but having a flexibility routine that you do after your workout is key to a healthy body. Stretches relax and elongate your muscles after they’re warm. Stretching helps improve circulation and range of motion, which enhances your lifting technique and muscle health. Stretches performed after your workout also help move waste material out of the muscles, so you feel less sore the next day.
At Austin Shoulder Institute, many people come in having injured themselves during a workout. Following this advice makes it less likely you’ll be one of them.
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