Lifting Weights and Avoiding Injury
While injuries in weight lifting are relatively low compared to high-contact sports like football and basketball, it is important for weight lifters to be aware of the safety concerns that come with lifting. Weight lifting can certainly cause injury if exercises are performed improperly.
Weight lifting is an intense and repetitive activity. It requires lifting, pushing, pulling and pressing large amounts of weight. This puts a particular strain on the bones and muscles. It is important to be well educated about the correct techniques for performing exercises, as well as how much you should safely lift, push or press in relation to your current level of fitness, strength and health.
In this article we’ll walk through some of the basics of weight lifting safety. Do remember, however, that weight lifting “safely” can vary from person to person. What may be safe for a veteran lifter may be unsafe for you, and likewise what you can pull off with relative ease and safety may be a dangerous stretch for another bodybuilder.
Focus on Injury Prevention
If you’re just starting out, proceed cautiously. You’re getting to know your body and your personal limits. Pushing too hard and too fast can put you out of commission before you ever take off. As you get started, take a few steps to prevent potential injury:
- Always warm up. Lifting with cold muscles almost always guarantees a strain. You can warm up with a little cardio training, or else do a few sets with weights that are about 60% lighter than what you intend to lift throughout your workout.
- Listen to your body. If moving a joint a certain way hurts, stop. Never move your joints past what’s comfortable.
- Start small. It may be embarrassing to start with just the bar or with very light weights, but swallow your pride and keep the weights small until you know the proper form. Lifting too much with poor form is one of the main ways bodybuilders get hurt.
- Work with a spotter. Having a buddy around for backup can prevent serious injury. If you don’t have someone with whom to work, lift lighter weights.
Practice proper form
There is a right and wrong way to perform each exercise. Do not proceed to heavy weights until you have mastered the correct procedures for each lift. A few general points on form:
- Keep the head and neck still and controlled while lifting. Never lower a weight behind the head toward the spine unless you know can do so safely and without discomfort.
- Keep the back straight when bending at the hips for squats or other such exercises. Make sure the spine is never curved.
- Maintain a proper stance, never allowing the knees to bow in or out. This provides maximum support and protects your joints.
- Never snap your joints abruptly. While you may need to lock your elbows or knees at times, never lock them into place under heavy loads. Lower weights cautiously.
Remember, certain exercises are dangerous even if proper form is used. You can protect your body by knowing your limits and listening when your body says “enough”.