Strength training plays an important part in your health and fitness, but you may be concerned about injuring your joints or other body parts. By concentrating on proper technique, you can tone your muscles, enhance your posture, and reduce discomfort and stiffness in your joints.
Moving around and building up supporting muscles slows down the deterioration of your joints that comes with aging. A sound exercise program may even enable you to postpone or avoid knee surgery and other procedures.
Try these guidelines for protecting your joints and staying safe while lifting weights.
Staying Safe While Lifting Weights
1. Warm up and cool down. Start out with gentle movements that raise your body temperature. March in place or lunge to each side. Cool down with easy floor exercises and stretches for your whole body.
2. Watch your form. Extend your arms and legs through a full range of motion without locking your knees or elbows to avoid putting too much pressure on your joints. Keep your back straight and hold your shoulders down.
3. Vary your program. Repetitive motions and imbalances can also strain your joints. Limit your sets to about 15 reps or less. Design a program that covers all your muscle groups so your back and chest become equally developed.
4. Start off light. Practice exercises with little or no weight at first. Increase the intensity by 10% or less at a time. That could mean doing a couple of extra reps or adding a few pounds.
5. Slow down. Let your muscles do the work instead of allowing momentum to take over. Count to 3 as you raise the weight and as you lower it.
6. Rest and recover. Strength training causes tiny, but harmless, tears in your tissues. Your muscles grow when those tears repair, so give them a break for 24 to 48 hours. You can target other body parts while you wait.
7. Ask for a spot. If you want to handle heavy loads, find a partner who can grab the barbell if you start to falter. Most gym members consider it a common courtesy and are happy to oblige.
8. Breathe freely. Holding your breath could raise your blood pressure or even lead to fainting. Instead, exhale while you exert force, and inhale on the less strenuous portion of the exercise.
1. Tidy up. Return weights to the rack when you’re done. You’ll be less likely to trip over them, and you’ll do your part to keep the gym looking presentable.
2. Wear gloves. If you’re susceptible to blisters, try wearing workout gloves. They also help to tighten your grip.
3. Change your shoes. Shoes give you traction while you’re balancing extra weight. Try on a variety of mid-cut sports shoes to find a style you like.
4. Ditch the belt. On the other hand, most experts now advise against weight training belts. A firm core provides more reliable support than any accessory you can buy. Schedule some abdominal work for each session, like leg raises and planks.
5. Consider alternatives to weights. Of course, there is more to strength training than traditional weights. When you’re short on space or equipment, try resistance bands or moves that use your own body weight like chin ups and dips. Pneumatic machines that use air resistance are also a great way to lessen the impact on your joints.
6. Talk with your doctor. Consulting your doctor is especially important if you’ve been sedentary or have medical conditions such as diabetes. Your physician can recommend a program based on your individual history.
Taking sensible precautions will protect your joints from injuries that could interrupt your workouts. A consistent strength training program helps you to shape up your body and perform your daily activities with greater ease.