Exercise is incredibly beneficial to people, and it can improve your physical and mental health. However, working out, especially with free weights, can be extremely dangerous to beginners and experienced lifters. While working out can be dangerous, there are dozens of ways to help minimize your chances of getting hurt. Experience can help, but even the most trained professionals still can’t spot all dangers; for example, Ereck Plancher died in 2008 while at football practice with the University of Central Florida. For most people, however, you will not be pushing yourselves to the extreme physical limits that Ereck approached. You still need to be careful and follow our simple steps to being safe while working out.
The most important tip we can offer before beginning a new workout regimen is to get your annual physical. Very few people regularly get their routine medical tests, including blood pressure checks and blood tests. An annual physical is vital for maintaining your health. The next five things are tips you should always abide by in order to ensure a safe and suffessful workout.
1. Have a Spotter
This is not necessary when running or performing exercises with machines or just your body weight, but it can be life saving when using free weights. Having a spotter while you are benching, squatting, doing deadlifts or other forms of free weight lifting can reduce the chance of injury. A spotter is especially important if you are using heavy weight that you potentially drop.
2. Warm Up
A human’s muscles are like rubber bands: if they are stretched too much while cold, they will snap. Warming up your muscles will control the number of injuries that you suffer. A short, slow jog before any kind of exercise will get your heart rate up and prepare your body for the upcoming workout. A cool down at the end of your work out is also smart.
3. Listen to What Your Body Says
If a part of your body hurts from a movement, and it does not feel like simple, general soreness, then there is probably something wrong. You do not need to push yourself through pain like Olympic athletes, especially if you are a beginner. If you notice pain that does not feel like the natural burn your body feels while working out, then you need to stop working out right away and solve the mystery as to why your body feels this way. Pushing through this pain can lead to long term injuries that may never resolve themselves.
Most people think that their body grows muscles while at the gym, but, in reality, your body grows muscles while you are sleeping and resting. That is why it is important to maintain at least eight hours of good, quality sleep every night. Good sleep is particularly important the night after a tough workout so your body can naturally heal the torn muscles. Rest does not just involve sleep, though. You need to make sure to take a few days off each week as “rest days” so that your body does not get too worn out. This is especially important to beginners because their body is still adjusting to the strain of exercise. Also, if you feel tired during an exercise, you could potentially perform a movement incorrectly and hurt yourself.
5. Use Good Form
We all see these people at the gym: throwing their whole body into curls to maximize the amount of weight that they can lift. However, performing exercises incorrectly can lead to chronic and long term injuries. It is important to maintain proper form at all times for all exercises. In order to maintain good form, you may need to sacrifice some weight, but doing exercises properly with less weight is better than doing exercises incorrectly with more weight. Hurting yourself to lift more weight and show off at the gym simply is not worth the consequences that you may experience by performing exercises in ways that they were not designed to be done.
The National Council on Strength and Fitness always recommends using a certified personal trainer when working out.