Tips for Injury Free Workouts
When most people start working out, they focus on all the benefits it provides. Exercise builds stronger bodies, can reduce fat and helps people live longer. But there are exceptions. When fitness programs are poorly designed, pursued too aggressively or attempted without proper form, injuries result. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of injuries, if you take some preventative steps.
Warm-Up Before Lifting
Your muscles and tendons start out tight and jumping right into a routine can cause problems. Prepare the areas you plan on working out. A warm-up can be as simple as moving a much lighter weight, for 10 to 15 reps. Do it until you’ve increased blood flow and your muscles are ready to work.
Choose Appropriate Exercises
Machines became very popular with gyms because they don’t require a lot of training. You get into position and the machine restricts how you move. The problem is when you isolate a muscle so thoroughly; you don’t work or engage many of the smaller supporting muscles. That’s why many fitness professionals have been moving people into more functional exercises. Balance work, lunges, planks, push-ups and the use of free weights are all things that strengthen your core and help you in situations you encounter every day.
Use Appropriate Weight
The weight you lift should be based on your ability, not what you see other people doing. If you have to jerk or heave something to move it, you’re lifting too heavy. You should be able to control the weight when it’s on the way down as well. Weights that aren’t under your complete command can come crashing down and injure you or those nearby.
Avoid Excessively High Reps
You build muscle with heavy weights and low reps. You can also build muscle with lighter weights and higher reps. But doing more than 20 reps in a particular set, hasn’t been shown to improve results. A routine that has you lifting a 5-pound weight a couple hundred times while dancing around won’t adequately challenge your muscles. But it’s great for causing repetitive stress injuries.
(For those of you who don't know the difference between a set and rep, here's what they mean. Rep is short for repetition. Each rep is one lift or complete exercise movement. A set is the number of reps you do in a row before stopping.)
Maintain Proper Form
There are a few things that apply to almost every exercise. Hold your back in a neutral position, don’t round or curve your spine. Keep your head in alignment with your back. Drive your chin directly back toward your spine and maintain a slight downward gaze with your eyes.
Beyond those general suggestions, you need instructions on how to perform specific exercises. Here are three good ways to learn.
Use the internet, but make sure it’s a trusted source. Websites like acefitness.org, bodybuilding.com, exrx.net and shapefit.com are all reputable companies with free exercise libraries. They tell you what muscles are targeted; include written descriptions of specific ways to approach the exercise and videos on how to do things.
Join a group fitness class that’s tailored to your experience level. Look for ones where the instructor explains any new movements and intervenes to make sure you’re doing things right.
Hire a certified personal trainer. They will then build you a program and teach you how to move through it. Trainers don’t have to be used for every workout, but they’re a great way to learn something new.
Use a Spotter
Besides holding you accountable, one of the benefits of working out with a friend or a personal trainer is having them as a spotter. When you’re lifting something heavier, they stand by to make sure your form is good. They’re also ready should you need help completing your set, making sure you don’t drop the weight and injure yourself.
Rest Your Muscles
It’s easy to get excited when you start, but your body needs time to rebuild. Going to the gym every day and working the same muscles, will lead to overtraining injuries. Exercise tears muscles down; they grow stronger when you rest. Don’t work the same muscle group more than once every other day.
Don’t be a weekend warrior, where you pack all your physical activity into two days. Fitness requires regular attention, at least three or four days a week. Trying to do everything in 48 hours is an invitation to injury.
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