You’ve heard me say time and time again how important resistance training is for all fitness goals. Having more muscle in your body means you are able to burn fat easier, look leaner at all times and most importantly live a healthier life. However, none of these things will be possible if you injure yourself.
Follow these fives tips for smart weight lifting that will keep you injury free.
1. Don’t go too heavy too fast
This is one of the most common mistakes people make when they start weight lifting. Too often people will copy the workout they see others doing because they want to look like that person. It’s okay to look up to men and women at your gym, but realize you are on a different path than them. Someone who is squatting with 200 pounds has been squatting for a while. When you first learn an exercise you should perform the movement with no weight. Once you have your form down, you can add 5-10 pounds at a time. Making a jump bigger than this will put you at risk for major injuries.
2. Work big to small
When structuring your workout for the day you should work your bigger muscles first. Begin your workout with compound lifts. These are the exercises that engage multiple muscles and likely feel like a bit of cardio because they are so demanding (squats, deadlifts, presses). These types of exercises require more energy and thus they should be done first. Prioritize the bigger muscles and bigger lifts. Basically, calf raises should never be done before squats.
3. Eat more fat
Fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, help ease inflammation. This means the more salmon, spinach and walnuts you eat, the quicker your joints will recover from a lift.
4. More modifications
Everyone’s anatomy is different. This means that the standard way to do an exercise may not work for your body. If an exercise is not agreeing with your frame, skip it or change it. I work with many clients with knee and shoulder issues. Instead of avoiding all exercises that impact those joints, I find new ways to work the muscles surrounding those areas. Similarly, you may not feel the proper muscle engage from an exercise that is supposed to work a certain muscle group. If this is the case for you, you need to find a new way to do that exercise. For example, as a shorter female, I lift my butt off the seat two inches when I use the leg press machine. This puts my knees and ankles in a better alignment for glute engagement. This small modification takes stress off of my knees and allows me to feel the muscle I am trying to work. And don’t worry if someone comes up to you and says you are doing the exercise wrong. That person does not have your body, so they do not know what works for you.
5. Save static stretching for the cool down
Warming up before a workout is incredibly important and will help prep your muscles for what’s to come. However your warm-up should consist of mostly dynamic movements like leg swings, air squats, and arm circles. Your warm-up should change based on what muscles you plan to work. Try to activate or fire up the muscles you will be using in your workout. However, avoid holding stretches for more than 10 seconds. Static stretching should be saved for the cool down. This is when you hold a stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds as an attempt to lengthen the muscle. Static stretching before a workout has been shown to cause instability in the joints.