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Strength training is great for health, but only if you do it safely and properly. Here's how to stay safe and injury-free when you strength train.
No matter what your fitness level, you should give your strength-training program a safety check-up. The best way to do this is to hire a qualified, certified personal trainer. Although regular sessions with a trainer can be costly, you can still benefit from 1 or 2 sessions. If you are new to strength training, ask the trainer to show you exercises and equipment. If you have been strength training a while, you can have your form checked.
Here are some tips to strength train:
Protect your hands and feet.
Never strength train in bare feet. Always wear gym shoes. Wear gloves to prevent your hands from becoming rough and callused and to improve your grip.
Warm up your body before a strength session. You can walk on a treadmill for 5 to 10 minutes to increase blood flow to your muscles. Next, do some gentle stretching.
Start with light weights that you can lift comfortably for 8 to 12 repetitions. Increase the weight gradually.
For example, think 2 counts up and 4 counts down.
Understand each exercise.
Know which muscles should be working and which muscles should be stabilizing your body. Also, identify the correct range of motion for each exercise. In a lunge, for example, know whether you should take a small step or a giant step.
Use good posture.
Bad posture could cause you to activate and injure a muscle group that you are not working. Keep your head and shoulders up, knees unlocked, and shoulders and hips in line. If you cannot maintain correct posture, you are either lifting a weight that's too heavy or doing the exercise incorrectly. Check your posture by lifting in front of a mirror.
Take a full breath with every repetition. Do not hold your breath.
Recognize bad pain.
It is normal to have light soreness in your muscles 24 to 48 hours after your training. But deep soreness, especially in the joints, may be a sign of injury.
Work front-to-back and side-to-side.
Every muscle has an opposing muscle, such as quadriceps and hamstrings or abdominals and lower back. If you train one muscle, train the opposing muscle so you do not create imbalances in your body that can lead to injury.
Position yourself properly when using machines.
Know where you should adjust your seat and align your joints.
Use caution with free weights.
There is a greater risk of dropping a weight or over-stretching a joint if you do not have someone to spot you when you work with free weights.
Be wise with rubber tubing and bands.
Make sure they do not have cuts or tears, keep them out of extreme heat or cold, and secure them well.
Stretch after your workout.
Muscles shorten when they contract. Stretching lengthens muscles and allows them to release tension. Hold each stretch 10 to 30 seconds.
Rest between strength sessions.
Give all your muscles time to rebuild and repair themselves.
American Council on Exercise
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
ACSM guidelines for strength training. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/all-blog-posts/certification-blog/acsm-certified-blog/2019/07/31/acsm-guidelines-for-strength-training-featured-download. Accessed June 21, 2021.
Strength training for women. Women's Heart Foundation website. Available at: http://www.womensheart.org/content/exercise/strength_training.asp. Accessed June 21, 2021.
Warm up, cool down and be flexible. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/warm-up-cool-down-and-be-flexible. Accessed June 21, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 6/21/2021