Many people join a gym or buy expensive exercise equipment and begin strength training without knowing how to properly lift weights. Remember the cliché: “what you don’t know can hurt you”. The experienced weight lifter may be able to execute movements that may very well be dangerous for a beginner, therefore it is better to exercise a lot of caution if you are beginning strength training.
Below are some of the common mistakes people make when strength training:
Choosing the wrong weight
Using weight that is too heavy, especially in the beginning, can damage muscles and tendons and cause painful injury. If you have to strain to lift the weight then it is too heavy and you may find yourself gaining muscle and weight. For women this could be a deterrent to weight training. Weight that is too light may not give you the workout that you need and may only waste your time.
Doing the wrong number of repetitions and/or sets
If your goal is to lose weight, you should be able to do 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps comfortably. To gain muscle – and weight – you should use a heavier weight that will allow you to do up to 8 reps at most for 3 or 4 sets. If your goal is to build endurance you would use a lighter weight and increase the number of reps and sets.
Using incorrect form
Some people have a tendency to curve the back when bending over to lift a weight. This can injure your back. A better way would be to keep your back straight or bend the knees. Jerky, bouncing movements are another improper form that can place sudden stress on muscles and tendons, and cause injury. If you are bouncing, the weight is most likely too heavy. Locking the joints, especially knees and elbows, is another common mistake that can lead to injury. Also, some people tend to drop the weight instead of lowering it slowly. This does not allow the muscle to move through the entire range.
Doing too much too soon
You are anxious to get stronger, but in order to achieve the most from any form of exercise, muscles need to rest in order to be ready for the next round of exercise. This applies between sets, as well as to between workouts. If you are lifting light weights for endurance, you should rest 30 seconds to 1 minute between sets, if you are lifting heavy weights for muscle building you may need to rest up to 5 minutes. And take a day off between workouts.
As always, remember that these all vary greatly for each individual. Please consult a professional for advice specific to your needs.
For an athlete, getting injured is one of the worst things that can happen. Depending on the type of injury you may be out of competition for a long time. Instead of lying on the couch throwing paper balls into a bin, speak to your physiotherapist about other forms of exercise you can do that will not aggravate your injury and at the same time help you stay fit.
There are many types of low-impact exercises you can do while you are recovering. Your physiotherapist may advise on some or all of the following:
This is one of the best forms of exercise for injured athletes. The buoyancy of the water supports your weight so there is little force on your muscles or joints. Swimming recruits all the major muscles of the body – arms, abs and legs for a good, stress-free workout.
Whether you use a moving bike or a stationary one, cycling is a great form of cardio exercise which helps to burn fat, tone muscle and build endurance. If you have had knee surgery, cycling can lubricate the knee and improve flexibility and range-of-motion. Your physiotherapist will tell you how long you should stay on the bike and how much resistance is safe for your fitness level.
The rowing machine in the gym is a good form of upper-body workout for the athlete who sustained a leg injury. Rowing in a boat is also good and gives the added bonus of being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. If your upper body is injured, this low-impact activity will not cause more trouble, however to be safe, consult with your physiotherapist as to how much and how fast you should perform this exercise.
This is a great way to keep the body toned, provide flexibility and increase range-of-motion. However, this should be done under the supervision of your physiotherapist. He/she will tell you what stretches to do, how many and at what range. If necessary, he/she will assist you to perform the stretches until you can do them safely on your own.
Exercises using your own body weight (such as sit-ups, push-ups and chin-ups) can also help you get some sweat and maintain fitness, just as long as you follow your physiotherapist’s advice. Becoming injured does not mean that you are bound to the couch to lose all the fitness you have achieved. Come in and see us; we will put you on a safe yet effective program.