Be Present, Be Aware, Watch Your Form to Build Strength and Stay Healthy
I’ve discussed mindfulness a lot over the last couple of years. Being aware of what’s on our plate, who we’re sharing a meal with, how we’re progressing our fitness programs, and how to cut through the noise of every day to find spaces to simply be. Mindfulness, too, is essential for safe weight training, and exercising in general.
That said, I often see people misuse gym equipment. Many choose weights too heavy for them, thinking heavier is better than repetition and quality. At the gym, it’s not uncommon to see people do weight training with poor form. Many clients tell me they learned how to lift weights from friends. This isn’t the safest way to begin.
Weight training and strength training have taken the front seat in terms of what people seek to do to become healthier. This is a good thing – for anyone, any age. Building muscle helps prevent the loss of bone mass and density. It helps athletes improve performance. In fact, everyone should participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least two times each week.
That said, poor form can impact musculoskeletal health and the ability to build larger muscle. If you’re not doing the exercises well, they can not only be useless but also harmful.
If you’re embarking on a new weight training program, consult with a personal trainer, knowledgeable athletic trainer or fitness specialist, or physical therapist before diving into weights. Many think personal trainers are for Hollywood and high-performance athletes. Investing in health is for everyone. Likewise, if you’ve been weight training for a while, consider consulting with a personal trainer to check your form and update your routine.
Wear good shoes with good soles to keep you from slipping, as well as protect your feet. Something as basic as appropriate footwear can make a huge difference in training.
Warm up with an aerobic activity before starting. Always. When lifting with cold muscles, you’re prone to injury.
Start with a lighter weight, one you can comfortably lift 15 times. Again, heavier isn’t necessarily better. Don’t let the weight wobble around. The National Federation of Personal Trainers suggests you lower the weight if you find your body swaying. For instance, if you need to swing your arm to do a bicep curl, the weight is too heavy. Lift a lighter weight. Build up to heavier weights. This takes time.
Form is everything. Good form ensures muscle targeting. That means you’re working the muscles you desire to. Learn how to do the exercise well. Be mindful of your body, your form. If you’re not sure if you’re doing the exercise right, ask a trainer or fitness specialist.
Breathe! Inhale just before lifting the weight, and exhale after letting it down. Keep your breathing steady, so as to keep repetitions steady. This is your rhythm.
Don’t rush. We’re so busy, and we’ve been taught by society faster is better. I love this TED talk by Carl Honoré, “In praise of slowness.” It really hits home. The same goes for exercise and weight training. If you don’t have a full hour, do fewer exercises well instead of all of them rushed. Rushing can cause poor form, which, in turn, causes injury.
Listen to your body. Rest, when you need to rest. STOP when you need to stop. And never ignore pain. Exercise should push us but never hurt us.
Weight training is a key piece of health. It helps build muscle, keep us balanced, maintain bone health, and keep us stronger and independent. The better our form when weight training, the more we get out of the program. It keeps us healthy and safe.
Consult with a registered personal trainer before you get started, to get the most out of your weight training program.