Lifting weights, whether you do it for general fitness, to train for sports or for competition, can cause serious injury or even death. Follow these basic guidelines to lift weights more safely.
Find an instructor.
Find an instructor who can help you learn how to do the exercises correctly. Good technique is one of the most important ways to avoid injury. A high school coach or athletic trainer can help you. If a college is located in your town, the weight coach for the varsity athletic teams may be able to give you advice or recommend another instructor. The National Strength and Conditioning Association may also be able to recommend a qualified coach in your area. Advice from people who have never learned good technique themselves, such as parents, friends, coaches or other weight lifters, may not be correct. Books can help, but nothing beats personal coaching.
With your teacher's help, decide on the goals of your weight-training program. The goals of your training program will depend on your age, physical maturity and the reason you are lifting weights. You need to consider which exercises you will use, how often you will do each exercise, what weight you will start with and when you will increase this weight.
Wait until you're ready.
Most people should wait until they are at least 15 years old before trying the major lifts. At age 15, most people's bodies are mature enough for these exercises. The major lifts, performed with barbells, include the clean and jerk, power clean, snatch, squat, dead lift and the bench (incline and overhead presses). These exercises are likely to cause injury if you lift heavy weights without proper technique and the help of spotters.
Warm up and cool down.
Warm up and cool down for each session. Your warm-up session before lifting weights should include stretching exercises, calisthenics and jogging. When you begin each lifting exercise, use small amounts of weight at first and then progress to heavier weights. Stretching is also important during your cooldown.
- Do use spotters when you try the major lifts.
- Do keep your back straight when lifting.
- Do use proper lifting technique when moving weights around the room.
- Do wear shoes with good traction.
- Do make sure the equipment you use is in good condition.
- Don't hyperventilate (breathe in and out fast) or hold your breath when you lift heavy weights. You may faint and lose control of the weights. Breathe out when you lift.
- Don't continue lifting if you feel pain. Stop the painful exercise for a few days, or try it with less weight.
- Don't exercise any set of muscles more than 3 times a week.
- Don't "cheat" on your technique to lift heavier weights than you can handle.
- Don't lift heavy weights without spotters.
- Don't lift more than you know you can lift safely.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff