Weightlifting, also known as resistance training, is important at every age. Lifting weights has shown to build strength, improve balance, mobility and coordination and is one of the best ways to help your body stay healthy and strong in the long run.
“For children and youth, appropriate resistance training can promote neuromuscular development as well as support mental health and self-esteem,” said Matthew Steele, DO, a sports medicine physician at Banner Health and a former personal trainer. “For adult women, it can aid in the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures. In older adults, it can aid in balance support and coordination.”
While strength training requires little time and minimal equipment, doing it incorrectly can lead to serious injuries and delay progress. Whether you are a gym rat or new to the weight game, Dr. Steele shared 5 fixes to common weightlifting mistakes so you can avoid pain and make gains at home or in the gym.
Mistake #1: Poor form
When performing a new exercise, you are essentially teaching your body to perform a movement that you have never done before. Learning and maintaining good form during strength exercise is essential to reducing your risk for getting hurt.
“Think of it like this: you must learn to walk before you can run,” Dr. Steele said. “In order to master a new activity, you need to learn the intricacies of the activity. This is especially true in regard to weightlifting. It is important to learn appropriate form and how to adapt to the motion before you start adding weight.”
Fix: Meet with a personal trainer, even for a single session, who is specialized in an exercise plan you are looking for. There are many different backgrounds of certified personal trainers. These backgrounds can vary from one month of education to several years. The right personal trainer can give you the basics on proper form and increase your confidence, so you are better prepared to progress safely.
“If you are unsure what exercise program you should use to reach your intended goal, consult first with your primary care physician, a sports medicine physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer,” Dr. Steele said.
Mistake #2: Lifting the wrong weight
When it comes to strengthening your muscles, more does not equal better. Depending on your level of health and certain medical conditions, lifting too much weight can potentially do more harm than good.
“This is especially true when incorporating complex movements,” Dr. Steele said. “It can lead to tendon ruptures, muscle tears, serious back injuries and even blacking out from straining too hard or bearing down. It is important that you understand your own limits in regard to weightlifting.”
Fix: If there is ever any uncertainty if the weight is too heavy, incorporate a lower weight with more sets and repetitions. More repetitions at a lighter weight are just as beneficial as higher weight and lower sets and repetitions. It’ll help you develop better motor control of your muscles, because you’re building up endurance.
Mistake #3: No rest for the weary
Just as you need quality sleep to rest your mind and reset from the day’s activities, the same is true for your body when it comes to exercise. A common mistake that people make is letting muscle soreness be their guide as to when they should rest or not. Unfortunately, muscle soreness is not directly correlated with the amount of work that you have done and the benefits you will receive from such a workout.
Your muscles grow when you are resting and not when you’re at the gym. The majority of your muscle recovery happens within the first 12 to 24 hours after a workout. Rest is the best way to let your muscles recover and help your muscles gain enough strength for further workouts.
Fix: Although resistance training can be done every day, this should be taken with some caution. Consider varying the types of exercises you do rather than repeating the same exercises over and over every day.
“Some of these options include lower body versus upper body, push exercises versus pull exercises or large muscle groups for smaller muscle groups,” Dr. Steele said. “What type of training you engage in will depend on your goal.”
Mistake #4: No pain, no gain
Before any new type of exercise, it is important to truly know your body and how it adapts to new activities. There is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in pain.
“It’s not unusual to be somewhat uncomfortable after a new workout, especially the first 24 to 72 hours,” Dr. Steele said. “However, it’s not normal to experience pain.”
Fix: If you’re doing an exercise and feel any sort of pain, stop what you’re doing. Trying to work through the pain can intensify it or even lead to injury. If there is any concern that the pain you are experiencing is not normal, schedule a visit with your primary care doctor.
Mistake #5: Ignoring your core
The core is often the most neglected aspect of your resistance training program. People think of the core as only the abdominal muscles (6-pack), but it’s actually many muscle groups from the top of your knees to just below your chest. This also includes many back-muscle groups that are often neglected.
Your core is responsible for many stabilizing movements including independent daily activities such as getting up from a chair or bending over to tie your shoe. And it’s essential in keeping you safe while lifting weights.
“Lack of appropriate core strength can be indirectly responsible for a multitude of injuries including low back injuries, knee arthritis pain, hip injuries and muscle strains,” Dr. Steele said. “The most common mistake people make is thinking that just because someone has defined abdominal muscles that means they have a strong core.”
Fix: The best way to strengthen your core muscles is to incorporate core stabilizing exercises into your resistance training regimen. This can include anything from mobility training and yoga to other complex movements while lifting weights.
There are plenty of other common weightlifting mistakes out there, so don’t hesitate to speak with a professional for advice on which workouts are safest and most effective for you and your fitness goals. Participating in an exercise regimen is important for your mental health as well as your physical health, which includes getting educated on the movements that are right for you.
To find a Banner Health specialist, visit bannerhealth.com.