Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions to get stronger and fitter. Weight training (also called strength training) can play an important role in getting fit and feeling great. But it’s essential to do it safely and correctly to avoid injury. Here’s the scoop on how weight training can help and how to avoid and address injuries.
What Are the Benefits of Weight Training?
Strength training involves using weights to create resistance to make your muscles stronger. It has lots of benefits for adults of every age and isn’t just for buff weight lifters. It can help with muscle strength and tone and help you look leaner. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, strength training can also help you improve balance and coordination and help prevent injury. It helps build muscle mass, which helps boost your metabolism and helps with weight management. Numerous studies have also shown that strength training can help improve bone density and even reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
How Can I Get Started with Weight Training?
You can start strength training at home or at your gym with a few simple steps. Strength training can be done with free weights or machines (usually at a gym). Weight machines tend to be safer than free weights because they’re built with safety controls in place to avoid injury, but free weights can also be used safely.
Here are some tips from AAOS for starting your strength training routine:
- Find the weight that’s right for you to start and then gradually add weight as training becomes easier.
- The standard workout is three sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise, but this can be adapted to meet your needs.
- Include exercises for all major muscle groups in both the upper and lower body to help prevent injury.
- Rest the muscle group worked for a full day between workouts. You can opt for rest or aerobic exercise on off-days–or work out your upper and lower body on alternate days.
- Exercise each major muscle group at least twice a week.
How Can I Avoid Injury While Weight Training?
Strength training has great health benefits, but safety is important. AAOS reminds patients to check with a doctor before starting an exercise program if they have a chronic health condition, are overweight, are a smoker or have never exercised. Here are some other tips for staying safe while weight training:
- Incorporate rest days into your routine.
- Make time for warm-up, cool down and stretching.
- Use the right equipment and the right-sized weights for you.
- Get a professional to show you how to lift weights safely and correctly.
While this information is geared toward adults, if you’re considering strength training for your teen, make sure to talk with your pediatrician, family doctor or orthopaedist. Strength training for teens can have benefits, but the American Academy of Pediatrics reminds us that proper supervision and safe technique are key, and the protocol is different for adolescents.
Should I Work with a Professional Trainer?
Getting professional advice on how to use weights safely and effectively is always a good idea. If you belong to a gym, get a trainer to show you how to safely operate the machines or work with free weights. If you want to exercise at home, schedule a few sessions with a certified personal trainer to show you how to use your equipment safely and effectively and get the best results. Small group classes are another great way to start strength training safely and create community while you get into your groove. Learning how to do it right is absolutely worth the extra cost. Once you’re familiar and comfortable with your workout and equipment, you can move on to training safely on your own.
What If I Get Hurt During Weight Training?
Sometimes even if you’re doing weight training correctly an injury can happen. The main point to remember is if something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it.
A 2010 Study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the most common cause of injuries related to weight training is participants dropping weights on themselves, followed by overexertion and muscle pulls. The study also showed that injuries are more likely with free weights than with machines, and shoulder, back and knee injuries are among the most common issues related to weight training. If you have pain from lifting weights, don’t assume it will go away–get it checked out so you don’t cause further injury.
At Countryside Orthopaedics, we have decades of experience in treating sports-related injuries of all kinds. We want our patients to be fit and we encourage strength training as a way to build strong muscles and bones to keep patients healthy. But if something doesn’t feel right, it’s not necessarily going to go away on its own. We can address the problem and help with strategies to avoid re-injury so you can achieve your fitness goals pain-free.