You consider yourself to be an active individual. You’re definitely not a gym rat, but you do your best to squeeze in as much outdoor and indoor activities as your busy schedule allows you to. For you, going to the gym has mainly been about using the treadmill. But you want to change that. Instead of just running in place like a hamster on a wheel, you want to get to lift some real iron and grow those muscles of yours like a pro.
However, before you start talking in a German accent, there is a couple of essential things you should be aware of in order to avoid getting injured before you even started. While weight lifting is probably the most effective method to achieve that chiseled figure everyone strives for, getting hurt is easy if you’re not sure what you are doing. Here’s some advice on how to train without pain.
NEVER SKIP WARMING UP FIRST
Lifting weights will not only make your muscles bigger but will also strengthen your joints and keep them healthy. However, once you put your gym clothes on, the first thing you want to do is adequately warm up. Having a good warm-up routine is essential if you want to avoid getting injured. You want your warm-up routine to be dynamic, opposite to your cool-down routine, where you want to utilize static-stretching exercises.
The reason why you want to do it in this order is that dynamic exercises are better suited for preparing your body and will assure that your muscles are warm and ready to lift those huge weights. Also, they assure that your joints are lubricated and well prepared to offer support to the muscles. Stretching at the beginning of your workout can hinder overall performance, but can also be beneficial if performed after you are done with lifting weights.
START WITH LIGHTER WEIGHTS
You’ll probably see a lot of big guys hoarding all the weight plates they can find and putting them on a single barbell until it bends. Then they would proceed to try and lift it while yelling out the name of their mother-in-law. Judging by the size of their muscles, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that they are doing something right, however, in this case, bigger is not always better. If you’re just beginning to exercise with weights, go light instead of heavy. While you won’t promote as much muscle growth as you would with higher weight loads, starting out lighter and gradually progressing towards heavier weights will help you develop muscle memory and allow you to properly execute the exercise. Do more reps than you would normally and you might even get a little bit of muscle endurance out of it. That being said, once you get the movement down, you’ll want to increase your weight load if building bigger muscles is your goal.
ALWAYS USE PROPER FORM
Maintaining good form while doing weight exercises is probably the most important factor in avoiding injuries. If you cannot properly execute an exercise with a certain weight load, lower it and then try again. Bad form combined with weights that are too heavy is just asking for trouble.
Also, if you are not sure what is the correct way to execute an exercise, don’t be afraid to ask someone more experienced than you. Most gyms have personal trainers among their staff, so you can always hire them or you can just find someone that looks like he knows what he’s doing, and ask him politely to help you out.
Another great way to distinguish bad form from good is to watch a lot of weightlifting videos. Education yourself on the topic will get you more excited about going to the gym and might motivate you to push yourself above your limits.
KEEP YOURSELF HYDRATED AND MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DIET
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you can’t even imagine how many people exercise while being dehydrated. Get a water bottle and don’t let it leave your sight. Keeping yourself hydrated will ensure maximum performance without compromising your body. Make sure your diet consists of all the nutrients your body is craving for. We all know that food is like fuel, but not all fuel is created equal. Your energy-starved body will require food that is rich in protein and fiber but contains less saturated fats and calories.
STRETCH YOUR WAY TO AN INJURY-FREE LIFE
Last but not least, make sure to give your muscle a nice stretch at the end of the workout. This will relax your muscles and maximize your flexibility. Also, it will prevent painful cramps that will keep you awake during nights.
Acquiring a lean physique is only worth it if you can do it injury-free. A little bit of pain is always going to be present, besides, the cliche, “No pain, no gain” exists for a good reason. That being said, if you experience a sharp and sudden pain, stop doing the exercise immediately. If the pain persists even after resting for a few minutes, call it a day and consult a specialist.