Free weights are a great way to do resistance training. It’ll keep you strong, toned and healthy. You’ll burn more calories with a well-sculpted body and perform your favorite activities better than you did before.
But a recent study that looked at injuries occurring at gyms showed about a 50% increase in the number of emergency room visits over an 18 year period. The most common cause? 65% dropped a free weight on a body part. I have to admit I laughed when I read that statistic; most people don’t know what they’re doing with free weights. Every day I cringe as I walk through the health club where I work and observe near catastrophes. Since more than four out of every five emergency room visits are men, guys here’s some tips…
Wear Gloves. Find a pair of lifting gloves that fit your hands properly; not too tight, not too loose. Wear them. The harder you work, the sweatier your hands become and the more likely you are to drop a weight. Gloves will keep your grip strong and you’ll be less likely to develop butter fingers. You can find gloves for as low as $15 up to the $30 range for super fancy ones. Just buy what fits best.
Don’t use weights you can’t control. True story: I was in a Vegas hotel watching a Dallas Cowboy football player use 65 lb. weights for bicep curls. He couldn’t control the weight, so he was leaning back and crunching his spine to get the range of motion. His trainer stood right next to him and listened to the player complain about how bad his back hurt. (I just rolled my eyes.) If you can’t lift with proper form, then you need to lower the weight or you’re just working the wrong muscles and opening yourself up to injury.
Train with a partner, especially on heavy exercises. One of the cool things about the weight training area is it’s collegial. If you need a spot, just ask someone and they’ll happily do it. Return the favor if someone asks you. This is especially important if you’re doing bench presses; the last thing you want is a bar crashing down on your chest, and yes, I’ve seen it happen; it’s not fun.
You’re in competition with yourself, not the gym stud. There’s probably guys around that can lift more than you, have better definition than you, and have a hotter girlfriend than you. Get over it. If your 15 pound bicep curls get you to failure after three sets of 10, you’re good, you’re training properly. Don’t pick up 20 pounders just cause the guy before you did.
Hire a pro. It’s easy to use free weights incorrectly, and much harder to use them properly. Hire a personal trainer for an occasional session. They’ll check your form and adjust your routine to keep you challenged. If you belong to a gym, they almost always offer free training sessions with your membership. I strongly urge you to use them.
If you have any other tips you’d like to share please do so below! Here’s an article about how to find the best fitness pro.