More and more people are incorporating strength training into their exercise routines. Some of the benefits include increasing bone density (thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis), helping manage or lose weight by increasing metabolism, contributing to better balance and body mechanics, reducing the signs and symptoms of chronic conditions and even sharpening your mental acuity. If you have been meaning to give weight training a try, or have taken a break and would like to get back into a routine, here are some tips to make sure you are training safely:
Before you hit the gym, you’ll want to make sure you are cleared for exercise by the medical personnel you frequent. If you visit a cardiologist, you’ll want to make sure to get approved for weight training, just as you should check in with your OB-GYN for exercise clearance if you recently gave birth. A physical therapist can help you develop a plan to return to the gym after an injury. After your join a gym, you’ll also want to have the staff walk you through the use of the equipment to make sure you are using each machine or tool correctly.
Depending on what you want to get out of weight training, your regimen may differ. Each person’s workout plan will be different. You may want to build muscle mass, in which case you may opt for a higher resistance load and a relatively low number of repetitions (more commonly known as reps) for each set of exercise. Building muscle endurance as opposed to mass works best with relatively lower resistance loads, but higher repetitions during each activity. Many facilities will set up a weight program for you for a nominal fee if you prefer to weight train without a personal trainer. Another option is to pay for a series of training sessions where your work outs may be designed to more specifically achieve a particular goal.
Maintain Appropriate Posture and Form
Once you have a plan and have warmed up, it’s time to start training! To get the most out of your workout, and to avoid injury, make sure to maintain good posture throughout your exercises. Maintaining good posture will help ensure that the body is balanced and that nothing in the body is overtaxed. If you are positioned or moving poorly, you may be unconsciously adding strain to your joints and/or connective tissue – leading ultimately to pain and injury. Focus on keeping the muscles in your upper back and core engaged and keeping your chin and chest up in a neutral posture while you are lifting.
Maintain Good Control
Weight training is best for your body when you keep a smooth and controlled form. Although some advanced lifting maneuvers involve quick transitions, in general slower, purposeful movements can insure that your body does the work properly, rather than relying on momentum to accomplish a task. While you are working on your form and control, don’t forget to breathe! A good way to pattern your breath is to exhale slowly as you lift and then inhale as you put the weights back down.
Even Olympic weightlifters don’t weight train every day. If you are training at heavy resistance, you may need to wait for up to 48 hours before working out the same muscle group. For instance, if you work out your upper body one day, you might then plan to work out your lower body the next day. If you have a lighter workout, your rest period between workouts may not need to be as long. Keep in mind that cardiovascular exercise is a good complement to weight training for optimal body health, and that aerobic exercise can be done daily.
Would you like more help determining how to get into the gym? Just give us a call at (512) 339-1500 and we’ll make designing a plan for you part of your therapy experience!