Weight Training Basics
Get stronger and stay injury-free
Brad Gillingham is an experienced weightlifter. In fact, he's an
International Power Lifting Federation world champion. His best lifts in
competition have been 832 pounds in the squat, 611 pounds in the bench press,
and 843 pounds in the deadlift.
But even a champion like Gillingham has to cope with injuries due to
carelessness in the gym or slacking off on warm-ups. Last winter, for instance,
he developed a strain in his lower back.
"One of the guys in the gym didn't put the weights away properly,"
he recalls. "As I came down from my lift I hit the loose weight and jarred
Earlier, he developed a similar injury because he was in a hurry. "I've
learned from my own mistakes," he says. "When you're running late, it's
real easy to cut your warm-up time, and I've developed injuries when I didn't
warm up properly."
Weight-Training Injuries on the Rise
The same principles apply just as much to everyday athletes who work out in
the local gym or at home, says Chester S. Jones, PhD, associate professor of
health sciences at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. In a review of
data from U.S. emergency rooms, he found injuries from weight-training
activities and equipment have increased 35% over a 20-year period. The hand was
injured most often, followed by the upper trunk, head, lower trunk, and
"A lot of these injuries are due to carelessness and lack of common
sense," says Jones. "Many people are setting up exercise equipment in
their homes, so they have to take responsibility for it."
His advice: Work out at a gym and get instructions on how to use the
equipment from someone who's properly qualified. If you do decide to work out
at home, take precautions: Wear gloves and shoes, he says. "It's amazing
how many toe injuries we saw."
Jones and his co-authors learned children under 4 were three times more
likely to be injured in the home than children 15 or older. "That means
their parents have home gyms and children are exposed to their equipment. At a
gym, staffers take responsibility for patrons' safety. When you have exercise
equipment in your home, then you have to make sure your children can't get
access to it."
Weight training is basically safe, Jones emphasizes, especially compared
with other sports activities. "Previous research has indicated weight
training can be beneficial in preventing osteoporosis, and it helps develop
muscular strength and general health. When done correctly, following
appropriate safety guidelines, weight training is a great activity."
Start Slow and Steady
Stick With the Basics: Proper Nutrition, Rest, Warm-up
The most important principles to prevent injury, Gillingham says, are proper
nutrition, proper warm-up, and enough rest between workouts. "Whatever your
personal goals are, you need a training plan so you have an idea what you're
going to do when you go into the gym."