When you decide to start lifting weights, your first question is likely, “What workouts will get me the best results?” Or perhaps your concern revolves around how to use weight training to most effectively lose weight. However, these are not the most important questions.
Most people who lift weights do it wrong (yes, even some of the jacked ones). Everyone’s first question before starting to lift should be, “How do I do it properly?” Doing ineffective or incorrect workouts can easily lead to injury or simply a wasted hour at the gym. So before you hit the gym, read these 7 tips on how to lift weights properly.
1. Warm Up and Cool Down
A warm-up gets the oxygen flowing to your muscles. This oxygen flow is essential if you want to avoid straining your muscles and you want to get an effective workout. You can use stretching to warm up the muscles, or you can do a set of the workout you’re about to do with half the weight.
Use similar methods to cool down after the workout. Cooling down releases the tension in your muscles and helps you avoid injury. When you do a cool-down for the first time after weight training, you’ll find that the pain from the workout goes away sooner.
2. Find the Right Weight
If the weight you choose is too heavy, you’ll burn out too soon or hurt yourself. If the weight is too light, the workout will be ineffective. Shoot for a weight that will allow you to do 8-10 reps in a set and no more.
If it’s your first time doing a particular exercise, start with a weight that’s lighter than you think you can do. You can always increase the weight on subsequent reps, but if you burn yourself out or injure yourself with a weight that’s too heavy, you can’t keep going.
3. Keep your Back and Neck Straight
Your back is a strong series of muscles, but – just as when you’re lifting boxes – you should never use it to help you lift weights. People often try to brace themselves by arching or hunching their backs, but this will lead to injuries (which in extreme cases, never heal).
When you’re lifting or lowering weights, you should be conscious of your back. A small amount of bending or arching is sometimes necessary, but if you can’t complete the exercise without excessively curving your back, it’s a sign that you should be lifting a lower weight.
While focusing on the weights and your back, you may not even be conscious of what your neck is doing, but you should. Your neck should always be straight when you lift and lower weights. This is especially important when doing shoulder workouts and any other workouts that use muscles on or near the neck.
4. Use Correct Breathing
When pushing the weight away from your body, exhale; when pulling it in, inhale. For example, when doing bicep curls, exhale when you bring the weight up and inhale when you bring it down. When doing shoulder presses, exhale when you push the weight up and inhale when you bring it back down. When doing pull-downs for your triceps, exhale when you push the weight down and inhale when you bring it back up.
5. Make Sure you’re Doing a Complete Rep
Incomplete reps make for ineffective workouts. The most common example of this is with bicep curls. If you’re only bringing the weight halfway down, it’s not a complete rep. This only engages the muscle system halfway and means that you’re not really building strength. If this is the way you’ve been doing your reps, then once you starting bringing the weight all the way down and all the way up, you’ll likely find that you need to lower the weight you’re using.
Another example is on the bench press. If you’re not pushing your arms all the way out, then it’s not a complete rep, and the weight is probably too heavy.
And no matter what the exercise is, you should never rely on gravity. Slowly bringing the weight down is just as important in curls, presses, and other exercises as bringing it up.
6. Don’t “Kip”
You may have heard the word “kipping” and wondered what it meant. It simply means using momentum instead of entirely your own strength to complete an exercise. Swinging your arms instead of slowly lifting them is using momentum; if this is necessary for you to complete a workout, then the weights you’re using are too heavy.
To get an idea of how people use kipping to cheat a workout, watch someone doing chin-ups or hammer curls. If they use a large jerking motion at the beginning of the lift, that means that they’re using momentum to do half the work that their muscles should be doing.
7. Use a Spotter
One of the most common causes of injury at the gym is lifting without a spotter. A spotter is imperative when you’re doing bench presses because a dropped weight can lead to serious injuries or even death.
After reading these tips, head to Texas FITT to begin your weight training. They have a whole range of weights and machines in a clean and friendly environment. Still want advice on the best weight lifting methods? They also have professional trainers that will help you lift properly and meet your goals. Call them today to learn more.