Using Free Weights Safely To Avoid Injury

It is no wonder why free weights in the gym are the most preferred type of training encouraged by trainers and strength and conditioning specialists due to the wide array of benefits that you can get such as balance, increased strength and muscle mass. However, with the use of these types of exercises, it is important to stay safe at all times. This is due to the high incidence of injuries and mistakes brought about by these beneficial exercises. Of course, avoidance of sports and exercise related injury is a must if you want to stay in shape and perform better in your game, at work on in every activity you do every day.

In addition to that, these types of free moving exercises can also be hard to perform due to the demand it seeks from the muscles as well as the joints. Performing these exercises require practice and close supervision of a trainer in order to avoid injuries. There are different basic actions that you can take to stay injury free while working out such as donning the appropriate workout equipments, practice and following the golden rules and tips provided below.

Here are the best steps that you can take in order to avoid injuries and safely perform free acting exercises in your workout.

  • Before performing any exercise, it is necessary to perform warm up sets, as a golden rule of fitness and strengthening. There are different ways to warming up before any gym session. The first one would be to perform stretching exercises that involve the muscles you are about to train. For example, if you are about to blast your legs for the day, performing stretching exercises for the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes are essential as they prepare the muscles for full range of motion before undergoing heavy loads of weight training.
  • Another type of warm up is to perform the exercises such as the bench press with warm up sets of three to five before loading up with weights before your main sets. For example, perform a set of your bench press for approximately 12 to 15 reps using light to moderate weights. You can add the weights up as you move to the heavier sets. Performing the warm up sets prepares the muscles and the joints for the heavier sets of your workout.
  • When performing the free moving exercise such as the squat, it is essential to place safety bars at the sides of the squat rack. Doing this allows you to just place the heavy bar right in to the safety bar or holders in some gyms, just when you feel you can’t perform another rep. since the squat is one of the beneficial yet hardest to perform exercise in the fitness world, it is also vital to seek for the help of a trainer to assess you with your form and execution to avoid injuries.
  • As a part of the above tip, when having a hard time performing barbell squats or when a power rack or safety rack is absent in your gym, a great alternative is to perform dumbbell squats. Dumbbell squats are safer alternatives to the barbell squats. This is due to the fact that you can simply hold the weights at the sides and just release them when you feel like you are about to fail in performing another repetition.

Check out the video below on dumbbell squats:

 

  • Although the resistance and the balancing may be reduced when performing heavy exercises for the bench press, it is also safe once in a while to use smith machines. Smith machines were created for your safety as you can simply clamp the bar when you are about to fail. Heavy sets of squats and the barbell bench press become safer with the help of the smith machine.

Take a look out the video we found below on the smith machine bench press:

 

  • It is also safe for a beginner or any hard core fitness enthusiast to always use the safety locks for barbells and dumbbells. The locks prevent the plates from falling off the bar or from the dumbbells. Secure the locks properly to avoid injury to the face or to the head.
  • Standing free moving exercises such as the squats, the barbell or dumbbell shoulder press requires balance, core stability and over-all total body strength. In order to safely perform these exercises, make sure that your feet are shoulder width apart or wider than shoulder width in stance. The most common mistake that people make especially beginners is that they perform the above mentioned exercises with narrow width feet, causing them to sway as they perform their reps. This can lead to injury to the spine and even to the shoulders. Make sure that when doing these exercises for the first time, use light to moderate weights.
  • Performing the dumbbell flyes can be a great workout for your chests. This exercise targets the inner chests which when become well defined, creates the aesthetic separation between the chests. However, performed improperly, this exercise can become injurious to your shoulders. When doing the exercise, it is important to do the fly exercise as if you are hugging a tree. As you move the weights up, control the weights with your chests and as it moves down, control the weights by squeezing your shoulder blades together. This allows proper movement of the weights thereby promoting safety throughout the move.

Check out the video below on dumbbell flys:

 

  • The pull up is definitely the best back builder in all of free moving exercises for the upper body especially the back. However, this exercise is also avoided and dreaded by most gym rats due to its difficulty. When performing this exercise, it is crucial to pull your legs back to your butt to maintain balance throughout the move. Pull ups can also be performed with the assistance of your training partner, by assisting you during the positive or the up phase of the pull up with a controlled negative or slow lowering phase. This ensures safe and strict movement of the said exercise.
  • Another essential back exercise to perform is the barbell or dumbbell row. The rowing exercise is one of the most essential training exercises for the whole back. Keeping your back naturally arched, with your torso almost parallel to the floor while maintaining the movement of the arms only, targets strictly the back. The common mistake made with this exercise is by hunching the back when doing the exercise of using the momentum and the feet as you move the weights. These mistakes cause strain and lesser stress to the back muscles. Using momentum puts more work to the biceps which compromises the strict movement to the back. It is crucial to use light to moderate weights when practicing this exercise.

Take a look at the video below on the dumbbell row:

 

  • When in the gym, mirrors are always your best friends when it comes to safety and proper form. When a training partner is not around, it would be helpful when performing exercises to stand in front of a mirror to assess your form. Exercising in front of the mirror is necessary for the shoulder presses, the dumbbell or barbell curls, all triceps exercises and the squats. Mirror at your sides come in handy when doing the lunges, the squats and the dead lift as well. These free moving exercises are the most essential for over all body development.
  • The use of free weight exercises also requires that you use light to moderate weight. Often times, the major cause of injury in the gym is over estimation of strength in exercises such as the bench press and the squats. If you are planning to go heavy, make sure that a training partner is present to spot you. Performing your exercises on a smith machine is also safe.
  • In order to avoid slips when doing barbell and dumbbell exercises and when doing the pull ups, it would also be helpful to wear gloves which helps maintain your grip as your sweat it out. Guys with sweaty hands often slip their grips causing the handles to slide and cause injury.  So using a pair of gloves would come in handy whenever you come across this dilemma often.
  • Performing free moving exercises require the most appropriate outfits. These outfits must be cool and comfortable that allows you to move freely. Tight wearing shirts often interacts with proper breathing which compromises proper form and gains with the exercise.
  • When unsure of how to use certain equipment, it is essential to ask for the help of a trainer or read properly instructions to avoid injury.

Conclusion

The benefits of free weights exercises are definitely rewarding provided you perform them with proper form and execution. Of course, safety is also important in order to avoid injuries which can compromise health and muscle gains. These essential tips are the simplest yet the best tips that you must always keep in mind when in the gym. After all, everybody wants to be safe when trying to build a strong and lean physique.

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About the Author”] Jordann Campose is a fitness enthusiast and instructor. He currently works as a health care professional with part time work as a fitness instructor and weight loss teacher for people seeking results that will help boost their confidence and strengthen their whole being. [/stextbox]

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  1. Roy Mahone March 23, 2012

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