Do you lift? Do you want to lift? Over the last few years, weightlifting has become popular, but unlike an average cardio routine, you’re far more likely to get hurt trying to lift weights if you don’t know what you’re doing. All fitness buffs, no matter how experienced, need to respect the weights.
If you want to improve your lifting routine, a few simple strategies can help. Here are three steps you should take to push your workout further without getting hurt.
Practice Your Lifts
All lifters wants to add weight to their lifts—it’s the ultimate measure of progress. But there’s often such a focus on how much you can lift that form and technique are ignored. This might not seem like a huge issue, but as you begin to lift heavier, you will be more susceptible to an injury.
So before you start going for PRs, practice your lifts often. Have a friend film your form and check it against the enormous resources on STACK.com and other websites. You could even get in touch with a strength coach, and there’s a good chance he or she will offer a few pointers.
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Groove your technique over and over again. Once you have it mastered, start to load up.
However, even experienced lifters with years of training under their belt can benefit by practicing from time to time. It’s OK to go back to the drawing board to make sure you’re not going to hurt yourself.
Learn Your Equipment
It’s not enough to understand how to pick up a barbell. If you’re going to lift weights, you need to understand the other pieces of equipment, including lifting supports, which tend to show up around this station. For example, do you need the lifting gloves you see everyone wearing? Absolutely not—gloves prevent you from strengthening your grip, and your grip is at the heart of your lifting routine.
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What about lifting belts? Unlike lifting gloves, which reduce your capacity to lift well, belts can help you increase your lifting capacity while maintaining your form and building muscle. This is because lifting belts actually work by supporting the abs, not the back, as many people believe.
If you’re going to use a lifting belt, you need to choose the right belt for the workout. If you’re doing Deadlifts, you may want a different kind of belt than if you’re doing Squats or doing functional lifting in a CrossFit class. Of course, you can also invest in a quality hybrid belt, but your mileage may vary compared to owning one specialized to your workout.
Know Your Limits
One of the worst things you can do as a weightlifter is lift too much weight, but how do you know when you’ve hit your limit? Many people assume that if they can lift a weight, then it’s fine. It might be hard, they say, but they just have to stick to it. In reality, though, that’s not how it works. You may be perfectly “able” to lift a certain number of pounds, but if you can’t complete the number of reps you intended or execute the movement correctly, you’re probably lifting too much. It’s time to reevaluate.
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If you want to get a better handle on how much is appropriate for you to lift, even as an experienced lifter, it might help to calculate your 1-rep max (1RM). By looking holistically at your workout, this calculation can actually prevent you from injuring yourself.
According to this measurement, the weight with which you can do 10 reps is equal to about 75% of your 1RM, and above that, you want to do 1 rep each of progressively higher weights. This protects your body from making a dramatic jump but allows you to still lift that maximum amount a single time.
New lifters can calculate their 1RM, but they should be careful. It’s a calculation meant for serious lifters, so treat it as a curiosity until you have more experience.
These may seem like simple things—Squats, basic equipment, some math—but when you look more closely, they are the components of a good workout. When you understand the tools of the trade, the equipment and your body, you can approach your next session with greater confidence.
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