Avoid These Gym Hazards to Work Out Safely

Make the most of your time in the gym and avoid injuries with these tips from STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

Injuries are part of the game. But accidents and injuries in the gym are especially frustrating for athletes and coaches—interrupting offseason and in-season conditioning programs and causing lost practice and game time.

Utilize the guidelines below for safely and productively exercising in the weight room, at home or outdoors—so you'll be in game shape year round.

Survey The Workout Area to Avoid Accidents. Jumping and multi-directional lunging movements, for example, requires adequate ceiling height and sufficient distance between machines, overhead bars, benches, power racks, exercise mats, and other equipment. Banging your head on an overhead bar or hitting your knee against a bench during certain exercises can spell disaster.

RELATED: 10 Things You Should Never Do in the Gym

Also, watch for wet surfaces on the gym floor (e.g., a spilled water bottle, perspiration) so you don't slip.

Training outdoors? Lunging or sprinting awkwardly on slick turf, grass or track may cause a knee or ankle sprain or a pulled groin.

Likewise, observe potential tripping hazards on the gym floor such as dumbbells, barbells or med balls.

Be Particularly Cautious In Overcrowded Gyms. A crowded weight room equates to minimal training space and lack of available equipment. To avert accidents, plan exercise choices accordingly and be careful of others exercising nearby.

RELATED: Why You Should be Courteous to Others in the Gym

Use Safe Equipment. Be wary of frayed exercise bands and cable wires, under- or over-inflated Swiss balls, or loose collars on dumbbells or barbells, for example.

Be Careful When Loading and Removing Plates. Nonchalantly loading plates on a barbell or removing them can result in a regrettable accident such as dropping it on your foot or ankle.

Practice Good Lifting Technique. Sacrificing proper form for momentum to lift a heavy weight can land you on the sidelines with a strained shoulder or lower back, or, even worse, a torn muscle. Slower, controlled lifts are generally safer.

Always Warm Up! Performing a dynamic warm-up prepares your muscles and joints for the ensuing intense exercise movements and may reduce the risk of sprains and strains. Another optional warm-up: Do a few sets of an exercise with just a bar (without plates) or a light dumbbell before using heavier resistance in successive sets.

RELATED: 10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

Hydrate Before, During and After Workouts. Being even slightly dehydrated saps energy and diminishes mental and physical capacity, making you more prone to injuring yourself.

Be Well-Rested and Well-Fueled Before Workouts. Fatigue coupled with skipping meals impacts reaction time, alertness, and performance, raising the risk of exercise- and/or sports-related injuries. Regularly getting at least 8-9 hours of sleep, having a small pre-workout meal comprising carbohydrates and protein, and allowing time for digestion, promotes effective training sessions.

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