|Watch Your Form
|Whether its 5-lb free weights or ‘big boy’ barbells,
lifting weights on a regular basis will leave you stronger, more toned,
and more efficient at burning calories. But when done without good form, weightlifting weighs in as a potentially harmful waste of time.
|"Many times you'll go to the gym and see people watching TV instead of
focussing on the weights they're lifting, or showing off by lifting weights
that are just too heavy. That's a sure-fire recipe for injury," says Toronto-based personal trainer and fitness consultant Jody Armstrong. "To
weight train properly you've got to flex your mind, not just your muscle.
That means forgetting about what's going on around you, making that
mind-body connection, and concentrating on every movement your muscles make
with those weights."
|Successful, efficient weight training like this means going slow
and with great control says Armstrong. "Let's say you're doing a basic
bicep curl," she explains. "You lift the weights up for two
seconds – exhaling upon exertion, pause for one second, then breathe in as
you slowly lower the weights over three seconds. It's the full range of
motion that you're focussing on, but that slow, controlled pace is the key
to feeling you're muscles work throughout the whole movement."
That bicep curl, much like every other weight training exercise performed
while standing, will also require good posture, soft knees, a relaxed
spine, contracted abs, and a proper tilt to the pelvis to protect the back
from injury. But if all that sounds like too much to coordinate, a spotter
or a mirror, says Armstrong, can help you monitor these other important
elements to your good form.
"A spotter feels the weight as you’re working with it and helps keep you
focussed. But if you don't have one, working out in front of a mirror let's
you see how you're lifting and visually keep your concentration," she
explains. "Either way you have to have at least one of these assists if you
really want to focus on form."
Healthy muscle exhaust, too, is another key ingredient to good
"Everyone is different as to how much weight to use and why they're using
it," says Armstrong. "For example, someone wanting to bulk up will use
heavier weights and do less repetitions. Someone concerned about toning up
will use lighter weight and do more repetitions. But at the end of a set of
12 reps, that 12th rep should be the absolute last one you can do while
keeping good form. Doing anything more than that with bad form won't be
As Armstrong says, "That no pain no gain approach to weight training just
doesn't make sense. The fact is if you lift too much weight with poor form
you'll put too much pressure on the joints and damage the muscles.
Overstressed muscles like that can take days to heal."
To avoid that, says Armstrong, "Know your fitness goals, get the right
program to help you meet these objectives, and weight train with the right
attitude as much as the right form."