Training Smart – 7 Tips for Safer Weight Training
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a huge advocate of women transforming themselves into lean, strong, sexy females. Skinny is not beautiful and weak is not sexy. I spend a great deal of my time educating women about female bodybuilding and showing them that women can get incredible results in an incredibly short time through weight training, while still looking feminine and beautiful.
However, I want women to train safely and smartly, doing everything they can to realize their transformation goals while avoiding injuries. So in this post, I want to share with you some tips and guidelines that will help you to reach your full potential and get amazing results while training as safely as possible. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself or to cut corners when you’re focused on a goal and gaining confidence in your training abilities, but don’t do it. An injury can sideline you for days, weeks and even much longer and then your goals will be even further away.
If you’ll keep these things in mind while you’re training, you can hit those goals and do it without getting hurt or being overly sore. So here are some guidelines for weight training safely, in no particular order.
1. Always start with a lower weight.
Maybe you’ve been carting a twenty-pound baby and ten-pound diaper bag around, so you feel like you’ve got pretty strong arms. Maybe you do physically demanding work. Or maybe you’re coming back from a few years’ hiatus and remember that you were curling forty pounds when you took your break. Nevertheless, you need to start with a lower weight than you think you can handle.
For one thing, it’s a lot easier to add weight than it is to recover from too much weight. If you get through three sets of dumbbell curls without fatiguing the muscle, then just add five pounds or so next time around. In fact, I always suggest that women take their planned routine and do it all the way through (using about 5-10 pounds less than they think they could) before they decide on the loads they should use.
That means doing all three sets of each exercise, by the way, not just a quick one-set run-through of each move. This is a great way to pinpoint exactly the weight you need for each movement in order to full fatigue the muscle and get fast, beautiful results. Alternatively, you could just throw on whatever weight some book, magazine or gym regular told you to use and injure a joint or tendon on your first day.
2. Dress Appropriately
The days of women dressing more like they were going to a club than to work out are pretty much behind us, but I often see women coming to the gym in clothing that is chosen more for looks than for comfort and safety. We all want to feel confident and attractive while we’re working out, especially if we’re in public, but our workout gear should be appropriate to what we’re doing.
Stay away from clothing that is too baggy or large, as it can get in the way of proper form or even get caught up in the dumbbells or other equipment. At the same time, if your clothing is very tight, such as a sports bra and bike shorts, make sure the fabric is breathable to that you don’t get overheated.
Make sure that you wear shoes that give you some traction and give your feet a solid purchase on the floor. When you’re moving weights, especially very heavy weights, the last thing you need is to be unstable on your feet. You also want supportive shoes that cushion your knees and back as you perform any compound or cardio movements. This is the one item you don’t want to be cheap with.
The best advice I can give you about dressing for the gym is to keep it simple. Don’t wear anything that moves or jingles or can otherwise distract you from focusing on perfect form.
3. Be aware of what’s going on around you
Gyms are busy places and they’re full of people who are really focused on what they’re doing. Don’t bank on the person behind you or next to you being aware of you – you need to be aware of them. This is especially important if you’re in a free weights area, as you want to make sure you’re well outside the next person’s arm length.
Check the machine you’re about to use to make sure that the locking pins are firmly in place. Use collars on free weights to ensure that the weight plates are secured. Look behind you before you start doing those kickbacks. In other words, spend a few seconds making sure that you’re using the weights safely and with enough space to keep you from hurting yourself or someone else.
4. Don’t overtrain, don’t overtrain, don’t overtrain
When you first start working out or when you first get back to it after a long time away, it’s really easy to get caught up in going for the next goal. It’s easy to think
that what gets great results three days per week would get even better results if we did it five days per week.
However, you rebuild your muscles during recovery, not during your workout. If you don’t give your muscles adequate rest between workouts, you not only won’t get the results you want, you may even undo your hard work. A muscle needs forty-eight hours between workouts, so either do a full-body routine every other day or split your routines between muscle groups, doing lower body one day and upper body the next.
5. Get plenty of rest
On a similar note, you need to make sure that you get plenty of quality rest each day. Muscle recovery happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, protein synthesis is taking place, growth hormone is being released and your body repairs the tiny tears your workout created in your muscles that day. Those repairs are the building blocks of your new lean, sexy body.
You need to get at least eight hours of sleep per night to allow this process to take place and also for overall good health and weight control. If that means going to bed before your favorite show comes on, then record it so you can get proper rest.
6. Eat for recovery
Yes, you need protein to fuel muscle recovery, but protein is just one part of your muscles nutritional needs. You also need carbs to replenish energy stores and prevent muscle catabolism. You need a wide array of antioxidants to reduce inflammation and promote muscle healing, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and selenium.
Focus on eating lean proteins, healthy fats and fresh vegetables and fruits. By doing this, you should get plenty of the micronutrients you need to fuel your transformation and give you the energy to power through your workouts.
You also need to be sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Dehydration starts long before you feel even a little thirsty, so make it a habit to drink before your body tells you to. You need a minimum of 64fl ounces per day; more if you’re in a very hot or very cold climate, are working out outdoors or are under a great deal of stress. If you start and end your day with one serving, drink one before and after each workout and one with each meal or snack, you should be well-hydrated.
7. Listen to your body
This last tip is probably the most important one of all; listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling extremely sore and fatigued, you may be overtraining. Take a few days or a week off or at least cut back on the intensity of your workouts.
If you’re feeling actual pain, you need to stop what you’re doing. Muscle soreness happens after your workout, not during. If something hurts, you need to stop. You may be using too much weight or working with improper form that is stressing joints or tendons. If rest, warm compresses or icepacks don’t relieve the pain, then see your doctor before you work that body part again. You can almost always work around a minor injury, but don’t try to work through it.
Weight training is the single most effective tool for recreating your body. But like any tool, it needs to be used properly. Don’t be tempted to cut corners or rush through things. A really good muscle-building program will get you the results you’re looking for,