So how is strength training conducted safely and effectively? Well, the good news is it is actually a very simple thing to do. The problem is it is not easy and not an overnight solution.
Life would be great sometimes if you could just execute your tasks like a computer program. You could feel and experience all of the fun and exciting moments of your life. But then you can automate all of the boring tasks in the background.
Your safety in the weight room may not be the most exciting thing on your workout goals, but nevertheless it is still very important.
Safety requires a set of habits that you are to practice and ingrain into your regular workout practice. In this brief article, I have listed 8 practical, and realistic, habits that you can start implementing TODAY into your workout routines that will keep you getting amazing results and keep you safe in the process.
Without further adieu, let’s dive in.
Strength Training Safety Tips & Tricks
The boring tasks in life might be a real drag to do, but they are absolutely necessary. When you watch a movie about an athlete training for the world stage in some kind of sport, you will often see a big 5-10 minute training montage of a year’s worth of workouts (think Rocky 4).
Then our protagonist walks into the competition, does battle and emerges victorious. We have all seen this story. But the question is: “Does our protagonist win on the stage in the end of the film, or was it really during that 5-10 minute training montage?”
The answer is simple, it was during the training montage. The training montage is put into a montage with music because in real life the training and daily grind are boring as hell. But it is those boring tasks that actually take you to victory.
So how do you automate these boring tasks? You make them a daily habit.
The following 8 tips and tricks are things you should work into your daily habit if you want to stay safe during your workouts.
This should be a no brainer. If you lack the confidence to get under a heavy weight, or are afraid of something bad happening, then you should get a spotter. Hands down.
Yet so many of us don’t. Why?
Most of the people who don’t get spotters are solo lifters who workout by themselves and are too proud to ask for a spot. Or they could also be the shy/timid amateur lifter who is too afraid to ask a stranger for a spot.
There is no excuse to not have a spotter. No ego is worth getting hurt over and being shy is no excuse not to ask for help.
If you need help, ASK! Simple as that.
On the other hand, if you are a solo lifter who works out in a private facility with nobody around, then you should use a power rack or special safety equipment.
If that private facility does not have that specialty equipment, then find another gym to train in.
Form Over Weight
We have all seen that guy who loads WAYYYY too much weight onto the bar and tries to muscle up the weight with bad form.
He is only a fraction of a second away for a serious injury, and possibly death, yet he still keeps throwing more iron onto the bar.
Why? Because he is insecure and his ego needs an artificial boost to feel good about himself. I say “he” because this is mostly a guy problem. I have never seen women trying to out bench press each other like men do.
Lifting huge weights is not the most important thing you should be training for. Lifting huge weights with GOOD FORM, on the other hand, is something to aim for.
No matter how much you may want to inflate your ego, you never want to sacrifice your form for weight. It usually doesn’t end up going to well for you. Sooner or later you will get injured and you won’t look so impressive to your fellow gym goers.
Do yourself a favor, lower the weight to a reasonable level and focus on your form.
We have all heard the story of the ancient greek lifter Milo who carried a baby bull on his back every day. But as the days went on, the bull grew bigger and bigger, and so did Milo.
This story illustrated the example of progressive overload. Milo started lifting a lighter weight (the baby bull) and over time lifter a bigger weight (the adult bull) and he grew bigger and stronger.
Typically this works better in weekly increments as the weight gets heavier. 5-10 lbs for lower body exercises and 2.5-5 lbs for upper body exercises. (2.5-5 lbs lower body/1.25-2.5 lbs upper body for females).
In this way, you are following in Milo’s footsteps and becoming bigger and stronger in the process.
Learn How To Breathe Properly
Breathing is very important. When you lift heavy weights, you have to breathe into your belly to create a strong brace of support for your spine. This is called hydraulic amplification, you can read more about it in my squat article.
Most of you are probably not breathing correctly to begin with, you are probably breathing into your chest. Chest breathing fails to properly activate the core musculature and instead activates all the fight or flight muscles.
These muscles do not care about proper form, or joint integrity. Instead, they are concerned with survival. So in this case anything goes, as long as the weight is moving.
Needless to say, many injuries are the result of improper breathing. Be sure to also read my article Breathing For Stronger Abs to learn more.
Set Your Goals
There is an old saying, “failure to prepare is preparing to fail”. You need to have a list of goals to give yourself some direction, otherwise, any road will take you there.
Right away you should make both progress and safety a major part of your strength training goals.
Don’t just say it either, write it down.
Write down on a piece of paper “I AM GOING TO LIFT AS MUCH WEIGHT AS I POSSIBLY CAN WHILE STAYING SAFE.”
This will start to engrave this type of thinking into your mind. Plus it will make all of the other tips easier to accomplish because safety will be on your mind.
Form A Routine
Do you know how long it takes to make a habit? It takes about 66 days. Most of the changes take place over the first 2-3 weeks, but to really cement it into your psyche, it takes 66 days.
What is the best way to build a new habit, by forming a routine.
You can form daily routines, weekly routines, monthly routines and even yearly routines. Since habits are both short term and long term orientated, you will need a combination of routine strategies to really cement your new habit.
But don’t go crazy. Start with only one new habit at a time, then work on adding new ones gradually over time. Then before you know it, all of your strength training safety precautions will be automated for you.
Stay The Course
Ok so you have goals and you have a routine, but how do you keep the momentum going for you? How do you keep practicing safety every day? By staying the course.
It sounds so simple to even bother mentioning, but most people give up too quickly before they actually see any results. So they end up sabotaging themselves.
Once you decide to accomplish a certain task, commit to it. Don’t just practice it whenever you feel like it. Keep doing it everyday.
Learn When To Take A Break
Finally, learn when to back off and take a break. You can only push yourself so much for a certain period of time before you will need a break. Even practicing safety will need a break.
Athletes call it overtraining, entrepreneurs call it burnout, most of us will call it boredom because that’s what it really is.
There was an experiment done in the former Soviet Union in Bulgaria among their weightlifting team, where lifters were forced to complete both brutal and boring workout routines consisting of nearly maximal weights every single day for several weeks. Most of the athletes, not surprisingly, became overtrained.
But the truly amazing thing came from the data collected from the experiment.
All of the athletes could physiologically handle the weights without a problem. But psychologically and emotionally, they burnt out. This concludes that the brain and nervous system need a break from the “same old routine” every once in a while.
So how do you do this if it takes 66 days to make a habit? By adding just a touch of variety to your technique.
Say you are practicing progressive overload by adding 5 lbs for 5 sets of 5 reps. This will eventually get boring and you will need some variety to keep your body adapting. So instead, add 10 lbs to the bar and cut the reps down to 3 repetitions for each set. This will give your mind a break from the extra volume. It sounds crazy but it works.
By practicing these 8 tips and tricks mentioned above, you will stay safe while you are training and will still get amazing results. All it takes is a first step. So pick one of the 8 tips and tricks above and start to add it into your daily life. If I could make a suggestion though, start with setting goals first, then form a routine. These two will help you cement the other tips into a formidable plan of action. There is no time like the present, so get started and stay safe!
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