How to Lift Weights the Right Way
3 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Weight Training
You should learn proper form to lift weights in a strength-training program. The way some people lift weights, you’d think they were in labor or impersonating a mountain gorilla. Grunting, screaming, and rocking back and forth are not indications of proper weight-lifting technique.
When you’re lifting weights in a strength-training program, the following rules always apply:
* Always warm up. Before you lift a weight, do at least five minutes of aerobic exercise to get your muscles warm and pliable. If you’re going to do arm exercises and there aren’t any upper-body aerobic machines around (such as a Versa Climber, rower, or cross-country skier), you can even do a few minutes of arm circles.
* Good form is always more important than lifting a lot of weight. Don’t arch your back, strain your neck, or rock your body to generate momentum. Not only can these maneuvers cause injury, but they also make the exercises less effective.
* Increase your weight by the smallest possible increment. Jumping from a 5-pound weight to a 10-pounder doesn’t sound like a big leap, but think about it: You’re doubling the load on that muscle. If you’re using a 5-pound weight, move up to a 6-, 7-, or 8-pounder. If your health club or home gym doesn’t have interim weights, buy a pair of Plate Mates — nifty magnets that you stick on each end of a dumbbell or barbell.
* Remember to breathe. In general, exhale forcefully through your mouth as you lift the weight and inhale deeply through your nose as you lower it. Just don’t overdo it because overly forceful breathing can leave you feeling lightheaded. Although proper breathing is important for speeding oxygen to your muscles, don’t get hung up on the mechanics. Don’t hold your breath (unless you’re a world class power lifter, aiming to lift world-record amounts of weight). You can bring about sharp increases in your blood pressure, and...