Lifting weights can benefit anyone. Whether young or old, in or out of shape, male or female, a strength training program can help you reach your physical fitness goals. However, inexperienced or older athletes must use care; incorrect techniques can cause serious injury, which is common, and can bring your weightlifting career to an abrupt halt. An injury can end you ability to lift for extended time periods; or worse, some injuries will permanently end your training.
Experienced weight lifters know that form and technique is critical to success. Lift with diligent care and you can enjoy the health benefits of weight training well into your 60s, 70s and beyond. Follow these tips to avoid injury while training with weights:
Listen To Your Body
Never ignore pain; this is your body’s way of providing you with feedback. If you feel a sharp or dull pain, correction is needed: Either reduce the weight, or stop the exercise completely. Try again in a few days, but get a doctor’s opinion if the pain persists.
When you lift correctly, your body responds in a predictable way – during and after a workout, a sensation known as a “pump” (hyperemia) is present in the trained muscles. It lasts only a short time, usually subsiding within an hour or two. This sensation is caused by blood flooding your muscles, bringing much needed oxygen and nutrients, and removing waste products.
Performing high repetitions will cause a “burn.” This can seem painful, but these sensations are distinctly different, and neither is what is meant by “pain.” The key is to understand which is which, and when to stop or lighten the weight.
The “burn” and “pump” sensations felt during and after a workout are healthy, and they provide good feedback as to how you’re training is progressing. They are indications of proper muscle-building mechanisms at work. Furthermore, muscles trained correctly will usually be sore for a day or two after training. These are all typical, even desirable sensations that you’ll feel after a good workout.
What is not normal is dull, persistent, or sharp pain. These are warning signs that must be heeded. Lighten the weight if you feel this type of pain, or stop the exercise entirely. If painful sensations persist the next time you lift, it indicates a problem that requires medical attention. Working through this type of pain is dangerous, and should never be done.
Hire A Personal Trainer
A coach is an invaluable asset; hire one with extensive training and experience. He or she will help you ascertain realistic goals, and reach them without chancing injury. After training for a period of time, you may wish to discontinue using a trainer, but a coach can be useful throughout your training. He or she will help ensure you are lifting correctly, and avoiding injury.
Stretching and Warm-Ups
Warming up prepares your muscles for vigorous exercise. A good warm-up consists of 5-10 minutes of mild cardiovascular exercise, which raises muscle temperature and increases flexibility. Another good practice is to go through your routine with little or no weight. Simply perform the exercises with a barbell or dumbbells with little or no weight. This helps you focus on form and coordination, and minimize risk of injury.
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Cool-down stretches are also important. This will reduce the amount of lactic acid in the taxed muscle group, thus reducing the amount of soreness felt days after a workout. Stretch the muscle groups you’ve trained and you should notice less tightness and soreness. (You may also notice your “pump” fades faster, but this does not inhibit a muscle’s growth or strength potential.)
Add Weight Slowly
As with any exercise regimen, it is important to begin slowly. This prevents strain and tearing of muscles and connective tissue. These injuries can be serious, avoid them at all cost. Tears will limit your ability to continue training.
Anyone who’s experienced torn a rotator cuff, or peck, can attest to the lengthy recovery. It can take months. Always start with minimal weight; you should be able to complete 12 – 15 repetitions without failure (the inability to complete a rep).
Good form (technique) gives you the ability to isolate and focus on the desired muscle groups. Furthermore, it prevents injuries. The goal is to isolate, and train specific muscles. Don’t use momentum to complete a repetition. Lifting slowing gives you a chance to feel the muscle work; hence it facilitates your effort to isolate specific muscles.
Some people hold their breath while pushing. This is incorrect, and can be problematic. The correct method is to exhale while pushing, inhale while bringing the bar back into position. Proper breathing not only facilitates oxygen circulation through muscle tissue, it also helps carry the carbon dioxide and lactic acid away from muscles.
A muscle group must be stressed appropriately, but also well-fed. In order to grow, or gain strength and stamina, your muscles need nutrients; thus, it’s imperative to eat well. Feed your body nutritious, whole foods.
Before working out, make sure you have the fuel necessary to produce results. Carbohydrates supply energy, while protein will enable you to build strength and mass. Eat well before, and within 30 minutes after a workout.
Muscle tissue strengthens and grows during rest periods. The older an athlete gets, the longer it takes to recover. As important as the process of lifting is, rest is also imperative. Those in their 20s and 30s can recover quicker. Four or five workouts a week may be just fine for them.
However, if you’re in your 40s, 50s, or older, limit the number of days you lift to 3 or 4. Overworking a muscle will produce neither growth, nor strength. The desired results are gained only if your muscles get enough rest after training. The result of overworking a muscle is often injury.
Safety means paying attention to your body and knowing its limits – it means heeding warnings your body sends via pain signals; it means lifting with correct form, and providing ample rest between workouts. By staying within the limits of your age and physical condition, you can safely weight train into your 50s, 60s, and beyond.
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