You hear it all the time, lift heavy weights to see results and it’s true (kind of). You do need to challenge your muscles in order to create change, but lifting a weight that is too heavy for you may cause overuse injuries and muscular imbalances. I like to promote mindful weight training, which puts a pilates twist on standard exercises. Below are my favorite tips for creating a workout that is both effective and safe!
1. Think about what muscle you are working. I ask the same question to my clients all the time, “where are you feeling this”? Before you begin each exercise, I want you to think about what muscle group you are working. Then throughout the exercise ask yourself, am I feeling this in the appropriate muscle group? For example, if you feel a tricep kickback in your back or neck, your weight is too heavy. Grab a lighter a weight, you will feel the muscle working more and will still see results as long as you perform the exercise to fatigue.
2. Always think about proper form. You see this all the time at the gym, people swinging dumbbells, arching their backs and doing anything just to lift a heavier weight. Using improper form WILL cause injuries! If you can’t perform an exercise in a slow and controlled manner, move to a lighter weight; jerking or swinging weights will put you at risk for injury. Just because you can lift a 20 pound weight over your head, doesn’t mean you should. Using a lighter weight will ensure proper muscle engagement, correct form and most importantly safety.
3. Engage your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles. The best way to ensure back and joint safety is abdominal and pelvic floor engagement throughout your workout. You will stay in proper form, be stronger and safe when your core is engaged. Before each exercise begins, feel your abdominals engage (pulling in and away from your shirt or scooping under) and lift up on your pelvic floor (perform a gentle kegel or feel like your stopping the flow of urine). Abdominal engagement is typically the last thing people think about while performing a bicep curl, but it is key to a safe and effective weight training workout (plus abdominal engagement will help you look great in a swimsuit)! 🙂
4. Relax your neck muscles. Neck tension effects most adults in America, so it’s important not to exacerbate the problem with improper form and weights that are too heavy. If you can’t perform an exercise without tensing in your neck and shoulders, use a lighter weight!
Shrugging your shoulders during your workout will reinforce neck tension and put your shoulder girdle at risk for injury. Look at yourself in the mirror, as you lift weights, your shoulders should be down and away from your ears and wide across the collar bone. By trying this tip, you will tone the correct muscle group and help alleviate neck and shoulder pain.