Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Weightlifting the Smart Way
by Jamie Osmak
You go to the gym and lift weights because you want results, and pushing yourself can be a good thing. Seeing the progress in your workout and the changes in your body are part of what keep you motivated to get stronger and stay active and healthy. However, nothing slows your fitness regime down like an injury. Before increasing the intensity of your exercises, it’s critical to ensure that you have the mobility, stability, and strength to perform them correctly, both for getting the most out of your workout and for avoiding problems. Here are a couple quick and easy ways to see if your body is ready to tackle new challenges at the gym:
Before you do an overhead press, make sure that you have enough shoulder flexion to get into the correct position. Start by having your head, back and tail against the wall. Lift your arms straight out in front of you and then slowly raise them to the wall. While doing this, notice if you need to extend your lower back, bend your elbows, or raise your shoulders with the motion. If one or all of these things happen, it may be a smart idea to begin with mobility and stability exercises for the shoulder to get in the correct position!
Before you squat 300 lbs., (a mark of achievement for many lifters) here are a few more things to think about: Do you have enough mobility and stability to get down into the correct position? Stand in front of a mirror so that you can watch your body’s form as you perform this test. Place your feet shoulder width apart. Begin by slowly squatting down to the position you’ll be in when you squat the 300 lbs. Notice the alignment of your hip, knee, and foot. Is your knee caving in towards the midline? Are you shifting over one leg versus the other? Do you feel like you are tucking your hips under or locking your back into an extended position? If you notice that these things happen without a weight, then it’s not time to lift with a weight. Start with core strength and hip stability/mobility exercises.
After you’ve done the prep work, reassess and see if you can get into the correct position. If everything looks and feels good, grab a weight and have fun!