Five Safety Precautions for Lifting Weights

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Lifting weights offers numerous benefits for your general health in terms of stronger bones, bigger muscles and more. Unfortunately, all it takes is one injury to sideline you for weeks if not months. Before working out at home or hitting your local gym, run through a mental checklist of safety precautions to ensure you're practicing weight-lifting strategies that pose minimal risk of injury.

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Put on the right gym gear, starting with closed-toe shoes that protect your feet in case you drop any of your weights. Exercise gloves are optional, but they protect your hands from callouses and enhance your grip on the weights for additional safety.

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Warm up your entire body with a brisk walk or slow jog for 10 to 15 minutes. The American Council on Exercise reports that warming up reduces the risk of injury by increasing your body's temperature, improving joint lubrication and boosting blood flow so your muscles can work better.

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Start lifting with a low weight load, avoiding the temptation to try and outdo the person working out next to you. For the best results, choose a weight that you can lift for eight to 12 repetitions, or -- if you are elderly -- 10 to 15 repetitions. Trying to lift weights that are too heavy increases your risk of strains, sprains and similar injuries.

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Maintain a good posture. While every weight-lifting exercise requires different movements, all workouts should utilize a neutral, straight spine. Swaying your spine forward, backward or sideways, such as arching your back when doing a bench press, puts excessive pressure on your body and may lead to numerous problems.

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Ask a friend to serve as a spotter if you're doing an exercise that involves pressing a weight above your head or positioning a bar over your body. Examples of such exercises are shoulder presses and bench presses. A spotter is someone who stands next to you and is ready to catch the weight in case your muscles become fatigued.

Tips

If you're trying to choose what shorts or shirts to wear to the gym, pick clothing that is breathable and form-fitting. Clothes that are too loose may get caught on gym equipment and create a safety hazard.

Warnings

Always talk to a physician before starting a new exercise program.

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