Lifting weights safely

Muscle training and lifting weights can be great exercise, but you need to know what you're doing.

"Resistance training, when appropriately prescribed and supervised, has favorable effects on muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular function, metabolism, coronary risk factors, and psychosocial well being," said fitness expert, Dr. Len Kravitz in a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine.

In addition to checking with your doctor before getting started, here are some tips from Dr. Kravitz:

* Stretch immediately following an aerobic activity while muscles are still warm and pliable. This will increase flexibility and may prevent injury.

* Don't lift more than your muscles can handle. Gradual, progressive weight resistance is much more safe and effective.

* Warm up prior to lifting weights. Your muscles need time to adjust to the exercise.

* Don't exercise too intensely. Injuries occur when people do too much, too hard.

* Cool down. Take a few minutes to lower your heart rate after exercise, even resistance training. Walk in place or stretch.

* Don't jerk the weights when lifting. If you have to jerk the weight to lift it, strains and sprains can result.

* Alter your training. Switch back and forth between long, single sets and short, multiple sets of resistance training to best stimulate the muscles.

For more sports and fitness tips, visit the American College of Sports Medicine's Web site at www.ascm.org.

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