By 1ST Lt. RODNEY HALL, Mississippi Army National Guard, Biloxi, Miss. January 31, 2012
One day after duty, a group of battle buddies and I went to the gym to get our daily "pump" on. We had been working out together for quite some time and were accustomed to each other's strengths and weaknesses. When it came to dumbbells, I excelled; in fact, I was the strongest in the group. However, I still wanted to improve my strength through other exercises and equipment.
After everyone finished, I decided to hang back to lift a little more weight. My intent was to increase my strength faster than my buddies. I decided to attack the dip machine with free weights. Initially, I mounted the machine with low weight to judge my capabilities. After two sets in, I realized I was able to do a lot more weight than I predicted. A few sets of light weights snowballed into me attempting to determine my absolute limit. Before I knew it, I was lifting too much weight. Suddenly, I felt a "POP!" and nearly fell onto the floor. At first, I thought I was just sore; however, I later realized I had injured a muscle in my chest.
My injury took months to heal. I was non-mission capable, unable to work out with my buddies and lost my weightlifting progress during my recovery. I strongly recommend everyone heed the following guidance when it comes to weight lifting … take it from a guy who learned the hard way!
When lifting weights, it is best to do it in a buddy team. I also learned you cannot push yourself past your limits safely. You should always use proper lifting techniques and make sure the equipment you're using is in good condition. Fortunately, I did not cause any chronic pain that put my future as a Soldier in jeopardy.
The Mayo Clinic's website, www.mayoclinic.com, has additional weightlifting tips that will help anyone get their workout on, safely!
When weight training, do:
•Lift an appropriate amount of weight. Start with a weight you can lift comfortably 12 to 15 times. For most people, a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build strength just as efficiently as can three sets of the same exercise. As you get stronger, gradually increase the amount of weight.
•Use proper form. Learn to do each exercise correctly. The better your form, the better your results -- and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. If you're unable to maintain good form, decrease the weight or the number of repetitions. Remember that proper form matters even when you pick up and replace your weights on the weight racks. If you're not sure whether you're doing a particular exercise correctly, ask a personal trainer or other fitness specialist for help.
•Breathe. You might be tempted to hold your breath while you're lifting weights. Don't. Holding your breath can lead to dangerous increases in blood pressure. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight.
•Seek balance. Work all of your major muscles -- abdominals, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Strengthen the opposing muscles in a balanced way, such as the front of the shoulder and the back of the shoulder.
•Rest. Avoid exercising the same muscles two days in a row. You might work all of your major muscle groups at a single session two or three times a week, or plan daily sessions for specific muscle groups. For example, on Monday, work your arms and shoulders; on Tuesday, work your legs and so on.
When weight training, don't:
•Skip your warm-up. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than warm muscles. Before you lift weights, warm up with five to 10 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic activity.
•Rush. Move the weight in an unhurried, controlled fashion. Taking it slow helps you isolate the muscles you want to work and keeps you from relying on momentum to lift the weight.
•Overdo it. For most people, completing one set of exercises to the point of fatigue is typically enough. Additional sets may only eat up your time and contribute to overload injury.
•Work through the pain. If an exercise causes pain, stop. Try it again in a few days or try it with less weight.
•Forget your shoes. Shoes with good traction can keep you from slipping while you're lifting weights.
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According to a release from Science Daily, www.sciencedaily.com, the popularity of weight training has grown over the past decade. A new study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital has found that the number of injuries from weight training has increased as well. The study found that more than 970,000 weight training-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments between 1990 and 2007, increasing nearly 50 percent during the 18-year study period.