Body Building Resources

Body Building and Safety: Eight Things
You Should Know
By Jean Lam

It might be hard to imagine, but body builders occasionally die in gym-related accidents. More go to the hospital with serious injuries brought on by unsafe workout practices. An injury can set you back months or even years in reaching your body building goals. Luckily, body building injuries are easy to prevent. Here are eight things you need to know about body building safety.

Warming up is crucial. If you get to the gym and jump right into your workout, you risk straining and tearing your muscles. Warm up with five or ten minutes of light cardio-this will get your blood flowing and raise your body temperature. Don't forget to stretch-if you don't, your muscles will shorten over time, making them more vulnerable to tears and overextension. Then do 15 to 20 reps of each exercise on a light weight before using your maximum weight-just to get your body used to doing the exercise correctly. If you do each exercise under light weight first, you're much more likely to have good form when you do it under heavier weight.

Your form should be perfect. Bad form is one of the most common causes of injury at the gym. If you're not using the correct form, you risk tearing muscles, popping joints, and other physical disasters. Be absolutely sure you know what it feels like to do each exercise using perfect form before attempting it under heavy weight. If you're not sure, ask the pros at your gym or book a session with a trainer.

Don't use too much weight. Remember, the point isn't lifting the heaviest weights possible; the point is building muscle efficiently and safely. If the weight you're lifting is so heavy you have to cheat on form to lift it, you're risking serious injury. If you're working out without a spotter, you also risk serious injury or even death if you drop an extremely heavy weight at the wrong time-which is possible even if you're not using perfect form.

Work out with a partner. If you can, bring a partner to the gym. Your partner can help spot you on free weight exercises, and can also help you maintain proper form through all your exercises. A partner can help you lift a heavy weight if you find your form is slipping, allowing you to continue to lift safely. If you don't have someone willing to be your regular gym partner, ask someone at the gym to spot you for more difficult exercises-especially if you're at the end of your workout and you're already fatigued. This is the time when injuries are most likely to happen.

Hire a trainer. Some body builders feel they shouldn't have to ask for help from a trainer-but nobody knows everything about body building automatically. A professional trainer can be even more valuable than a workout partner who may or may not know how to help you keep correct form. A trainer can help you monitor your form, decide when it's time to increase your weight load, and warm up sufficiently. It's definitely worth it for body builders to book at least a few sessions with a trainer early in their body building career, as well as periodically throughout to ensure they're working out effectively.

Don't overtrain. If you're spending more than an hour at the gym and going more than three times a week, you may be overtraining. The same goes for reps-if you're exercising to muscular failure after ten reps, you risk injury if you rest and then do ten more. Many new body builders believe they have to spend hours at the gym or go each day of the week to make progress, but in fact they can lose muscle this way-and they don't allow their bodies to recover from previous workouts, making muscle tears more likely.

Use safety measures on equipment. Many exercise machines have safety catches that will prevent the weight from falling on you if you lose your grip. Sometimes they have to be set by hand, so make sure you know how to set the safety catches on the machines at your gym-and then use them. Always use a spotter on difficult free weight exercises, and if you don't have a partner, use a self-spotting apparatus when lifting free weights. You can easily lose your grip and drop a heavy weight on yourself, especially if you've been working out for a while and your muscles are fatigued. This is one of the most common ways body builders risk serious injury or even death.

Lift correctly. You don't just risk injury when you lift weights with improper form. You also put yourself at risk when you're lifting large plates to increase the weight on your barbells. These plates can be over a hundred pounds-and it's easy to pull a muscle just adding more weight to a bar. When you lift anything heavy, make sure you use your legs to lift-don't rely on your back.

Body building should help you become stronger and healthier-not put you in the hospital. Still, it's not unusual for body builders to injure themselves on the way to building muscle-almost every body builder will make a serious, injury-causing mistake at some point. Don't learn body building safety the hard way-make sure you warm up before every workout, use the correct amount of weights, and never deviate from correct form. Seek professional help and work out with a spotter, and always use the safety catch on exercise machines that have them. If you do, you're much less likely to injure yourself at the gym.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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