Exercising Safely

Regardless of your current skill level or the particular workout set-up you choose to use, make sure that you pay close attention to safety when exercising. Every form of exercise poses some degree of risk, so it’s vital that you keep a few safety considerations in mind. Let’s discuss a few ways to exercise safely.

Warm Up and Cool Down

A warm-up is essential to prepare your body for the exercise to come, and a cool-down allows you to leave the gym feeling your best. Safety features of a good warm-up include:

Safety features of a cool-down include:

A warm-up and cool-down will only take 10-15 minutes to complete; so don’t skip over them. Doing a warm-up and cool-down could determine whether you can continue working out or instead become sidelined.

Use Proper Form

Using proper form is one of the greatest safety concerns because not only can poor form set you up for injury due to muscle tears or sprains, but also if you drop a weight on the body, that can become very serious, very quickly.

If you’re just starting your workout routine, book a session with a personal trainer to go over proper form. If you’ve been training for years, take some time once a month to re-evaluate the form you’re using and make sure it’s up to par. If you ever find your form slipping, do a few sessions using a lower weight to get back into a better habit.

Use a Spotter or Personal Trainer

You should have a spotter with you when you work out. Note that if you are working with a personal trainer, he or she will stand in place for the spotter, negating the need for one.

The spotter is there to help if you’re unable to lift a weight for those final few reps. If you press a barbell overhead, for example, and then find you’re just too tired to lower it down, if there is no spotter present, what will you do? This situation clearly illustrates why spotters are so important.

If you ever find yourself stuck at the top of a movement with no help around, dropping the weight becomes a very serious concern. Spotters prevent this entirely.

Maintain Adequate Hydration

Since most people think safety only refers to what they do while in the gym, they forget about how safety relates to how they prepare for the gym. Maintaining adequate hydration levels is important to stay safe because this keeps your blood pressure level, which reduces the chances that you pass out midway through a lift.

Hydration is also important for optimal strength levels and endurance capabilities. Without it, performance will start to falter. As performance falters, good form may also tend to wane, a perfect recipe for an injury.

Exercising Through Fatigue - When to Push, When to Rest

You will always have those days when you don’t want to be in the gym and you feel as though your body is just dragging along. When should you keep pushing and when should you pay attention to your body and just rest?

If the fatigue is full-body - meaning your entire body is tired and not just a single muscle group - it’s best for you to get out of the gym. This means your central nervous system (CNS) is in an overly fatigued state and no good is going to come from a workout performed with a tired CNS.

If it’s just one muscle group that’s tired, then chances are you can work through this. You can either accept a lower performance level from that particular muscle group, or simply skip over exercises for that muscle and work others instead. This won’t be too detrimental to your progress and shouldn’t put your safety at risk.

Now you know the main points to help you stay safe while exercising. Safety is not something to overlook, especially if you are at the point where you are lifting heavier weights. The more safely you work out, the more dedicated you can be as you continue toward your fitness goal. In addition to exercising safely, if you’re an athlete, there may be several other sports training considerations you’ll need to think about.

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Shannon Clark, CPT

Shannon Clark is a certified personal trainer with over a decade of experience in the industry. Her passion for fitness began with figure skating as a child, leading to the Western Canadian Championships as a teenager. After retiring from skating, Shannon earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and began her career as a fitness trainer and writer. Her professional advice has been published in numerous magazines and websites.