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The most common weightlifting mistakes people make

Common weightlifting mistakes could hinder your fitness progress and set you up for injury, says Joel Hardwick, ACSM EP-C, EIM2, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center.

Hardwick says these are the most common weightlifting mistakes he sees at the gym:

  • Not warming up first. If you go into a workout with cold muscles, you can set yourself up for injury, he says. Start with light cardio and dynamic stretches before beginning your weightlifting routine.

  • Using poor form. “I see a lot of people ‘cheating’ with form and using momentum or other muscles to get the weight up instead of using the muscles they are targeting,” he says. Incorrect form can also set you up for an injury.

  • Lifting too quickly. Like using poor form, lifting too quickly and using momentum won’t help you get the results you want. “It’s important to go slower and give the muscle time under tension,” says Hardwick. “When you let the weight down slowly, you are increasing the time a muscle is under tension, which will help your strength and size gains.”

  • Focusing only on isolation exercises. When people focus solely on isolation moves, like a bicep curl, they won’t get the best results, compared to performing exercises that engage many muscle groups, such as a squat.

  • Choosing a weight that’s too light. “We tend to gravitate toward easier weights, but if you don’t choose a heavy enough weight that provides the proper stimulus, you won’t get the results you’re after,” he says.

  • Skipping muscle groups. “Many people just focus on the upper body and skip lower body exercises because the upper body can be more aesthetically pleasing,” he says. However, strong lower body and core muscles are essential to preventing injury and improving range of motion.

  • Ignoring the basics. Compound exercises like squats and deadlifts are vital to building strength. “People try to do complicated moves like the Hercules curl or some weird move they saw on social media, but focusing on the basics is the best way to go,” he says.

  • Pushing through pain. “Many people believe in ‘no pain, no gain,’ but if you have pain when lifting weights, you definitely need to stop,” says Hardwick. “If you have any discomfort, don’t push through it.”

What types of injuries can these mistakes cause?

When you make these weightlifting mistakes, you may increase your risk of:

Lifting weights improperly can also derail your fitness goals.

“If you get injured, it will totally halt your progress,” says Hardwick. “An injury can take days, weeks or months to heal, and some injuries require physical therapy before you can return to your exercise routine.”

How to prevent weightlifting injuries

  • Consult with a professional. “I recommend consulting an exercise professional before starting a workout routine,” says Hardwick. “You may not know what issues you have with form until someone tells you. Perhaps you’ve been performing a squat the same way your whole life, but you could be using incorrect form, which puts you at risk for injury.”

  • Learn the basics. “Learn the basic compound moves like squats and deadlifts before you start on isolation exercises,” he recommends.

  • Go slowly. “It is important to progress slowly and learn good form,” says Hardwick. Gradually increase your weight and reps as you get stronger.

Check out more fitness tips from Living Better experts.

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