The Proper Way to Lift Weights

Sloppy form could make your workout worthless or even dangerous.

Sloppy form could make your workout worthless or even dangerous.

Weight training has a way of making you feel like you can take on the world -- or at least the gym. It might even be tempting to show off your skills, but resist the urge. Lifting weights should be a precise method of exercise, not a party trick. Get too big for your britches, and you could end up seriously injured. Before you execute the perfect tricep curl or shoulder press, make sure you know the proper way to lift weights. That way, you'll get better results, be safe and still get to show off ... just a little.

Get a demo of an exercise before you go for it yourself. Asking a gym employee, watching an online video or even reading a wall chart before you lift weights can help you understand which muscle needs to be isolated and the proper way to do the lift. If you don't know how to do it, you could be setting yourself up for injury and embarrassment.

Lift a manageable amount of weight. Those huge dumbbells look impressive in the mirror, but lifting weights that are too heavy could land you in hot water -- or the emergency room. Better to be safe than sorry. Start your reps with a manageable weight, and only move to a heavier weight if your muscles don't feel fatigued after 12 to 15 reps.

Ask for a spotter to keep an eye on you while you lift. While you might not need a baby sitter when doing 2-pound dumbbell curls, a spotter is crucial when you do exercises that could result in injury, such as an overhead press or lifting a heavier weight for the first time. Make sure your spotter not only can help you out of a sticky situation, but can watch your form and correct you if you're in danger.

Maintain slow and smooth movements as you lift. While jerky movements might help you achieve a heavier set, they can also help you achieve muscle strain and a less effective workout. Instead, concentrate on using steady motion, avoiding swinging or jerking your weights to get ahead.

Breathe continually as you lift weights. It's natural to hold your breath as you tackle a challenging set, but it could result in an unsafe spike in blood pressure. Focus on your breathing and if you catch yourself holding your breath, try going down in weight. After all, it's better to lift a lighter weight than to end up passing out on the gym floor.

Keep an eye on yourself in the mirror as you lift and stop if you aren't maintaining perfect technique. It's always better to have perfect technique with a lighter weight than sloppy technique and a heavier weight, since sloppiness could result in injury or at the very least, a less effective workout that doesn't isolate the proper muscle groups.


  • If you feel lightheaded or dizzy while lifting, tell your spotter and find a place to lie down for a few minutes.

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About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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