Weightlifting Safety

The most dangerous phrase heard in the weight room of any gym is, “Don’t worry, I have it.” That usually means the person lifting the weight is self confident enough that they don’t need or wish to bother anyone to serve as a spotter.

Now that new year’s resolutions are in full swing, for many that includes cardio (treadmill, elliptical, rower) and resistive (Nautilus, Bowflex, free weights) workouts. Resistive exercise can be dangerous if certain precautions are not followed.

The basis of resistive exercise is to maximally exert a muscle so that it will gradually hypertrophy (enlarge) to handle increasing amounts of weight. This can be done in sudden short spurts with large amounts of weight or by increased repetitive movements with lighter weights.

Body builders typically prefer the first option, especially when bench pressing. In a bench press position, any loss of control of the weight can lead to disaster.

Stafon Johnson, a USC running back, was bench pressing in September when the weight fell on his throat, collapsing his trachea and obstructing his air flow. He missed most of the season and his voice hasn’t fully recovered.

Helpful tips before engaging in any resistive exercise include:

• Adequate warm up before lifting
• Know the amount of weight you can lift safely
• Stop if you feel pain or become lightheaded
• When performing any routine where you may be in danger if control of the weight is lost, always use one or two spotters.

Marc Nee, a personal trainer with “Training with Heart,” advises to always be prepared for the worst when lifting free weights. “If you really want to attempt to lift the maximum amount of weight, use a machine and leave the free weights alone,” he said.

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