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When working out at the gym and approaching a piece of equipment, do you know how to set it up for your safety? In an exercise movement, do you know how get out of the movement to avoid injury?

Working Solo to Avoid Injury

While some exercise movements might have an obvious “out”, such as dropping the weights, many exercises do not. There are many variables to consider in exercise safety, including:

  • Type of weights used: Barbells and dumbbells are different. You cannot disengage your body with a barbell the same way you would a dumbbell. For example, bench press. Using a barbell on a bench press, you must have safety bars in place or not have clips securing the plates to tip the weights off. In a dumbbell bench, you simply need to release the dumbbell safely away from your body.
  • Machine used: Fixed weight machines move or they don’t. If you are able to get the weight up/moving, you better be ready to bring it back down safely. For a machine, such as a belt squat, you can use safety pins at the bottom to prevent the weights from pulling you to the ground, otherwise, you must be able to grab the handle bar and rack it. If using the rack, use the safety bars placed at an appropriate level for the exercise, such as knee height for squats and shoulder height for overhead presses.
  • Personal space: When performing free weight movements or mobility exercises, such as kettlebell swings or walking lunges, know what is going on around you. If you plan on doing weightlifting, such as a front squat or clean, make sure you have the surrounding space to safely drop the bar forward and move your body backwards.
  • Exercise movement: Similar to the issue of personal space, know the exact movement you need to execute the exercise properly. If you are in a small space, you might not be able to execute the exercise properly or safely. When setting up your space for the exercise, make sure you have safety features, such as a safety bar in the proper position if you must abort the movement.

Having a Spotter to Avoid Injury

As you work up in weights or become less comfortable moving in an exercise, you might ask someone to spot your movement. While most people are willing to help, not everyone knows how to do this safely. For example:

  • Bench press: Spotters should be overhead at the bar and ready to assist with a neutral grip on the bar. The neutral grip helps ensure the spotter doesn’t lose the bar backwards or forwards when trying to pull the bar up.
  • Front or Back Squats: If one spotter is in use, they should stand behind the lifter with arms ready to wrap around the torso under the arm pits to help the lift move up and not fall forward. Additional spotters can be at either side of the bar ready to grab the ends of the bar to help lift it up.
  • Dumbbell exercises: Depending on the exercise, it might be easiest for the lifter to simply drop the weights. If however, an assisted lift is requested, the spotter should be providing stability at the wrists.

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

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