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Weight lifting no no’s

Pete’s World

Published: October 28, 2019

I’ve been asked more than several times what I consider some of the most egregious sins committed in fitness facilities. And hearing that same query as often as I have certainly deems this topic column-worthy. So without further ado let’s take a look at the top four faux pas I see committed in the gym - ranked in no particular hierarchy of importance.

#1 No Warm-up

This is a commonly committed gym misdemeanor. Any training session should begin with a quality warm-up. And I’m not talking about a couple of token hamstring and calf stretches next to the bench press machine where the buff fitness instructor is hanging out.

I’m am talking about a thorough 10-15-minute warm-up. Good warm-ups should: increase blood flow to the muscles, better preparing them for the main workout; increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles; ready the heart for an increase in intensity, thereby helping one to avoid a spike in blood pressure; jump start the neuromuscular pathways for exercise, which can make the workout more qualitative.

#2 Improper Inhalation/Exhalation During Lifting

I’m just blown away by how many people either hold their breath, or breath improperly during a lift. So let’s look at these two breathing mistakes more closely.

Holding one’s breath during a lift is downright dangerous. It’s called the Valsalva maneuver, and it happens when you forcibly exhale against a closed throat. This causes intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure to increase, which in turn causes compression of the vessels of chest - most notably the aorta. Thus, venous return, CO2 levels, and heart rate decrease.

The real danger here occurs when you finally breathe out. That’s when venous return and CO2 levels quickly rise as intra-abdominal pressure plummets, causing significant stress on the heart - potentially dangerous for anyone with heart and/or blood pressure conditions, and for pregnant women.

Holding your breath during a lift can also limit oxygen delivery to the brain, which can cause dizziness - and maybe even fainting.

Now with respect to proper breathing during a lift, that involves inhaling on the eccentric portion of the lift (lowering the weight) and exhaling on the concentric portion of the lift (lifting the weight) - NOT visa versa.

Properly breathing makes lifting easier and safer. Period.

#3 Improper Form

Okay tell me the truth, how many times have you seen dude strutting in front of a mirror doing biceps curls with a weight that’s so impossibly heavy he has to do the twist as he’s lifting? Yup, we’ve all seen it before, and maybe even done it ourselves.

Add to that the infamous “chest bounce” when bench pressing, the barbell/dumbbell jerking on upright rows, and the dumbbell swinging on front and side raises. Folks: If you have to use momentum or body English to lift the weight - you’re cheating.

When you boil it down, improper form usually stems from too much weight. I know, I know…the only way to increase muscle mass is by lifting heavier weight. That’s true, but you absolutely have to be able to control the weight with good form and technique. When form breaks down, so to does the possibility of building muscle.

Once you master exercise form, slowly bump up the weight. I usually tell people to go up in weight when they perform a particular rep count with good form regularly. That’s the time to move up in weight.

#4 Little To No Balance Between Agonist and Antagonist Muscle Groups

Agonist and antagonist muscles oppose each other's action. And no balance between the two involves over emphasizing agonist muscle groups while not paying homage to their antagonist counterparts. For example, antagonist movements like barbell rows, which work the muscles that stabilize the shoulders, are neglected while at the same time bench pressing is overemphasized.

Ditto with respect to the legs, where antagonist movements for the hamstring muscles are neglected while leg pressing movements are exaggerated.

Always consider the muscle group you’re working against when working that favorite muscle group of yours, and then make sure to work the antagonistic group somewhere in your workout regime. This creates balance - and balance is healthy.

There you are, my top four gym faux pas. Now there are certainly many more, but just eliminating this quartet is more than enough to get you well on the way to attaining that stronger, fitter body you’ve been working so hard to attain.