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Safety In The Gym.

The basis of this article will be to go over some safety guidelines for the most common injured areas of the body while training. The knee and the back. I will also discuss cardiovascular safety guidelines as well.

Many people who start their exercise programs are mimicking what others are doing in the gym without getting the proper instruction from a professional on the right's and wrong's of proper exercise technique and form. If not aware of the proper execution of various exercises, a person can put themselves at a risk of a serious joint and muscle injury. As all of us know, we can not improve our bodies if we are stuck on the couch after severely injuring our lower back.

Not only does an injury slow one's progress, but also it breaks the motivation and momentum of someone wanting to improve their health through fitness. Some injuries, if bad enough, will put you out of the gym for weeks or months, and can even lead to surgery. So the basis of this article will be to go over some safety guidelines for the most common injured areas of the body while training. The KNEE and the BACK. I will also discuss Cardiovascular safety guidelines as well.

Knee Safety

The knee is the main point connecting the upper thigh and the lower leg. When injured, walking, climbing stairs, sitting and standing can be very painful. The following recommendations are designed to help minimize the risk of injury to the knees. These guidelines mainly apply to any lower body exercises:

  • Do not exceed the knee-toe line: You do not want your knees to exceed in front of your toes regardless of whether the exercise is squats or taking a step aerobics class.
  • Do not exceed the knee-hip line: Draw an imaginary line from the knees parallel to the floor. The hips must not go below that line.
  • Do not bounce at the bottom of an exercise: I see this a lot in the gym. Bouncing is "cheating" when performing any exercises. This can damage a joint by over-stretching the ligaments.
  • Do not lock the knees: This is a common practice on the leg press more often than the squat. Locking out places and excessive overload stress on the ligaments of the knee. It does not increase the range of motion.
  • Do not point your knees and toe in different directions: When executing a leg exercise wherever your toes are pointing, your knees should travel across the same direction and path.
  • Do not make hard contact with the knee to the ground: This applies to lunges. When performing a lunge, gently and under control, tap your knee on the ground before returning.
  • Do not put blocks underneath the heels: This makes it hard not to exceed the knee-toe line. It is always better to push from the heals from a flat surface. If you find your heals are coming off the ground as you descend during a squat, the best recommendation is to stretch the Achilles tendon, and calves to avoid risking injury.

Back Safety

One of the most common and heard of injuries of most Americans is the lower back. A long trip in the car could be unbearable with a lower back that is constantly going through spasms. The back is one of our main structures for support. For longevity in any activity, the lower back must be strong, healthy, and pain free. Rules for back safety are designed to help keep the spinal column's vertebrae in proper alignment. Vertebrae not aligned can lad to pressure on a nerve and result in back pain and muscle weakness or pain in other parts of the body. Some guidelines to follow on back safety are:

  • Keep the head neutral: Do not over exaggerate your head up, down, left, or right. An example is when performing leg curls. Keep your head straight facing the pad you are laying on. This keeps the cervical vertebrae in proper alignment.
  • Shoulders back, Chest up: This helps maintain proper alignment of all vertebrae. Rounding your shoulders can lead to injury. No matter what the exercise remember: Shoulders Back, Chest UP!
  • Keep the back straight: During any upright exercise, avoid arching the back.
  • Keep the back flat: Similar what was said above. Do not allow your back to arch when performing exercises when laying down on your back.
  • Bend your knees: Straight leg activities and exercises (when legs are straight and knees are locked) cause damage to the lumbar vertebrae. Keep the knees slightly bent during exercise to prevent damage to the lower back.
  • Train your abdominals for support: Having strong abdominals will also help support the muscle of the torso and lower back.

Shoulder Safety

When training shoulders, makes sure each head of the deltoid, and rest of the shoulder girdle is properly warmed up. Most common injuries to the shoulder are in the area of the rotator cuff muscles. Usually the 2 muscles of the rotator cuff that will injure are the Supraspinatis, and the Infraspinatis.

TO avoid and prevent such injuries, it would be best to perform internal and external exercises for the rotator cuff with light weight and higher repetitions. This will warm up those muscles and stretch them out before you blast away with your shoulder training.

Cardiovascular Safety Guidelines

For many people, especially beginners wanting results "NOW", it is important to avoid over-training and minimizing the risk of life-threatening events such as heart attacks and strokes. Watch out for warning signs and symptoms suggestive of cardiopulmonary difficulty such as:

  • Dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, nausea, fainting
  • Onset of pain or tightness in chest, shoulders or surrounding areas.
  • Failure for your heart rate to increase with an increase in activity.
  • Noticeable change in heart rhythm, fluttering.
  • Physical or verbal evidence of severe fatigue.
  • Profuse sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Significant drop in blood pressure
  • Excessive increase in blood pressure.

With these guidelines and safety tips, your workouts will be safer and much more productive. Staying in such proper form will lead to longevity and enjoyment in pursuing your resolutions and fitness goals. Yes, I want you to go out there and train hard, but most of all I want you to train smart and avoid injuries at all costs. Having a personal trainer can play a big benefit in making sure you have correct form and proper safety.

Beware, I still would like you to know how to perform exercises safely, because even some trainers may not know the safest way. I would also like a favor of you. If you see someone in the gym performing an exercise wrong or using a technique that could lead to an injury to the areas discussed or others, please, nicely approach them and offer some of the safety guidelines I have shared with you and let's help one another. Learn more about cardio, click here!

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or topics you would like discussed, or you would like to contact Chris for training/nutritional programs send your e-mail to Chris Zaino at