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Training Smart to Prevent Injury Training Database Advanced Training Tips Training Smart to Prevent Injury

Safety Tips - General Rules for Recreational Bodybuilding

Although weight training is a relatively safe sport, there are still occasions where you need to add extra attention to your workouts to assure the safety of both yourself and others. Some muscle soreness can be expected, and you would be surprised just how easily it is to forget simple things such as proper warm ups and proper use of certain machines. That said, I have put together a list of quick tips to remember when working out:

Proper Warm Up: It is always in your best interest to warm up before you work out. Even though you may not see the benefits to a quick five minute cardio session before your workout, your heart will thank you. Your pre workout warm up could come in the form of a quick cardio session on the stair master, or some light jogging, or you can start off with very light sets, warming up your muscles and joints for the big lifts ahead. By working one or two light sets before you begin your workout, you will get your muscles accustomed to the movement and reduce your chances of injury. Many bodybuilders follow a certain intensity principle known as “Pyramiding”, where they begin their workouts with lighter weights and higher reps, and gradually move to heavier weights and lower reps.

During the Workout: During the workout, be sure to use heavy weights which you can handle. This is very important in order for you to keep proper form for the entire range of motion. If you attempt heavier weights with bad form, you will not get much out of the workout. Also, if you attempt lifting slightly lighter weights, but do so by thrusting the barbell up and down at lighting speed, not only will you not accomplish as much, but also increase your chances of injury. There is a time and a place for faster reps, but showing off isn’t one of them.

Breathing: Lifting weights causes a temporary increase in blood pressure, and holding your breath is a sure way to make it increase even more during exercise. Although many people argue over whether or not you should exhale on the exertion or not, the most important thing to remember is to keep it controlled. Either breath out on the exertion, or breath in, but maintain that pace throughout your set. Not properly controlling breathing has caused many people to get nauseous or even throw up during intense training. It is possible to even pass out, depending on the circumstances, and of course, if you have a heart condition, be sure to contact your doctor before you begin incorporating bodybuilding or any other form of exercise into your life.

Proper Form

Proper form cannot be stressed enough. When you are lifting weights, be sure to feel the exercise during the entire range of motion. You would be surprised just how much more you can gain in a workout by lowering the weights slightly and really focusing on the muscle being worked during each rep.

Cool Down: The cool down is almost as important as the warm up. By doing a similar cool down as your warm up, such as five minutes of light cardio exercise, or a few sets of light reps, you will give your body a chance to cool down. By performing a proper cool down, you give your pulse, blood pressure, and breathing a chance to slow down.

Rest and Recuperation: Proper rest is very important. It is always a good idea to rest a muscle at least 72 hours (3 full days). Since some people train much more frequently than that, and others, much less frequently, and both groups get results, it all goes back to finding out finding out what works for you. A type of training principle known as “The Instinctive Principle” tells you to train each muscle group as you see fit, providing you feel you have recovered from the previous session. If you want to train biceps two days after training them, and you feel you are ready to do so, then go ahead. Likewise, if you feel like working your back only once after nine days, then do that as well. They are both parts of training using the instinctive principle. Many people do not train using this principle, and for more recreational bodybuilding, I would recommend training each muscle only once every three days or more. You would be surprised just how much you can achieve following that advice. The most important rule to remember is: Do what works for you! Don’t let anyone tell you what works for you. Experiment, and find out for yourself. It is the start to all the learning that lies ahead.

Machine Safety: Although machines are generally safer than free weights, you have to remember to use them properly if you expect results from them, injury free. Adjust each machine for your body, which could be solely for your height, but could also include a number of adjustments. Discuss how to properly use gym equipment with a trainer or manager of a gym, or anyone else you know who is knowledgeable in that field. Not only will this allow you to perform each exercise with better form, but it will also help you avoid potential injury.

Free Weight Safety: Properly using free weights is essential if you expect to achieve your bodybuilding and fitness goals, and also if you want to do so injury free. Below are a list of tips on how to properly use free weights, safely, and effectively:

(1) Proper Form: You will hear this a lot, and it’s one of the most important things to remember for good training. This could come in the form of properly bending (from your knees, not your hips) to lift a weight plate from one side of the gym to the other, or remembering to perform each bodybuilding movement safely, and with strict form. Remember, proper form will help you maximize gains as well as reduce your risk of injury. Sounds like a good plan to me.

(2) Weight Clips: When you perform any exercise involving a barbell and potentially heavy weight plates (bench press, barbell curl), remember to use wight clips to hold the weight in place. With these weight clips, the weight plates will be fastened in place, eliminating the chances of one plate to slide off during the motion. These sliding plates can easily land on a foot, whether it be yours or somebody else’s. As a result, weight clips are always recommended. They are available in most gyms, and if you plan to train at home, you should invest in a pair of clips. They are well worth it.

(3) Handle All Weights Properly: Do not drop weights on the floor if you are performing movements such as dumbbell bench presses, or dumbbell flyes. Lower them properly and with good form for you own safety, and for the safety of those around you. Also, if you are moving weight plates from one side of the gym to the other, keep a firm grasp on them, allowing you to reduce your chances of dropping them. A 45 pound weight plate landing on your foot is definitely not a pretty site.

(4) Do Not Bring Your Child in the Gym!!: This past summer, I was working out at my gym at around 7:00 PM. After a while, I saw a woman come into the gym to see her husband, and she started chatting with him. It wasn’t so much seeing the baby in the gym that made me look at the situation as unsafe, but it was the fact she placed the baby, in the carriage, only several feet away from the flat bench I was lying on and performing dumbbell flyes using heavy weights. If you are going to bring your baby into the gym, at the very least, be sure to carry the baby at all times, and stand away from anyone exercising using heavy weights. I would think this is common sense, but after seeing this incident happening (which could have easily taken a turn for danger), I just wanted to list it in these rules.

The Art of Spotting

A spotter is someone who stands close by, ready to grab your weights in case your muscles give out. You don’t need a spotter hovering over you for every exercise, but it is important to have a spotter there when you are attempting heavy weights, or otherwise feel you may injure yourself if working out alone. Below is a list of times in which you would benefit from the assistance of a spotter.

(1) New Exercises: Regardless of the amount of weight you are lifting, or how strong you are, it is important to have a spotter handy when you are attempting a new exercise you would like to incorporate into your routine. For example, if you are familiar with dumbbell presses for the chest, and you decide to try the barbell bench press, or barbell incline bench press, you should have a spotter working with you in case you cannot handle the exercise as well as you thought you could.

(2) Powerlifting or Lifting Heavier than Usual Weights: If you are attempting to train for power, or you are lifting heavier weights than you normally could, you should have a spotter available to assist you if necessary. You may want to test your one rep max (1RM) occasionally to determine your progress and the effectiveness of your workouts. If you decide to do this, have a spotter on hand to assist you if the need arises in order to prevent injury.

(3) Performing an exercise past TMF (Temporary Muscular Failure): If you want to recruit new muscle fibers during a set in order to maximize muscle gains, you may want to try to push out a few extra reps. Since you have already reached temporary muscular failure, you will not be able to do this by yourself, without lowering the weight. With a spotter, you can perform these few additional repetitions, with your spotter helping you against the resistance as you need it.

Phantom Spotting

At one time or another in the gym, we always attempt lifts that we think we can do, but quickly realize we cannot. If you are in a gym, and see a person clearly putting themselves in a dangerous position by lifting more weight than they can handle, get in the position to spot that person if the need arises, as most people do not attempt to reach temporary muscular failure by themselves, and if they do, you can bet that they didn’t intend to. For example, if a person is bench pressing a lot of weight, and you see them begin to dip the weight (ie, the weight is lowering despite their efforts), you can assume they cannot handle the work themselves and may appreciate the hand. I know I would!

Here Are Some Exercises Which You Should Have a Spotter Handy For:

(1) Bench Press

(2) Barbell Squat

(3) Seated Military Press

(4) Dumbbell Fly

There are many others where a spotter is helpful, but the ones listed above (especially the first two) are essential exercises for spotter assistance. They are the most likely to cause danger if you reach temporary muscular failure before you expect it. Better to be safe than sorry as they always say.

Tips for the Spotter and Yourself

Here are some tips which will help make your spotting more successful, and of course, reduce your chances of injury as a result:

(1) Talking with your spotter: When you are working out, it is important to maintain your concentration, and focus as best as you can to try to get the desired results from each lift. But at the same time, on lifts such as bench press, where you may have a spotter to provide you with assistance when needed, it is important to remember to tell him or her when to assist you, by how much, and when to stop. By doing so, you can maximize benefits of performing such lifts by going past muscular failure (by doing a few extra reps with the help of your spotter), and of course, you can minimize your chances of injury.

(2) Being the Spotter Yourself: If you are the spotter yourself, it is very important to pay attention to the person you are assisting at all times. Muscular failure is not absolute. As a result, the person you are assisting could very well find they are not able to finish off a rep. If you are constantly paying attention, you will learn just when your help is needed, and how much work you will need to do. Once again, proper communication is essential, as well.

Gym Etiquette

A very important thing to remember is gym etiquette. It’s very important to follow safety rules and proper form to assure your personal workouts are a success, but at the same time, we can’t forget that it’s important to be courteous to others so that everyones gym experience is a positive one. Below are some general rules of the gym to follow to make sure everyone enjoys their gym training:

(1) Clear the Weight Bar: After you are finished your sets, it’s important to clear the weight off the bar in case someone else needs to use the bar, but not the same amount of weight. It’s impractical to clear the weight after every set, so generally, you will see two people at the gym “working in” a set with each other. This means that they are both using the same amount of weight, and taking turns performing the exercise as the other person takes a rest. Also, there is no need to change the weight on the bar if you know the next person in line to use it will not need to lower the weight. Be sure to discuss with the other people in your gym if they need you to change the weight or not.

(2) Do Not Drop the Weights: When performing such exercises as dumbbell presses or dumbbell flys, do not just drop the weights. Aside from being unsafe, this isn’t courteous to the others in the gym.

(3) Work out Where There Is Space: If you are going to work out with free weights, be sure to do so where you are not immediately near gym traffic. By doing this, you eliminate the chances of forcing people to move around you, and also provide a safer environment for everyone.

(4) Clean Equipment After Each Use: Although weight training doesn’t tend to make you sweat as much as cardio exercise, it is still very possible to leave a machine very sweaty after your use. Be courteous and clean off the sweat with a towel and spray (This is normally provided in the gym).

(5) Do Not Overuse the Equipment: Be courteous, don’t spend more time on equipment that you don’t have to. People easily get annoyed at the site of a person sitting on a flat bench and talking with friends. Not only is this unproductive, but annoying to many people. Personally, I try to be as patient as possible, and so do a lot of people, but some may get annoyed. Remember, you are in the gym to share it with others, so be sure to do so.

(6) Put the Weights Where They Belong: It’s especially frustrating to search for the right plates for an exercise, only to find they are halfway across the gym, completely in the wrong spot. Don’t let this happen, because if you do, you will find people following you and continuing to put the plates in the wrong spots. Rack the weights where they belong, for the sake of yourself, and those around you.

(7) Don’t Leave Gym Equipment Lying Around: This could be either your traditional equipment such as barbells and dumbbells, or your personal equipment such as your gym bag. Don’t leave them lying around, or else you will be a step closer to making your gym a zoo, and soon enough people will be tripping all over the place. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea!

There are many more little tips to remember when training in the gym, and I could go on and one about them all day. But since most of this advice is just common courtesy, I’ll stop now. The most important thing to remember is general courtesy. It will make your trip to the gym, and everyone else’s, a lot more enjoyable.

Feel free to contact me at the e - mail address listed below if you have any questions about general safety in the gym. Best of luck with your training goals!

Best regards, and good luck!

Take care,

Matt Canning

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