Weight Room Safety
I have been asked many times about “how to be safe in the weight room;” an easy answer should be to “use common sense” but we have to think that not everyone is an expert in the weight room or has completed the Get Started Program. Before I get too far in this blog, if you have not completed your Get Started Sessions, please reach out to your local Health & Wellness Director to schedule your appointment today! Now on to safety...
When it comes to weight room safety I feel there are 8 items to help reduce injury they are – asking for help, equipment is secure, warming up and cooling down, form and ego, controlling the weight, be aware of surroundings, be aware of self, and appropriate clothing.
Asking for help – at any point you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment or how to do a particular movement please stop and ask for help. “Going at it alone” is never safe as the Y has many wellness coaches and personal trainers available to answer any questions.
Equipment is secure – when lifting make sure to attach collars on barbells and ask for a spotter when needed. Personally I feel if you are lifting alone, you should not “max out” or “go to failure” due to not having a spotter. This is the ONLY time I recommend not using collars on a barbell in case you have to “bail” on a movement. We all have seen the videos on YouTube of someone benching alone and the bar gets stuck, typically on their neck, and they need to find that little extra strength to “escape” the barbell. So use a spotter please! With securing weights if you see a piece of equipment that is “out of order” please inform a staff member.
Warming Up/Cooling Down – before engaging in exercise I advise clients to do some dynamic movements to prepare for resistance training. Arm circles, body weight squats/lunges, push-ups, butt kicks and toe kicks, and skipping can help prepare the body for resistance training. Static stretches such as the quad stretch, toe touches, cobra stretches, and more should be used for after the workout. All of these movements can easily be found in a quick search or reach out to your local Health & Wellness Director for some options to incorporate in your workouts.
Form and Ego – as with asking for help, if you need help or don’t know something please seek advice from a trained professional. When lifting we want to add stress to the muscle, not the joints. I tell my clients it isn’t “practice makes perfect” it is “PERFECT practice makes PERFECT”. Make sure when lifting we have our core engaged, a friend and previous Wellness, Jacob Martinez is famous at the Y for saying “Abs on!”, to make sure we are protecting our spine, controlling the weight and tempo, and making sure we are always safe. In the end take your time, control your weights, and leave your ego at home.
Controlling the weight – how many times have you seen people slamming the weight stack on the selectorized machines or aggressively bouncing the bar off their chest during a typical Monday bench day? It happens more than you think and can easily cause injury or damage to the equipment. Only use weight that is safe and appropriate for your current level of fitness and using a controlled tempo. Using a tempo where to lower the weight for 2-3 seconds and lift the weight for 2-3 seconds is a safe tempo that allows for muscle activation and injury prevention.
Be aware of surroundings – when using the gym always be on the lookout for others. Not that everyone is being unsafe but you always need to keep your safety as a priority. If you are not safe then you can’t be sure you are keeping others safe. If you see a spill please report it to staff, if you find a piece of equipment that is not functioning please report it, and if you feel something is not right please report this as well. You have to remember people are here for THEIR workout so be mindful of others when exercising and keeping a safe place for all.
Appropriate Clothing – I am not going to go into what you can and cannot wear at the Y but I will give some advice on some items that I have seen.
- Jeans – if you wear jeans while working out, I advise you to start wearing athletic pants or shorts. Why? Jeans tend to limit range of motion when doing lower body exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges. Also, you don’t want to be that person who splits their jeans when squatting!
- Shoes – please wear shoes at the Y. There are times when people take them off, such as with squats or deadlifts, if you are someone who does this, PLEASE put your shoes back on if you leave the squat rack or the deadlift platform. You are in control of your toes in these areas, typically, but you have no control once you leave said area. Someone may drop a dumbbell or even worse you may stub your toe! No one wants that!
I really hope this helps you with being a little safer at the YMCA and helps make your workouts more efficient. You might already be practicing these items in your routine and if you are, WAY TO GO, but if not please ask for help when needed, control your weights and form, be aware of your surroundings and yourself, and keep the ego at home!
We will see you at the Y and good luck with your lifts!
John Whitmyre, Downtown YMCA Senior Program Director
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