If you’ve ever visited a gym leading up to the summer, you’ve probably noticed much more traffic than there is during the long, cold, winter months, (Well, maybe with the exception of the first week of January when people are committed to health resolutions). In the summer, people tend to flock to the gym looking to jump start their goal of a perfect beach body, to accompany their new healthy, active lifestyle. For beginner weight lifters however, the enthusiasm to sprint to the closest gym and start pumping some heavy iron needs to be reined in a little. Not having the right weight lifting technique could mean serious injury, especially to your back.

What kind of exercises can put my back at risk?

Any exercise has the potential to hurt your back if not preformed correctly, but back injuries most commonly result from the following movements:

Problems come from these exercises when people extend or flex the back muscles against the weight they are lifting, which could cause muscle strains or ligament injuries.

How can I prevent a back injury from happening when lifting weights?

Know Thyself

Though this is an old adage, it is a staple for all weight lifters. Nobody knows your body and your personal limits better than you do.

All weight lifters, especially beginners, should work slowly up to their maximum capacity. This means starting at a low weight, seeing how your body reacts to it, then slowly adding more weight as you see fit. Your body will let you know when you’ve reached your limit.

Deciding to lift 100 more pounds than you did last time, right off the top of your workout, is a recipe for disaster. Your strength will improve over time, but it will be a slow and steady progress. Think of the way grass grows, it doesn’t go from being freshly cut to 10-inches long overnight.

Other quick tips to avoid injury

  • Never go straight into any kind of a workout without preforming some type of dynamic stretching first. This is especially true for back workouts. Getting the blood pumping with a quick warm up before you stretch will only make your stretch that much more effective as well.
  • Be sure to keep your back straight when bending to lift weights from the floor or squatting with weights on the upper body. Don’t be afraid to bend your knees a little as this will allow you to keep your back straight. Also, remember bending or flexing at the hips is fine, but curving the back is not. Curving the spine is usually caused by other issues such as: tight hamstrings, pelvis immobility and pelvis or low back discomfort.
  • Use a spotter or a workout partner when working with free weights to protect your back from possible sudden movement or excess strain.
  • Beginners should try using less weight, but do more repetitions when lifting. This will help you get the hang of the movement, promote good technique, along with putting less stress on the muscle or ligament.

What can I do if I’ve injured my back lifting weights? 

Seeing a chiropractor is a great place to start. Chiropractors are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the musculoskeletal system (the body’s bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, joints and connective tissue).

Your chiropractor can also help ensure you don’t reinjure your back by providing helpful stretches or advice before embarking on a weight lifting routine again.

If you’ve experienced back pain in the past, and are looking to get back to the weights, it’s a good idea to first get an evaluation from a chiropractor. They can help work with you to identify areas of weakness to work on and activities you should avoid, to keep your back strong and healthy.

More information, including where to find a chiropractor near you, can be found at www.albertachiro.com.