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How to Avoid Exercise Injury


Updated April 20, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Focus on Form to Avoid Exercise Injury
Bad form is one of the easiest ways to hurt yourself. Adding weight to movements forces your body to work harder to stay in alignment and your body will want to cheat to make the movement easier. Hunching your shoulders, heaving the weights up, arching the back or using momentum put your body at risk and make the exercises less effective. These tips can help you stay on track:
  • Learn good technique: Learning from a professional, whether it's a coach, trainer, instructor, e-course, online resource or a trusted video, is your best bet for learning good form for different exercises. Avoid copying what other people are doing at the gym. Even people who look buff and experienced may not be doing exercises correctly.
  • Engage your abs: This is a good rule of thumb no matter what you're doing, but especially for any exercise where you're bending over, pushing weights overhead or lifting very heavy weights.
  • Watch yourself: If you're at the gym, get into a position where you can see yourself in the mirror without straining. Some people feel weird watching themselves, but it's the only way to know if you're in the right position.
  • Pay attention to your posture: Keep your joints in alignment during all of your exercises and avoid arching or hyperextending the back. For example, if you can see your feet during pushups or if your knee is going in a different direction than your ankles and feet during squats or lunges, you know you're out of alignment.
  • Avoid locking the joints: This can put too much stress on the joints, which can cause injury. You want to keep the stress on the muscles you're working and keeping a slight bend in the joints can help you do that.
  • Pick up your weights correctly: You'd be surprised how many people hurt their backs before they even start working out because they don't pick up their weights correctly. Whenever you're lifting something heavy, bend your knees and keep your back straight while bracing the abs. Lift with your legs, rather than your back, which isn't as strong as the lower body.
  • Think about the muscles you're working: Focusing on your biceps during a curl or your glutes during a squat can help you adjust your form to get the most out of each movement.

More Ways to Avoid Exercise Injury

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