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How to Avoid Exercise Injury

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Updated April 20, 2010

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

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Listen to Your Body, Not Your Ego
One common way to hurt yourself is to do more than your body is ready for. This happens when you let your ego take over, say, at the gym when the guy next to you is bench pressing 250 pounds or the woman on the treadmill in front of you is running at a 10 mph pace. It's easy to let your competitive juices take over and think, "If he can do that, so can I!" Perhaps you can, but you also run the risk of being wheeled out on a stretcher. To avoid that:
  • Do your own workout: It's okay to be inspired by others and to push yourself a little harder than you would on your own, but listen to your body and back off if you realize you've gone too far.
  • Avoid maximal lifts if you're a beginner: Testing your one rep max is tempting, especially among younger guys, but it's also the number one way young people hurt themselves. One study showed that males from 13-24 years old often injure themselves by lifting too heavy and dropping weights on themselves. You should have a strong foundation and good knowledge of proper exercise technique before you try maximal lifts.
  • Approach new exercises cautiously. If you've never tried an exercise, start with light weights to get used to the movement. Too often, we feel compelled to use a heavier weight, just because we see other people doing it. That's a good way to compromise your workout and possibly injure yourself.
  • Use a spotter. Always use a spotter if you're lifting very heavy weights. If you don't have one, stick with supported machines such as a Smith machine or a squat rack that allows you to safely rack the weight if it gets too heavy.

More Ways to Avoid Exercise Injury

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