Weight lifting is a great way to tone up and slim down. It also helps you build muscle and functional fitness. That means you’ll give your metabolism a boost and have an easier time managing activities of daily living. Whether you are new to weight lifting or have been at the bench for a while, it is important to avoid common mistakes that can lead to injury or slow your progress. Here are three to look out for.

No plan or goal for your program
You are more likely to get where you want to go when:
A: you have a clear idea of where that is and,
B: you have a clear plan.
Just as you wouldn’t, ordinarily, crank up your car and hit the road sans a map and destination, you should not start a weight training program without some idea of what you want to accomplish and how you intend to accomplish it.

The Fix
On a most basic level, you want to identify attainable goals. Desired strength gains, for example:
• How much more do you want to be able to lift?
• How many reps at your target weight?

• How often will you train?
• Which days, how long and where?
• Which muscles will you work on workout days?

• What gains are you trying to achieve? Are you after a goal weight or target neck/bicep measurement?

As you plan, identify goals that are achievable and measurable. For example, how will you know when they have been accomplished? Set a timeline and establish incremental goals that you track and adjust as you make progress.

Poor form
How you lift is as important as that you lift. Weight lifting is a good example of something you should do right or not at all. Poor form leads to injuries and will impede your progress because you will not be working the intended muscle.

Personal trainer assisting young womanThe Fix
When you are just starting out don’t assume you know what to do. Work with a trainer at your fitness center or someone with deep experience. This person should be able to review your goals and rep sequence, and monitor your form to be sure you are on the right track. Alternatively, you can find videos online and practice your form in a full-length mirror until you’ve mastered it and it feels natural. Pay close attention to form when you are fatigued because it can also be compromised then.

Skipping recovery
Muscles need recovery time. Resist the temptation to overtrain or lift through the pain. Every body is different so tune into yours for signals about the recovery process. Factors that impact recovery include how long and hard you work out, other stressors you might be dealing with in your life, eating and sleeping habits. It might feel like more is better when it comes to weight lifting but you may end up doing your body more harm than good. Overtraining leads to injury and places muscles under too much stress. It is during the recovery phase that growth is achieved.

The Fix
You can achieve good results with a minimum workout regimen of three days weekly. If you feel you must do more, consider alternating muscle groups – maybe upper body on Monday and lower body on Tuesday.

Weight training does a body good. It boosts heart health and extends independence by improving functional fitness. The key is to avoid injury by observing proper form, make strength gains by avoiding a haphazard regimen and add recovery days for balance and muscle growth.