Weight Exercises to Avoid or Do Better
If you asked what is the biggest challenge of my job teaching exercise, I’d answer getting my participants to do the movements in a safe and correct manner. That means proper alignment with full and impervious range of motion. This is why weight machines are a good option for lifting weights as it forces you to have better form. A trainer can also give you direct one-on-one attention and adjust exercises for your body type.
In a group class setting people are not as responsive as they tend to tune out the instructor or maybe they don’t hear them over the music. Perhaps many assume the instructor is talking to someone other than them. So here are some exercises that you should pay extra attention to while performing or avoid all together.
Upright Row with Weights:
Performed with free weights or barbell it’s intended to target the shoulders or mid deltoid muscle as well as the trapezoids or upper back. This exercise is usually performed by narrowly gripping a barbell or dumbbells overhand in front of the pelvis and lifting up toward the chin. The range of motion is where the danger comes in. Hoisting the weight too high can start to impinge the rotator cuff as it’s too much stress for an internally rotated and abducted shoulder. It’s kind of an unnatural position for your shoulders.
Instead I coach people to lift only to about the top of the ribs or mid chest area. That’s enough to feel the engagement of the muscle on the top of the shoulders and upper back. Remember to keep the elbows above the weights and not let the elbows level off with the wrists flexed. If this is aggravating to your shoulders at all do shoulder shrugs, keeping arms straight and weight below the hips. Or bent rows holding weights while tilted at the hips and bending elbows to pull dumbbells or bar in toward the body.
Dead lift with Weights:
A great exercise to build strength in the gluteus, hamstrings and core. However there is a high risk of injury for the lower back. It’s performed by holding a weighted barbell in front of the thighs and tilting the torso forward lowering the bar toward the ground and then standing to bring it back to the original position.
In the weight room the hazard you see is people trying to lift too much weight. I don’t worry about that too much in the fitness class, as it’s a lot of effort to transport plates and dumbbells to a person’s spot on the floor. But there is still a great risk for the lower back with light weights and improper form.
What is important to note when performing this movement is that the back remains straight and the tilt is in the hips without rounding in the back. If the weights are too heavy the participant will start arching and straining the lower back.
Before lifting weights you can test yourself to see if you can tilt forward at the hips while keeping the back straight and touch the toes. If you start rounding your back you might want to first train by doing planks and strengthening the core. Otherwise, if you can keep your back straight you want to translate this into doing the dead lift. Keeping the spine long and the belly tight, tilt forward keeping arms straight and lowering weight toward the knees. Some like to try to reach the floor but I think lowering to knees or high chins is enough to engage the glutes. Then fire up the hamstrings as you press your hips forward and lift the weights back to the starting position. One more note, I recommend bending the knees as you tilt forward to help avoid straining the low back.
If these weights are too intense for your back or you have trouble maintaining proper form you can stick with lunges and squats to work these body areas.
Stay tuned for more tips on exercise mistakes in the near future. Be sure to discuss your exercise routine with your doctor.