Getting Big the Right Way
Safety Tips
From Flex Magazine, July 1998 issue

1. Warm Up Thoroughly

Before you start hitting your target weight with six to eight reps, it is essential that you warm up the muscle. A few minutes of cardio and light stretching are a good way to raise your body temperature. Once you have done this, it is also important to get used to the feel and range of your first exercise. That is why your routine calls for one light warm up set at the beginning of most exercises. With a light weight, track through the motion of your first exercise with 15-20 reps. Do not push yourself to failure with this set - choose a weight that is light enough for you to concentrate on the motion instead of the weight itself.

2. Use Textbook Form

The purpose of weight training is to fatigue the muscle, not to complete a predetermined number of reps at any cost. It is essential that you use the same perfect form for working sets that you used while warming up. When you can't complete a rep using textbook form, you have succeeded - you have worked the muscle to failure. At this point, end the exercise. Do not squirm and twist your body to force out additional reps. That is called working the muscle to injury.

3. Use The Proper Amount Of Weight

This is a corollary to safety tip 2. Choose a weight that allows you to complete six to eight reps using textbook form. Again, the purpose is to work the muscle to failure, not to lift a certain amount of weight. Inicrease your weight slowly, so you get a sense of what your body is capable of lifting and how many reps you can expect to lift with that weight.

4. Use Safety Equipment

A weight belt is of primary importance - it protects and lends support to the injury prone lower back. A weight belt also restricts your movement to keep you from slipping into poor form as you get progressively more tired during a set. It helps you emphasize your target muscle and reduces the change of injury. It is the only essential piece of safety equipment. Weight gloves may be beneficial for improving grip and avoiding slippage, but that is a personal choice. You may want to see if weight gloves make you more comfortable. Other equipment, such as knee wraps and wrist wraps, are probably unnecessary until you progress to the intermediate or advanced levels.

5. Work Out With a Training Partner

You may not have this option, but if you do, a training partner can be beneficial to your workouts for many reasons. Training partners can provide motivation, but, even more important, a good training partner is there to spot you and ensure that you never slip out of textbook lifting form. They can help lift part of the weight so your form remains stellar. If you do not have a steady training partner, you should seek out someone to spot you for your heavier lifts, particularly near the end of your workout. Most people in the gym are willing to lend a hand, regardless of your level.

6. Choose a Reputable Facility

The best option for the best workout, of course, is a primo facility with state of the art equipment. We realize that not everyone can afford that. When you choose a place to train, make sure the equipment is in good working order - old or faulty equipment can cause injury as readily as poor form. Similarly, if you choose to work out at home, give your equipment an honest evaluation. If it does not measure up, get rid of it and seek a feasible alternative.

7. Seek Professional Help

Many neophyte bodybuilders attach a stigma to working out with a trainer, as though they should know everything about bodybuilding the first time they enter a gym. If you can work with a trained professional, you can learn the ropes much faster and possibly avoid errors that many beginners make. At the very least, the facility you choose should have a trained professional to answer questions you might have.

8. Avoid Overtraining

One of the things a trained professional will tell you is that excessive training will not lead to faster gains - it will only increase your chances of injury. If you are beginning to see results from performing three sets in the six to eight rep range, you might be tempted to double the number of sets to double your results. But conversely, this level of stress on your muscles may begin to tear them down, actually impeding gains. In addition, overtraining can lead to cumulative joint and / or muscle tissue damage. You might night notice this for months or years, but the damage could put a damper on - or end to - your bodybuilding endeavors.