There are dozens of safety elements to take into consideration when working out on a fitness floor. However, there are few tips that, regardless of where you are performing your workout, you may want to make a habit of practicing. This is not about the etiquette on the floor, as we have covered that topic in this column previously. These tips specifically highlight safe use of equipment, whether it is free weight, selectorized or plate loaded. As always, prior to beginning any workout, please consult your physician.
Tip #1 One of the most critical tips when weight training is to place the clamps/sleeves on the free Olympic bars, whether short or long, to secure the plates on the bar. This becomes of particular importance when you are lifting on your own without a spotter, but should be practiced with a spotter as well. If the bar begins to list to one side, and there are no clamps on the bar to hold the plates securely, the bar may tip to that side enough to cause the plates to slip off and lead to an even greater issue of the entire bar flipping over. Not only is the lifter at risk, everyone in the facility within striking distance is at risk as well. This one mystifies me as it is a simple process to place the clamps on the ends of the bar and it is not a huge task to remove the clamps when changing out the weight plates. So, practice this safety tip when training with free bars.
Tip #2 Speaking of spotters, make certain you and your spotter truly understand how to train with free bars and dumbbells, etc. both as the lifter and the spotter. Take the time to learn how to safely lift and spot from a fitness professional.
Tip #3 Avoid any momentum use when utilizing free weights. In order to safely perform any exercise with free weight, you need to be stable and understand the range of motion for that specific exercise. If you are swinging the weight or moving too rapidly, you are not actually “lifting” the weight. The momentum is causing the majority of the motion and may lead to injury, but at the very least, may not provide you with solid free weight training results.
Tip #4 If you can “hear” the weight plates on the weight stack touching on selectorized equipment, such as multi-gyms, usually this indicates that you are either too close to the equipment anchor point which prohibits a sound range of motion, you have too much weight on the stack, or you may be moving too rapidly to control the weight stack, or all three. Reposition yourself or the load on the stack and perform quietly with “heavy” breathing rather than slamming plates. This may also eventually lead to damaging the cable and pulley system which is expensive to repair and may cause injury in the process.
Tip #5 Make certain that you “hear” the pulley snap into the column when moving the cable/pulley. Typically, if you do not hear the snap, the cable/pulley are not secured. If you have difficulty moving the cable/pulley, ask one of the staff to help you to ensure your safety.