Workouts Gone Wrong: Ways to Injury-Proof Your Sweat Sessions
Active Threat: Getting hurt by a weight, joint injuries, muscle strains
There was a 63 percent increase in weight-room injuries among women over a 12-year period (17 percent higher than in men), a 2010 study found. Dropping dumbbells or smashing body parts with them accounts for 75 percent of cases. Weight machines can be a hazard as well. "They're designed to fit men's bodies, which can throw off a woman's form when she's using them," says Robert Forster, a physical therapist in Santa Monica, California. "And research shows that, in general, females have less upper-body strength and a smaller bone structure than men do to support weight, which puts them in positions that strain muscles when they lift."
Workout Rescue: Whether you're using free weights or machines, start small (if everyone in class is picking up 10-pound weights, don't be shy about grabbing eight-pounders), ramp up gradually by increasing the number of reps before upping the weight, and keep movements slow and controlled. If you have questions, talk to a trainer at your gym. And avoid the following, which Forster says are downright dangerous.
SKIP: Knee-extension machine Extending the knee from such a flexed position creates compressive forces between the back of the kneecap and the thighbone, eventually wearing down cartilage there. Worst-case scenario: osteoarthritis.
TRY: Leg-press machine or squats They evenly distribute forces throughout your lower body to take pressure off your kneecaps.
SKIP: Behind-the-neck lat pull-down The pull-down motion forces shoulder joints to work in poor alignment; leaning forward strains neck muscles.
TRY: Lat pull-down done right Lean back slightly and pull the bar down to the front of your chest.
SKIP: Seated torso twist This exercise puts excessive pressure on lower-back disks, so much so that it can cause a disk herniation.
TRY: Straight-arm lifts To target your deltoids, stand holding free weights, arms by sides, with thumbs pointing up, then raise weights to shoulder level in front of your body. Do push-downs on the lat machine to work your triceps.
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