How to stay safe working out at home

Safety is often overlooked when exercising. I think this is a big mistake. We exercise to get healthier and improve our lives, not to harm ourselves. I don’t want to bore you with QHSE, but I highly recommend reading the article below. It contains some basic considerations about safety. As always, if you are in doubt consult your physician or professional coach. Remember: your safety is your number one responsibility!

Proper form

When exercising, proper form is an absolute priority. It helps to use the full potential of exercise. Incorrect form will, sooner or later, lead to an injury. Make correct form your main focus, it is more important than lifting few more pounds.

Best way of learning proper form is of course, with the help of professional coach. If this is an option, you should take it! Unfortunately if you are starting to exercise at home, you probably do not have access to personal coach. Luckily we have the internet. In XXI century you can find everything online, just search the name of exercise in youtube and you will get tens or hundreds of videos explaining good form. At the beginning it is worth to review form video before every workout, to keep rechecking yourself. You’ll often find areas for improvement after many training sessions.

The most fundamental issue with judging form is, that it is difficult to check your own form. You cannot leave your body and stand aside. You can ask your workout buddy, if you have one, or internet may help. Reddit is one place where in r/GYM you can drop your form check video and people will gladly help.

For those craving more detailed explanation, there is a lot of books available. Mark Rippetoe ‘Starting Strength’ is worth recommending. You would think squat is a simple exercise, Rippetote describes it on over 70 pages…

Spotting

This is another important aspect of weightlifting. Most of us exercising at home will do it alone. There will be no one to spot us and help out when we find ourselves in difficult situation trapped under weight we are no longer able to lift.

First of all, if you exercise alone, forget about beating your own personal records. Especially in exercises where you are under a heavy load, like squat or bench press. If you exercise regularly and do not cheat yourself, you will progress anyway, without risking your health. It is a lot safer to assume a certain number of repetitions (six is a good number) and add weight only after we do our reps with current weight.

Exercise programs that I recommend assume you do reps until you reach, what is called ‘technical failure’. It means you stop, when you feel you will not be able to do another rep with proper form. It requires you to be honest with yourself: you do not want to give up to easily, but also you do not want to risk your health by pushing to hard. This will all come with experience.

If you have a partner to exercise with, make sure you both know how to spot correctly. Where to stand and when to intervene. Important thing is not to be a distraction by trying to do too much. Spotter is there to help get out of last rep, you wouldn’t be able to get out of by yourself, not to finish last 3 reps for you. Mark Rippetoe ‘Starting Strength’ has that well covered, so again it is a recommended reading.

Ego

results vs timeWhen we exercise at our own home gym, we usually exercise alone. This doesn’t mean the desire to improve your results and beat your previous best is gone. Far from that. Unfortunately with time your progress will inevitably slow down. For more advanced people ability to add few more pounds every few weeks is a lot. The desire to progress and train heavier in itself is very good. This is what drives us to improve our results. It becomes an issue however, if this is our only priority. Sooner or later it will lead you down the path of lying to yourself:

  • improper (easier) exercise form
  • half reps
  • additional moves (like swinging) using momentum to lift more
  • using the help of muscles that should not be involved in given exercise
  • and many more ways you can cheat yourself into lifting more

All of this can lead to a less effective workout (although paradoxically we lifted bigger weight) and even worse: an injury.

Program

Internet is full of workout programs. Most of them are good enough. What really matters is consistency, even exercising with a poor program, you will get some results. Obviously it is better to exercise using a good program, the one that will let us train all muscles over a period of one week. We generally recommend full body workout (FBW) for beginners. In FBW you train all muscles in one session and do it 2-3 times a week. After a while when you get bored with FBW you can move to other programs such as Push Pull Legs (PPL) or Upper/Lower (U/L). Of course this is not some sort of hard rule. Depending on your goals and what you find enjoyable, you can stick to FBW forever or skip it entirely and start with PPL or other regime. Generally as already mentioned, all these programs are good and will give you benefits, if you do them consistently. For most people, switching their training routine every few months help to keep it interesting.

Picking exercise program for yourself, keep in mind the following:

  • it needs to be good for our fitness level
  • do not overload it with exercise or training days
  • it needs to have enough time for recovery
  • it needs to fit your lifestyle and the amount of time you have
  • it needs to fit your overall physical activity, so you do not overtrain
  • it is ok to try different things before you find something you enjoy

Recovery

Recovery is an extremely important part of every training program. It is equally important as training itself. Recovery helps to avoid fatigue, over-training and injuries. On top of that many positive changes in our body resulting from exercise are actually happening after the workout (like muscle growth after weight lifting).

Generally there are two types of recovery: active and passive recovery. Active recovery is a form of light physical activity like walking, cycling or yoga. Passive recovery does not involve physical activity and is equivalent to just resting. Active recovery is very effective, helps us to not only recover physically but also rest mentally. You need to pay attention to intensity though, you do not want to turn it into another workout.

Overloading your exercise regime is very easy, especially when you are trying to loose weight and you are in calorie deficit. It is the easiest way to overworking and in result overtraining. This is a very unwanted process and it may prevent you from exercising for many weeks.