Whether you are a seasoned, serious weight lifter or just starting out, avoid these two common mistakes:
The muscles weight lifters ordinarily focus on to “look good” are the biceps, pectoral and abdominal or stomach muscles. But if they ignore the corresponding back muscles, trouble could result.
Muscle imbalance can lead to serious injuries and postural problems. For instance, by focusing on the chest and bicep muscles without strengthening the muscles in the back of the shoulder (rotator cuff and triceps), a weight lifter can dislocate the shoulder if pressure is exerted on the back of the arm. This is typical in football and other contact sports, and is more prevalent among high school weight lifters.
In addition, this lopsided way of strengthening causes the lifter’s posture to exhibit “forward or rounded” shoulder posture—meaning the neutral position of the shoulder joint is forward. An added force is all it takes dislocate the shoulder forward.
Building up the abdominals (stomach muscles) without doing the same to the back extensors, which are the muscles running down each side of the spine and between the shoulder blades, also leads to back problems. The weight lifter starts to lose the natural curve in the low back (known as a lordosis), causing the body’s center of gravity to shift forward.
If, when lying flat on your back, you notice an arch that can only be flattened if you bend your knees up, that means your stomach muscles have shortened, and the muscles across the front of your hip joints have also started to shrink. In standing or sitting positions you may find it more difficult to avoid slouching. So when the postural balance needed for the body to remain pain free and injury free becomes compromised—heed the warning signs!
The Need to Stretch
The second mistake often seen among more experienced weight lifters is the misconception that they don’t need to stretch their muscles, or that stretching will somehow make their muscles weaker. In fact, the opposite is true!
Stretching is necessary to maintain flexibility and avoid the typical “muscle bound” phenomenon of being unable to reach back for a shirt or coat sleeve. You can be flexible and have muscle mass without sacrificing one for the other. Too many times weight lifters let their chest and shoulder muscles get so tight that they can’t touch their hands behind their back, or straighten their elbows. A muscle must start from a lengthened position to produce the maximum force it can exert. If you contract a muscle from an already shortened position, some of its power is lost.
So when it comes to stretching and building your muscles, be an equal opportunity weight lifter!