Working out can be hard. Which is probably why they used “work” as a root word. If it were easy, everyone would do it all the time. The main thing to remember is to not go too hard. It takes time to build and create a nice physique. You wouldn't want to blow precious training time on recovering from an injury. In addition, depending on the severity of the injury, you could not fully recover. By this I mean you may not be able to lift as much as you used to with that muscle, or that you don't have as much range of motion as you did previously.
So not that you're scared to ever set foot in a gym again, let me give you some trainer tips so your mind is eased and your body is safe.
First of all, let us go over some safety tips about squats and lunges. These exercises are very good for you, but you must do them correctly and with good form. To begin, remember your weight should be back, over your heels. Slowly lower yourself down into the squat or lunge until your hips are in line with, or slightly above, your knees. You should always keep your knees at no more than a 90 degree angle to your body (don't lower your hips past your knees). They should stay in line with your ankles and NEVER go so far out that they go over/past your toes. This may feel weird at first, but the more you practice, the easier & more natural it will feel. To return to start, drive yourself up using your hamstrings (back of your thigh) and your glutes (your bootie). Throughout the entire exercise your abs should be tight, bracing your lower back. When you are at the top of your squats/lunges, do not fully extend your knee. Keep them soft (slightly bent) & not locked. A good way to practice squats is to sit & stand using a stationary chair. You should feel your gluteus maximus working to bring your body upright.
When performing a chest press, a lot of the same rules apply from above. When bringing the bar down/back, remember to keep your elbows in line with your wrists and knuckles. Don't bring the bar past your torso. You want to keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle to your body. Also, they should be slightly lower than your shoulders. When bringing the bar up/forward, do not fully extend your elbows. Keep them soft at the extended part of the press.
The exercise world is constantly changing. Exercises are always in the process of becoming better, more efficient, and safer. One exercise that has been changed in the last few years is the Lat Pull-Down. This is a back exercise that is great for you, but again you need to make sure you are doing it correctly. The way it used to work was you pulled an overhead bar on a resistance machine down behind your head. The problem is that when pulled too far, you can seriously injure your neck and even shoulders. For this reason, the exercise was changed. Instead of pulling the bar behind your head, sit up nice and tall, abs tight and pull the bar IN FRONT OF your head to about shoulder level. You should feel a nice tension in your upper back and at the bottom of the exercise between your shoulder blades.
Another big safety issue is an abdominal workout on the floor. There are many magazines out there that promote lying on the floor with legs extended and taking your legs straight up from the floor towards the ceiling and then returning them to the start position. This is a problem because if your abs are not strong enough, your lower back will suffer greatly. The main idea to remember here is that you should keep your low back pressed into the floor. If you can't maintain that position while doing the exercise, then pick a new one. It is not worth the risk of pulling out your back & recovering for a week or two.
One thing I worry about as a trainer is the exercises that are shown in magazines and on the internet. I realize that not everyone is a trainer, but I know you are all intelligent individuals. If something looks like its going to hurt, if it looks ridiculous, or looks too hard, then don't do it. Better to go easy and get some workout in then to seriously injure yourself and not be able to workout for weeks. If you are unsure of an exercise or workout, don't do it. Bring the exercise/workout in to your local gym (the YMCA maybe? :) and ask if a trainer is available to look at the information and tell you if there are any risks involved. Don't feel like its a stupid question, in this way your are keeping yourself safe. Further, its our job to keep you safe. So please, bring in your questions! You can call the Wayne County YMCA any time at (570) 253-2083, or visit our website to see what we're all about at ymcawayne.com.