We’ve all seen (and probably laughed at) those viral videos of people using gym equipment incorrectly, but the reality is many people haven’t been taught how to exercise safely.
With gym membership prices falling and access to facilities increasing across the nation, more people are walking into their local gym, but without proper guidance it’s easy to get hurt. Marcus Evins, a certified personal trainer at American Family Fitness with over four years of hands-on resistance training experience, says he sees the most misuse in the squat rack.
This daunting piece of equipment is generally in the back corner of a commercial gym, near the free weights, where you can often find people neglecting to utilize any of the safety features while carrying hundreds of pounds on their shoulders.
To safely squat, Evins says the first step is to properly set up the rack.
“The catches that support the weight should be set in a manner that matches a comfortable position in which you would un-rack the weight,” Evins explains. Meaning those metal bars on the side of the squat rack that so often go ignored are actually there for a reason and should be set purposefully, so “if any accidents occur where you ‘fail’ a squat attempt, the safety bars will prevent the barbell from crashing down on your body.” And even if you don’t “fail” an attempt, un-racking hundreds of pounds with bad form can still be disastrous.
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of an effective workout is good form.
Whether you’re using your body weight during a simple plank or stacking on hundreds of pounds for barbell squats in the squat rack, form always comes first. Great form isn’t always intuitive, so practicing good form is the best way to ensure you stay safe and injury-free. Never be afraid to ask a professional for help, either.
Places like Gold’s Gym have free 7-day passes that can get you started with a trainer even if you don’t opt to pay for the full membership after your trial (the Charlottesville Gold’s offers both a free 7-day VIP pass and a free class pass). If you have access to the University of Virginia’s Recreational facilities, you can take advantage of their beginner weight-training sessions that start in the fall and even if you don’t, check out Eventbrite or Facebook for local free fitness activities in and around the city.
Just remember: exercise smarter, not harder.