You have plenty of reasons for making Olympic lifts part of your workout routine. As you already know, such a move can seriously tone your muscles. But this particular lift targets a slew of different areas — arms, back, shoulders and core — making it a useful addition to your weekly routine. Olympic lifts will give you a serious sense of accomplishment too. As you lift such a heavy weight over your head, you’ll realize how strong and capable you are.
There’s only one problem. You may worry that pressing such a heavy weight over your head can hurt you in some way. Indeed, injuries can occur when someone is performing such a rigorous workout routine. But if you have the proper form, you can protect your body — and especially your back — from damage. Here’s how.
1. Warm up Sufficiently
Warming up should be the precursor to any workout, as the muscles tend to be tight after sitting or sleeping. Stretching or performing some introductory exercises will allow your muscles to lengthen gently, which they’ll need when you begin to do more strenuous activity. A proper warm-up will ease your muscles into the motion — otherwise, you could cause them harm from pulling or tearing by jumping right into a workout.
Bottom line: If you want to start Olympic lifting, begin each session with a warm-up. Doing so will help your back and other muscles prepare for what’s ahead so that you can avoid injuring yourself.
2. Shore up Your Core
Your core plays a huge role in each Olympic lift you perform. As such, you should brace your abs with each move to make sure it’s engaged. Such focus on creating a hard, stable core can protect your spine from damage.
One way to tense up your core is to imagine that someone is trying to punch you. Tighten up the muscles in your midsection that would protect you from a belly-based blow. Then, try to stand up as straight and tall as you can. This step will also protect your back, as it will ensure you’re standing with a natural arch rather than a rounded or painfully arched posture.
3. …And Your Shoulders and Glutes
Although the power for your Olympic lift will come mostly from the core, you should make sure the rest of your body has proper form too. Without it, you could expose your back or other areas of your body to injury.
Once you’ve fortified your core, focus on your shoulders and glutes. With the former, you should make sure you pull them back and down. If it helps, remember that your shoulder blades should be locked and more or less unable to move. This step is particularly crucial for protecting your back. The muscles that you’ll freeze originate in your spine, thus protecting your upper back during your lift.
To safeguard the lower back, squeeze your glutes tightly as you lift. Doing so will help you hinge forward and move your hips and back together, thus protecting the tender lower back area.
4. Vary Your Workouts
You can’t go to the gym and Olympic lift every day — you shouldn’t fill your exercise routine with non-stop high-intensity moves. Instead, you can prevent injury by varying your workouts. Some suggest alternating high- and low-impact workouts to keep injuries at bay. So if you want to do your Olympic lifting on Monday, follow it up on Tuesday with a gentler form of fitness, such as swimming or yoga. Such workouts will help you recover in time for your next scheduled lift day.
5. Invest in the Equipment
If you’re serious about Olympic weightlifting, you should buy the accessories you need to safely and comfortably lift. For instance, all professional weightlifters have designated shoes for their sport. They don’t want too much of a heel, but a three-quarter-inch height can help them dip into comfortable squats. You can consult with a trainer or fellow lifter to find the right pair of shoes, but always wear the proper footwear before you start lifting.
Another way to prevent injury is to lift with an Olympic bar. Other bars don’t twist, thus making them dangerous to your wrist as you perform the move. Hesitation can be hazardous and cause injury when you do a lift like this. Knowing you have the proper equipment can give you the confidence you need to go for it.
6. Stick With It
The best way to reap the benefits of your Olympic lifting — and to do so safely — is to follow a regular training routine. Practicing frequently enough will help you improve your form and build muscle, thus making each lift easier and safer. Plus, you’ll achieve the ultimate goal of such a regimen — improved fitness and strength.
So get started and don’t stop. You have the tools now to Olympic lift safely and comfortably — rather than hurting your back, get out there and make it stronger!