The Dos and Don’ts of Weight Lifting

Whether you’re looking for tone and definition or simply hoping to improve muscle strength to advance your performance in other exercises, weight lifting can be an extremely beneficial form of exercise. However, it can also cause severe injury if executed improperly. In order to keep you on the right path while you’re strength training, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most important dos and don’ts of weight lifting.

Dos of Weight Lifting

Focus on form

As with any exercise, proper form is crucial when it comes to weight lifting. Weight lifting exercises can target several different muscles at once, and improper form can lead to significant pain throughout your entire body. As such, it’s important that you understand and maintain proper form for each exercise you complete. Though posture and form may change slightly depending on each individual exercise, you should follow a few general rules to maintain proper weight lifting form. In general, your back should be straight, and you should keep your feet about a shoulder-width apart. This will help ground and center you as you begin lifting.

If you’re new to weight lifting, you can also consult the advice of a more advanced friend or personal trainer. They’ll be able to show you the ropes and provide pointers to help stave off muscle strain and pain.


Sometimes, the strain of lifting immense amounts of weight can be enough to make you lose your breath. During a strenuous workout, your first instinct may be to hold your breath in an attempt to power through. Doing this, however, can lead to a less effective workout, and it may cause you to quickly overexert yourself, which can increase the risk of injury. Try to maintain an even breathing pattern while you’re lifting. The best way to do this is to breathe in as you lift the weight and breathe out at you lower it. This pattern of inhaling during the most strenuous part of the exercise will help fuel your movements so that you can maintain proper form throughout the entire set.

Balance your exercises

At first glance, weight lifting may seem like an exercise intended only for the upper arm muscles. However, strength training can yield results for many different muscle groups throughout your body, including your back, ab, and leg muscles. Almost all exercises target more than one muscle or muscle group at a time. Balancing your strength training throughout the entire body rather than focusing on one area will help reduce risk of injury and ensure proper form across all your exercises. It will also decrease strength imbalances and reduce the risk of injury, leading to a more effective workout and yielding better results.

Plan a rest day

Once you get into the habit of exercising, hitting the gym every day of the week can be tempting. Though consistency is key when it comes to strength training, working out nonstop can quickly lead to overexertion and increase the potential of injury. Interspersing your exercise schedule with a rest day or two will give you and your muscles a chance to recuperate after a tough workout. Creating a stable workout schedule will help you plan your rest days in advance and avoid overexerting certain muscle groups. You should also try to rest between weight lifting sets for at least a few minutes. This will reduce next-day soreness and give your muscles a chance to recover before you begin the next exercise.

Don’ts of Weight Lifting

Skip your warm-up

Jumping headfirst into a strenuous workout without warming up first is a recipe for disaster. Exercising with cold muscles can increase the risk of strain or injury and the likelihood of soreness after the workout. Warming up with a bit of light cardio will help prepare your body for the more strenuous weight lifting exercises that are to come. Even warming up for as little as five to ten minutes can reduce the risk of injury significantly. Some simple warm-up exercises may include walking or jogging on a treadmill and doing jumping jacks, arm circles, and lunges.


Unlike some cardio exercises, which focus on duration, strength training focuses on the number of completed reps. Because of this, you may be tempted to rush through each set as quickly as possible. However, this can actually be detrimental to your progress, and it significantly increases the likelihood of sustaining an injury. Taking your time with each set and focusing on every movement will help you maintain better control throughout the set, reducing the possibility of injury. Remember that you are in control of the weights and machines, not the other way around. Choosing weights you can easily handle and control will allow you to focus more on the movement of your body rather than on the unbearable weight you’re trying to lift.

Be a hero

Choosing the right weights and exercises can be difficult, especially for people just beginning their foray into strength training. With so many different types of weights and strength training machines—each of which can adjust to different weight levels—getting started can be quite tricky. Choosing weights that are too heavy for you can quickly lead to fatigue and injury. If you find your body following the momentum of the weight—in other words, if you’re unable to properly lift the weight without swinging it—then the weight is too heavy for you. Choose weights that allow you to comfortably complete a set of 15 reps, with a bit of fatigue starting to set in at repetition 12. As you continue your training, you can steadily increase the weight amount and repetitions for each set.

Go it alone

When it comes to the dos and don’ts of weight lifting, perhaps the best piece of advice is to buddy up. Weight lifting with a friend or trainer will not only reduce the risk of injury, but also improve your overall motivation. Your workout buddy will also be able to monitor your form to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout every time.

Keep these tips in mind as you begin your foray into strength training, and be sure to stop by an American Home Fitness store for the best weight lifting fitness equipment in Ohio and Michigan. We have locations in Sylvania/Toledo, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and more.

The Dos and Don’ts of Weight Lifting infographic