Written by Carolina Physical Therapy’s Vicky DeMicco DPT, based out of our White Knoll location!
When I first started power and olympic lifting, I never thought I would become so enthusiastic about it. Lifting for fun as exercise has been one of the best challenges I’ve ever tried to tackle. It has improved my running times, works all muscles of the body making it a great way to get fit, stay fit and even lose weight. It has empowered me, not only making me physically stronger, but also made me mentally stronger. That mental toughness helped a lot during the twenty hours of labor it took to deliver of my son, Lucas. Most of all, it’s taught me to appreciate patience and the delicacy of the movements.
Unfortunately, lifting often gets a bad wrap. As a Physical Therapist, there are a few adjustments that I recommend for successful and -pain free!- lifting — no matter the weight your lifting or your personal years of experience.
- First, and I say this with the utmost respect and from experience, check your ego at the door! You are your own coach, challenger and biggest cheerleader. That being said take it one movement at a time. There’s always room for improvement tomorrow and it’ll happen quicker if you stay injury free!
- Make sure to warm up first! A quick jog or ride on a stationary bike followed by stretches will guarantee you achieve the necessary range of motion so you can lift heavier safely.
- Work on form first with light to moderate loads focusing on engaging the correct muscles and engaging your core throughout the entire movement. You can even record a video of yourself and playback in real time to break down what you did well and what you can improve. And they are also fun to look at months or even years down the road.
Now, for specific exercises:
- Deadlifts: Position yourself correctly at the bar. Dig your heels into the floor, engage your shoulders, glutes and core throughout the movement, don’t drop the bar from the top. Correctly bringing the bar back down is a great way to strengthen your mid and low back muscles and will help you build up to touch-and-go reps.
- Pullups: One of the hardest movements to tackle, but worth it when you get your first strict one on the books! If you are unable to complete a pull up work with modifications such as using a resistance band to help you at first, once you are able to perform 10-12 in a row move onto a new band with less resistance. It may take a few weeks to get there but this will ensure you develop a strong grip, good core control and most of all shoulder stability so that you can perform them safely.
- Overhead movements: Push Press, Strict Press, Squat, Split Jerks- Use your core the entire time! Avoid arching your back at the top as that is the easiest way to cause back pain.
- Be gradual when it comes to adding weight to the bar. Be cognizant of how your body reacts. Are you feeling tension in your back? Are you unable to keep your core tight the whole time? Are you getting random sharp pains in other parts of your body? These would be signs to decrease the weight or reps in order to perform the movements safely. Remember if you are wanting to lift for the long run, one day of low loads is not going to set you back!
- Try to incorporate a core specific workout- it can be short!- at least once a week to really focus on strengthening your core to make your lifts easier and less prone to injury.
- Make sure to cool down. A gentle walk or stretching again are great ways to bring your heart rate back down and gives you the chance to mentally transition to your next activity.
- Lastly and most importantly, have fun! While lifting can be challenging, it is beyond rewarding when you hit a weight you’ve been striving for.