The Gym Spy: Don't Swing Your Weights

dumbells at a gym
Flickr photo by rick

Taylor Ryan, The Stir's personal trainer, is sleuthing the gyms and clubs, reporting on common workout mistakes that hold us back from the killer bodies we want.

The gym intel:

Earlier in the week, I was working out when an older woman walked in and started lifting on the bench beside me. At first I thought ... cool. She's actually lifting real weight! You go girl! But then I went ... oh no, what is she doing?


It all came down to the way she was lifting the weight, or I should say, the way she was throwing the weight. Instead of concentrating on her muscles pulling the weight up, she was using her momentum to swing each rep of her bicep curls. This is a common issue I see with both women and men, and it could seriously be hurting your results.

The mission:

Each rep you do with weights should be concentrated to the muscles you're focusing on. If you're doing a dumbbell curl, your feet should be planted down in a strong base, with knees slightly bent, and a strong core. This position should be held the entire set. From here, the weight should be controlled and pulled up, then lowered down just as controlled.

If you're a weight swinger, then your muscles aren't getting the workout you wanted to give them, and you're increasing your risk of injury. From the arched back and hip thrusting I saw this woman do, I really wouldn't be surprised if she didn't make it in next week because of back pain!

One way to make sure you're using your muscles instead of momentum is to slow the move down. Concentrate to make the lifting phase last three seconds and then three seconds on the negative, or the lowering phase of the move. If you feel you can't get the weight up without swinging, then it's time to lower the pounds.

Yes, if you're using momentum, you'll feel your heart rate skyrocket, tricking you into thinking you're getting a top-notch workout. But this is a false perception. If you do the move correctly, you'll still "feel the burn" and get better results faster -- without the fear of increased risk of injury.

After you're sure the swing is gone with the three-second lifts, then you can start to speed the move up again to fit your workout. Make sure that the momentum is gone and you're really weight lifting, not just swinging around the gym. 


Taylor Ryan is head trainer for The Art of Weight Lifting and the Charleston, South Carolina-based Fat-Blasting Boot Camps for Moms. She's also at The Stir every Friday with a new Personal Training Workout.

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