Weight training is having a bit of a renaissance. While cardio had a heyday for a few years (just look at the spinning craze), fitness classes centered around strength and resistance training have been steadily growing in popularity. Cardio may be good for burning calories, but you need weight training in order to get the defined muscle tone many of us hope for when we hit the gym.
If you’ve been skipping the weights because you’re concerned about “bulking up,” you’re missing out. The benefits of weight lifting go far beyond muscle definition.
Weight lifting benefits include:
- Higher resting metabolism
- Reduced risk for osteoporosis
- Improved sleep quality
- Enhanced mental clarity
- Lower stress levels
- Better posture
- Reduced back pain
It’s true — weight lifting can improve your posture and reduce or prevent chronic back pain! Lifting weights strengthens your back, shoulder, and core muscles, which are all essential to standing with proper posture and preventing lower back pain. Considering that half of all American adults experience back pain symptoms each year and 80% will develop back pain at some point in their lifetime, we would all benefit from lifting weights.
However, weight lifting does come with a warning: You can do more harm than good if you don’t practice correct posture while lifting. Too many people hit the gym without proper training, and as a result they use poor form and develop bad habits that will cause pain and even injury over time.
Avoid these common weight lifting mistakes to prevent injury:
- Overtraining- Doing too many reps during a single lifting session
- Cheating- Lifting weights that are too heavy for you without working up to it
- Skipping the warm-up- “Cold” muscles are more prone to injury
- Lifting too quickly- A slow and steady pace is necessary to maintain good form
- Poor shoe choice - Shoes provide essential support and traction for your safety
On the flip side, practicing these good weight lifting habits will help you gain the most benefit from your lifting sessions:
- Use correct form- Proper form will vary between exercises, but you should never do an exercise until you’ve learned how to execute it with correct form. If you’re struggling to maintain your form, switch to a lighter set of weights.
- Balance your workouts - You’ve heard people talk about “leg day” or “arm day.” They’re referring to the practice of cycling your workouts to target different muscle groups each day you hit the gym. Doing this will help you build strength in a balanced way that’s good for your posture and for your results.
- Rest- Rest days are essential for weight lifting. Muscles are actually built during rest — not in the gym. Lifting weights causes tiny tears to form in your muscles. Your body repairs these rips while you rest, building more muscle mass. Skipping rest day will also make you more prone to injury.
Best Weight Lifting Exercises for Improving Posture
Any time you spend weight training will be good for your posture. That said, the best weight lifting exercises for improving posture are those that target muscle groups in the core, back, shoulders, and legs.
Include these exercises in your workouts to support good posture:
- Deadlifts- Targeting glutes, core, and lower back muscles, deadlifts are a powerhouse for posture.
- Plank holds- Your core is arguably the most important muscle group for good posture. Strengthen your core by doing plank holds.
- Squats- Squats strengthen your legs and core, but they also help stretch your hip flexors and lumbar spine. Tightness in those areas can cause bad posture, so stretching and strengthening is a good way to correct a problem before it starts.
- Low rows- Seated low row pulls target the lower trap muscles responsible for pulling your shoulders back and down, required for good posture.
- Reverse flys - Tight or weak chest muscles can cause rounded, slumped shoulders. Reverse flys will strengthen your shoulder and upper back muscles to counteract slouching.
Weight lifting isn’t just another fitness fad — it’s essential for not only maintaining a toned physique, but for preventing lifelong back problems and chronic pain caused by poor posture. Challenge yourself to start incorporating weight lifting into your weekly workout routine. You’ll thank yourself when you start feeling the benefits!