Walking Tall

At first glance, lifting weights is less risky than, say, waterskiing or rock climbing. All you need to do—once you join a gym—is walk in and start lifting. Herein lies the rub. In sports like waterskiing with obvious objective hazards, the risky elements are obvious: fast boat, hard water, big ouch. Assuming you don't drop a barbell on your forehead, the risk in weight lifting tends to be cumulative—the proverbial drop in a bucket that one day overflows and stains the carpet.

Take a chap we know at the gym—a short, bearded muscular guy who trains hard. No matter the exercise, he piles on a lot of weight and gives it the old heave-ho. The problem, however, is that he's often twisting and straining and using other body parts to assist him as he reaches failure. Not long ago he was complaining to Joe about his sore left shoulder. While he reduced the amount of weight he used on the bench (a notorious shoulder wanker), he continued lifting like a man paid by the pound. The moral of the story? Arthroscopic surgery that will keep him out of the gym for six weeks.

As we've now said many times, it's very important, before we have you hoisting weights, that we make sure that you will be able to execute all of these exercises with sound form and technique. That means proper posture and attention to your breathing. If you start using shoddy technique, you're likely to build a house of cards. One day a strong wind rushes through and you're reduced to rubble. And remember, it's harder to unlearn bad habits than it is to learn good ones. So learn it here, the right way.

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