Featured Members: Ron & Lynn Huff

Image of Ron and Lynn as Feature Members of The Perfect Workout

Veteran flight captain Ron and current flight attendant Lynn travel frequently and wanted the ability to sustain their active lifestyle together. They were the first couple to join The Perfect Workout’s Clear Lake location and have been a committed team ever since. Here is their story…

During their 44 years of marriage, Ron and Lynn have prioritized living an active lifestyle and have worked towards being as healthy as possible. Ron had osteopenia and wanted to begin strength training to prevent it from worsening. Lynn wanted to increase her muscle definition, and stay strong to keep up with her busy flight attendant schedule. But two major things fueled their fire to stay fit:

“Everyone on my [Lynn] mom’s side has died of congestive heart failure. And having been a flight attendant for 55 years, I’ve seen a lot of people who have done nothing to take care of themselves… and it’s sad to see.”

Despite having a home gym fitted with a treadmill, elliptical and weights, they began to realize they didn’t use them on a regular basis.

Then the weirdest thing happened…

“We went to go buy a car an hour away from home, and when we got our rental car there was this 4-page flier that said The Perfect Workout on it.”

Even though the closest location was an hour away from their home, the article peaked their interest. Come to find out, a new studio was opening near their home in Clear Lake, TX. The Huff’s decided to try the 20-minute workout they read all about. They both loved their introductory workout and have been training together every year since.

“Let’s just say, I believe things happen for a reason.”

Seven years later, Ron has significantly improved his osteopenia and both look fantastically fit at 74 and 81.

“Everyone tells me how great of shape I'm in. I don’t feel 74, I don’t act 74. And people say, ‘I want what you’re having for breakfast!’ Ron is 81 and people are always saying, ‘Ronnie has the best legs!’

Before slow-motion strength training, Ron dealt with lower back issues. He would hesitate to do simple activities, and now it's not a problem.

“I’ve [Lynn] had 4 knee scopes and I think The Perfect Workout has helped my joints and knees – especially because I’ve been able to strengthen them and experience less pain.

I even sleep better. I had an issue waking up often during the night and having my mind go a million miles a minute. But now I sleep better as a result of my workouts.”

One of her biggest brags? (we think at least)

“I’m 74 and I can help others put stuff in the overhead bin…and I do it without pain.

The Huff’s have traveled the word- rode camels in Egypt, walked the Colosseum in Rome, walked with lions and fed cheetahs in Zimbabwe, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, hot-ballooned the Nile and have even been ziplining Victoria Falls, Africa!

“We’ve been so fortunate to go see a lot of people and places that others wouldn’t dream about.

Physical limitations? We don’t feel like we have those issues because we’re stronger.”

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a FREE workout with us.

We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help learning how to implement these new habits alongside your workouts, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected] to get started.

Member Feature Nancy Schlesinger

50lbs Down and Keeping it Off in Her 60s

50lbs Down and Keeping it Off in Her 60s

Picture of a female member being coached by a trainer on the leg press

At 58, Nancy was overweight, had knee problems, and struggled to keep up when traveling.

Now at 63, none of those things hold her back from living the life she wants. Here is her story…

“I started coming to The Perfect Workout because I wanted to lose weight. I was considerably heavier. And I also had some health issues that I wanted to deal with in terms of endurance.

I wanted to be able to do more.”

As a Girl Scout Troop Leader and avid traveler, it was important for Nancy to stay physically active. But, she had some nagging issues getting in the way…

“I wanted to be able to do more hiking with my Girl Scout troop. Because I have problems with my knee, I could go uphill, but not downhill.

And when we went on our trip to Switzerland, I had a hard time at the higher elevations, especially keeping up with the group.

There were things that I was afraid to try, because of my size and my bad coordination. I was not really comfortable with rappelling and doing other fun stuff that other people got to do.”

Prior to joining The Perfect Workout, Nancy tried exercising by herself. Even though she had access to a gym, she experienced some roadblocks.

“I tried working out in a gym and we have an elliptical machine at home, but I stuck with neither of them.

I think I had a lot of fear about not knowing what was good for me to do… What was the right thing to do?

When I went to the gym, I was afraid to raise my weights, because I didn't know if I would hurt myself.

I actually did hurt myself on a machine when I was trying to workout on my own at a gym. And it took me months to get over that.

I would spend hours there and not see any results.”

When Nancy heard about The Perfect Workout on the radio she was immediately intrigued by two things: The San Mateo studio was near her home, and it was only 20 minutes, twice a week.

By the third session, she was ready to become a member.

“I felt confident the trainer was going to keep me safe, which was a big issue for me. I liked that it was small, there wasn't a crowd of people there. I felt like this was something I can do.”

Over the past 5 years, Nancy has achieved all the goals she set when she first joined The Perfect Workout. Remember that “bad knee” that prevented her from hiking and rappelling? It’s no longer holding her back…

“I'm lifting 300 pounds with my legs. Even though I have a bad knee. That's my biggest brag!

I can carry a lot more things. I can move more easily. I fit into smaller spaces, even those little bitty airplane seats!”

image of a trainer show a member their progress chart with a quote bubble next to them

In total, Nancy has lost about 50 pounds. In addition to losing weight, she’s increased her lean muscle mass and bone strength. Both of which will help her maintain her fat loss, stamina, and strength for years to come.

“To me The Perfect Workout really is perfect. I don't have to think about all the little details that you would if you're working out on your own. Having the trainer there by your side, watching your form is so valuable.

I think a lot of that hesitancy to workout before was often fear that I was going to do something wrong, that either I wouldn't get any results or I'd hurt myself.

As you get older, you don't have the same body confidence that you might have when you were younger. But when you have your trainer there then they can help you stay focused.

This is not like anything else I've ever done…

I feel like I'm a lot stronger. I’ve got better coordination and balance.

And I really changed the way my body looks. It's really wonderful.”

Nancy S. 63
The Perfect Workout Member
San Mateo, CA

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and Find a Studio Near You

High-Intensity Resistance Training for Beginners

High-Intensity Resistance Training for Beginners. Safe and Effective Strength Training

High-Intensity Resistance Training for Beginners. Safe and Effective Strength Training

A member being coached on how to do bicep curls

If you haven’t strength trained for a while — or ever — the thought of trying it may seem intimidating.

What kind of strength training do I do?
How much weight should I be lifting?
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
What if I hurt myself?
What muscles does this machine work?

So many variables. So many unknowns.

And for a lot of us, that can be enough to keep us from ever trying it.

So, if you are brand new to strength training or are looking to get back into it, this article is for you.

Jump to a Topic:
Should I Strength Train?
High-Intensity Resistance Training
What Muscles Am I Working?
Example HIT Workouts

Should I Strength Train?

You might wonder if strength training is appropriate for your specific circumstances. Maybe you have never strength trained before, or lifting weights makes you nervous. Or perhaps you have injuries or limitations that make exercise feel complicated.

Commonly, we find one of the following is what slows people down from getting started in strength training.

Is Strength Training Safe?

Strength training is extremely safe.

Injuries generally come from broken equipment, unstable exercises, or dropped weights (Gray & Finch, 2015).

However, none of these are issues at The Perfect Workout, being that we don’t use broken equipment or unstable equipment, and any free weights are used under the careful guidance of an expert coach.

Even if you have injuries or are not currently fit, strength training can help in making joints stronger and slowly improve your physical condition (Gray & Finch, 2015; Maestroni et al., 2020).

And as long as you maintain good, proper form, the exercise becomes safer as the muscles become more deeply fatigued. In fact, when using slow-motion strength training, the last reps are the most productive reps performed, and they are also the safest since your muscles are physically unable to produce enough force to strain (assuming form is not broken).

Am I “Too Old” To Start Working Out?

Strength training is safe and beneficial…at all ages. There is no such thing as being “too old” to participate. In fact, a study showed strength training is safe and beneficial for men and women between 85 and 97 years of age (Kryger & Andersen, 2007)!

Not only did no injuries occur in that study, but the participants became substantially stronger and gained muscle.

Is Strength Training Worth It?

Do you want to be healthier, happier, or more fit? We’re going to assume that you want at least one of those if not all three. Strength training can provide all of those benefits.

In fact, strength training can:

  • reduce the risk of common chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, and heart disease)
  • reduce body fat
  • improve sleep quality
  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • build muscle and strength
  • enhance joint health, among other benefits (Maestroni et al., 2020).

High-Intensity Resistance Training

“Resistance training” is another phrase for strength training. For the most effective way to strength train, we recommend a unique style of training referred to as “high-intensity resistance training ” (HIT) or “slow-motion strength training.”

High-intensity refers to the relative effort you put forth. HIT offers a unique approach to training that fits people of all ages and adjusts to the individual’s fitness level while being time-efficient.

Traditionally, strength training includes several sets of several exercises. The most common version of this is performing three sets of 10-12 repetitions, for 8-10 exercises. A workout like this requires about 60 minutes, with at least half of that time spent resting between sets. HIT trains the same muscles to similar results, but in a fraction of the time.

Instead of performing three sets per exercise, HIT provides the same benefits with just one set per exercise.

HIT includes selecting a challenging weight (relative to your own strength level), and then performing as many reps as possible until you’re no longer physically able to (hence the “high-intensity” part of the name).

Here are a few other guidelines for how to perform HIT:

  • Pick a challenging weight. As noted, the weight should start at a challenging level and ultimately become impossible to move (when reaching complete fatigue, or “Muscle Success”). On a difficulty scale of 1-10 (1 = easy and 10 = extremely difficult), the weight should start in the 6-8 range.
  • Move in a slow and controlled manner. During each repetition, lift the weight in several seconds and lower the weight in several seconds. Move like a car on cruise control, with a constant speed and no acceleration.
  • Breathe freely. Breathe through your mouth several times on both the lifting phrase and the lowering phase of each repetition. As your muscles become fatigued and you near the end, breathe more frequently (instead of holding your breath).
  • Move quickly between exercises. After performing one set of an exercise to complete fatigue, move quickly to the next exercise. The hustle between exercises raises your heart rate while providing more health and fitness benefits.

What Muscles Am I Working?

Have you ever done an exercise and did not have a clue which part of the body you were working? Or maybe you’ve done an exercise to target your glutes, but felt it in your low back instead.

It’s important to know what areas of the body you’re working and how to target them. Here are some of our tips.

Most weight machines have a “cheat sheet” on the machine itself, showing you the target muscle group on that exercise. To answer the age-old question, “What muscle am I working?” Here is a comprehensive cheat sheet for you!

Updated Corresponding Exercises Chart

If you’re questioning whether or not you’re doing an exercise correctly, or you feel like you might not be, here are some additional tips:

  1. Know which muscle(s) you are working prior to doing an exercise. Use the cheat sheet above if needed.
  2. Practice the movement of the exercise before adding resistance while thinking about the targeted muscle. This will help strengthen your muscle-mind connection.
    Example: Bicep curls – practice the curling motion and intentionally squeeze the biceps throughout the range of motion.
  3. Once you feel like you can engage the correct muscle(s), perform the exercise with the appropriate resistance.

What Muscles Am I Working?

Strength training is safe and fits various fitness levels. HIT is an especially appealing option, being that it’s efficient, effective, and safe. If HIT is an appealing option to you, use the guidelines in the previous section.

A typical HIT workout includes 7-10 exercises and trains all major muscle groups: back, chest, shoulders, glutes, and thighs. Below are a few examples of HIT workouts:

Examples of HIT Workouts

Traditionally, free weights are the go-to tool to maximize strength and muscle growth. But are they proven to be the most effective equipment for reaching these goals? The research isn’t clear.

One study found that the barbell bench press and its machine equivalent, the chest press, were equally effective in activating the muscle fibers in the chest, shoulders, and triceps (McCaw & Friday, 1994).

However, a study comparing a barbell squat with a leg press (on a leg press machine) showed that the squat was more effective for activating muscle fibers in the quadriceps and hamstrings (Escamilla et al., 2001), indicating that the squats might be more effective for producing muscle growth over time.

A recent study dove further into the question of which is best for muscle growth and strength (Schwanbeck et al., 2020). Men and women trained 2-3 times per week with either the free weight or machine version of the same basic movements.

At the end, the researchers measured both groups’ progress. Which type of equipment led to better “gains?” Neither. The free weight and machine groups had similar increases in both strength and muscle size.

Summary

We probably didn’t need to tell you that, yes, you should be doing strength training of some sort. Hopefully, we’ve given you some tools (and a boost of confidence) to add HIT exercise into your routine – or even substitute it for less efficient methods.

Strength training is extremely safe when performed properly. Prioritize form, intensity, and controlled speeds to get the most effective workout.

It’s never too late and you’re never too old to get started with strength training. Check out one of our members in her 80s!

Although you can absolutely train on your own, working with a Personal Trainer has tremendous value. A Trainer’s supervision leads to more effective workouts. It helps us stick with a fitness program, and greatly increases the chances that we’ll reach our health and fitness goals.

To learn more about working with a Trainer at The Perfect Workout, start by finding a studio near you today.

  • Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, S60-S79.
  • Gray, S.E. & Finch, C.F. (2015). Epidemiology of hospital-treated injuries sustained by fitness participants. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 86, 81-87.
  • Kryger, A. I., & Andersen, J. L. (2007). Resistance training in the oldest old: consequences for muscle strength, fiber types, fiber size, and MHC isoforms. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 17(4), 422-430.
  • Maestroni, L., Read, P., Bishop, C., Papadopoulos, K., Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Turner, A. (2020). The benefits of strength training on musculoskeletal system health: practical applications for interdisciplinary care. Sports Medicine, 1-20.
  • Waller, M., Miller, J., & Hannon, J. (2011). Resistance circuit training: Its application for the adult population. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 16-22.

How to Breathe Properly During Your Workout

How to Breathe Properly During Your Workout & Why It’s So Important

How to Breathe Properly During Your Workout & Why It’s So Important

trainer helping a member focus on their breathing as they exercise

Did you know that proper exercise form includes the way you breathe?

Yep. All of those intentional inhales and exhales serve a purpose in your workouts.

Yet, holding our breath and forgetting to breathe – one of the most innate bodily functions we have – seems to be really common when working out.

And depending on what type of activity you’re doing, there’s likely a right way to breathe and a wrong way.

In this article, we’ll deep dive into how to breathe properly during your workouts, the benefits of breathing during exercise, and the dangers of holding your breath when working out.

Jump to a Topic
Why Breathing is Important During Exercise
How to Breathe Properly During Your Workout
Shallow Breathing
Holding Your Breath

Breathing During Exercise

Imagine you’re doing bicep curls. After a few reps, the weight has become very challenging (although possible), and simply beginning another rep takes all of your efforts.

Why are you suddenly tempted to hold your breath in order to give your last bit of energy? Should you follow that temptation?

Short answer – No. Here’s why…

Breathing properly – along with factors such as moving slowly and maintaining good posture – is a fundamental part of proper exercise form. Correct and intentional breathing:

  • Strengthens the diaphragm (it’s a muscle!) & nervous system
  • Relaxes the muscles in your neck and shoulders
  • Increases the body’s ability to tolerate intense exercise (can you say perfect?)
  • Increases oxygen to the circulatory system for working muscles
  • Reduces blood pressure and anxiety
  • Strengthens respiratory muscles which improves performance in endurance and high-intensity sports
  • Increases the duration of exercises and reduces feelings of fatigue
  • Increases stabilization of body (example: tightened core)
  • Increases nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries to increase blood flow

Similar to the other pillars of proper form, breathing properly is easy at the start of an exercise but progressively challenging as you move towards fatigue.

This begs the question: what does proper breathing look like? Also, what happens if you hold your breath while training?

How to Breathe Properly During Your Workout

There isn’t a universal single way to breathe, but our Trainers at The Perfect Workout have a suggested approach.

We recommend using continuous diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing.”

This is where you breathe in, filling the belly then the chest, and completely exhale. (To learn more about the anatomy of belly breathing, check out this informational video.)

Using this style of breathing, the diaphragm contracts to allow maximum lung capacity and the belly pushes out.

The lungs are able to expand down toward the abdominal cavity which allows air to get to the bottom 1/3 of the lungs where perfusion (circulation) is best.

Watch this video and pay special attention to how she breathes constantly and intentionally throughout the entire exercise.

Notice how in the lifting phase, she inhales and exhales several times. There’s no need to time the breathing pattern any specific way, as long as you are continuously breathing.

Breathing continuously becomes more challenging when moving close to Muscle Success.

The natural tendency is to hold your breath to get an extra push. Avoid that temptation! Instead, breathe continuously.

It’s better to sound like a panting dog than it is to hold your breath (don’t worry, we won’t judge!).

Don’t Be a Shallow Breather

Another mistake we make during exercise is shallow breathing.

Clavicular breath, or “chest breathing” is when we take shallow breaths, only filling the top ⅓ of our lungs.

By shorting our breath ⅔ of its capacity, we miss out on optimal circulation. And it requires more energy and more frequent breaths.

To gauge whether or not you’re using chest breathing vs. belly breathing, try this exercise:

  1. Place a hand on your belly, and the other on your chest.
  2. As you inhale, notice where you feel movement under your hands.
  3. Does the hand upon your chest only move? This would mean you’re using chest breathing.
  4. Does the hand upon your belly only move? This would mean you’re using belly breathing.
  5. Do both hands move? This is a sign you're using belly breathing and taking deep enough breaths to where you’re filling your lungs completely. This is okay too. You want to try and breathe into the belly, filling that first, then the chest!
body builder holding their breath while lifting

Don’t Hold Your Breath During Exercise

In our experience, most people instinctively hold their breath when their exercises become challenging. The formal name for this is the Valsalva maneuver.

There is a teeny bit of validation to this technique when used for professional or competitive lifting because it creates pressure in the abdominal cavity which leads to increased power output and provides core support to the lower back.

However, it is NOT recommended for most styles of strength training or people.

Strength training is a very safe activity when performed with a trainer, on machines, and with a slow tempo (like we do at The Perfect Workout). The Valsalva maneuver comes with a slew of risks.

A few studies examined the impact of the Valsalva maneuver during strength training. In those studies, a few concerns were noticed.

Elevated blood pressure

Normally, blood pressure increases a little during exercise and then decreases after the workout.

The Valsalva maneuver increases the rise in blood pressure during exercise. Holding your breath can elevate systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) by an additional 16 mmHg (Linsenbardt, Thomas, & Madsen, 1992).

This additional increase could be concerning for those with heart disease (Hackett & Chow, 2013).

Increased intra-abdominal pressure

Similar to blood pressure, intra-abdominal pressure increases during exercise and decreases afterward.

Breath-holding intensifies the increase in intra-abdominal pressure (Blazek et al., 2019).

Why is this a concern?

Excess pressure in this region could compress blood vessels in the kidney and interfere with bladder function.

And nobody, nobody, wants a bladder function problem in the middle of leg press.

Reduced brain blood flow

Using the Valsalva maneuver during exercise also reduces brain blood flow velocity, by anywhere from 21 to 52%, compared to normal breathing techniques (Blazek et al., 2019).

This could pose a health concern for people with high blood pressure or brain abnormalities.

Increased Intraocular Pressure

In some cases, holding one’s breath during exercise can lead to dramatically increased intraocular pressure. Read: Pressure and pain around your eyeball – yikes! Advanced stages of intraocular pressure can also cause nausea and vomiting.

It’s especially important for those at high risk for glaucoma to practice diaphragmatic or belly breathing to avoid the progression of that disease. (Vera et al., 2020).

Trainer coaching male member on the chest press machine

Key Takeaways

Although tempting, avoid holding your breath when strength training. Breath-holding, also known as the Valsalva maneuver, causes a number of health concerns. These include a big increase in systolic blood pressure and a reduction in blood flow to the brain.

Instead of holding your breath, breathe continuously throughout the entire exercise. Take several breaths when lifting and several when lowering the weight.

As you start to reach fatigue, if you make any changes to your breathing, pick up your breathing pace and inhale/exhale more frequently through your mouth to combat the urge to hold your breath.

Thankfully, at The Perfect Workout, your trainer will also pay attention to your breath and coach you to breathe properly. Safe exercise is, of course, our biggest priority.

  • Blazek, D., Stastny, P., Maszczyk, A., Krawczyk, M., Matykiewicz, P., & Petr, M. (2019). Systematic review of intra-abdominal and intrathoracic pressures initiated by the Valsalva manoeuvre during high-intensity resistance exercises. Biology of sport, 36(4), 373.
  • Hackett, D. A., & Chow, C. M. (2013). The Valsalva maneuver: its effect on intra-abdominal pressure and safety issues during resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(8), 2338-2345.
  • Linsenbardt, S. T., Thomas, T. R., & Madsen, R. W. (1992). Effect of breathing techniques on blood pressure response to resistance exercise. British journal of sports medicine, 26(2), 97-100.
  • Vera, J., Perez-Castilla, A., Redondo, B., De La Cruz, J. C., Jiménez, R., & García-Ramos, A. (2020). Influence of the breathing pattern during resistance training on intraocular pressure. European journal of sport science, 20(2), 157–165. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1617354

Featured Trainer Matthew Medeiros

Featured Trainer Matthew Medeiros

Featured Trainer Matthew Medeiros

Trainer Matthew Medeiros flexing with a member in The Perfect Workout Sugar Land Studio

For over 7 years, Matthew Medeiros has helped reshape the lives and health of the members he’s worked with… including his own.

Matthew began lifting weights with his dad when he was just 17 years old. He learned the traditional way of strength training – fast reps and a lot of them. He loved to lift weights but found that every couple of months he would pull a muscle or pinch a nerve.

This made it really challenging for him to workout consistently and it was even more challenging to see any tangible results. Knowing that strength training was important for his body to maintain strength, bone density, and high metabolism, he searched for another way to strength train.

His search for a workout that wouldn’t injure him, yet still have the ability to get him bigger and stronger, led him to slow-motion strength training.

“I instantly knew I was getting a better workout doing just 5 exercises. It was better than any of my hour-long old workouts.”

He was hooked and he knew he had to teach others about how effective this style of training was.

Matthew later joined The Perfect Workout in January 2015 after completing an extensive Personal Trainer certification. He found his home at the Sugar Land studio and has been helping members change their lives ever since.

“I have a member that has had some serious health conditions in the past that had made him very sedentary. After training him for 3 years he's lost about 5 inches off his waist and has also gained a ton of muscle mass. He's lifting more now than ever.”

When another Sugar Land member began training with Matthew she had braces on her legs from the waist down.

“She hasn't needed to use those at work for the past 3 years I've been training her. The range of motion that she has gained in her knees is incredible.”

As for himself, in the last year and a half, he’s lost 20 lbs of fat and gained the stamina to begin trail running with a fellow trainer.

In the past 6 months, he’s put back on about 15 pounds – but mostly muscle.

“I love to mix in training styles but the SuperSlow method is by far the most effective and efficient way to build strength and muscle.”

Matthew Medeiros jumping while running
Matthew Medeiros running on a hiking trail

Matthew loves that each and every member has different goals and it keeps his day interesting.

“I love getting to know my members and actually becoming their friends. I've trained some people for more than 7 years, seeing them 2 times per week. That's more than I see my immediate family. So having close relationships with my members is awesome and I look forward to seeing them each day.”

Matthew believes that no matter your circumstances, your age, or goals, our method at The Perfect Workout can help.

Matthew Medeiros
Certified Personal Trainer
Sugar Land, TX

If you would like to find a trainer near you, see all of our locations here. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book your FREE Introductory Session.

Top 5 Tips to Prevent Injuries When You Exercise

5 Tips to Prevent Injuries When You Exercise

5 Tips to Prevent Injuries When You Exercise

5 Tips to Prevent Injuries When You Exercise Blog featured image

Strength training is an extremely effective method for improving health and making our bodies more resistant to injury.

Unfortunately, people are often injured during exercise, leading them to quit and lose the benefits that exercise can provide.

In fact, according to an analysis of Consumer Product Safety Commission data from MedicareAdvantage.com, at-home exercise injuries that resulted in a visit to the emergency room increased by more than 48% from 2019 to 2020, likely due to people increasing at-home exercise during Covid shutdown. And nearly 30% of all exercise-related injuries suffered in the home were among people aged 65 and older.

In this article, we’ll talk about common exercise-related injuries and how you can prevent injury by exercising safely.

Consistent exercise is one of the healthiest habits we can have. Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t exercise enough to reap the health benefits (Harris et al., 2011). Some of the common reasons for not exercising include exercise being “painful” and a fear of getting injured (Justine et al., 2013).

This is concerning because exercise is actually extremely safe when executed properly. However, it’s understandable because poor exercise practices are common, which have led to an increase in exercise injuries over the past few decades (Jones, Christensen, & Young, 2015).

There are a few common injuries that people suffer during exercise. Thankfully, these are easily avoided with a few simple approaches.

a person is holding their injured knee

Common Injuries​

According to one long-term study, about 64% of exercise injuries occur in one of three areas of the body (Kerr, Collins, & Cornstock, 2010).

  • The most commonly injured area is the shoulders/neck region. About 1 in 4 injuries affect this area.
  • The lower back (21%) and the hands (18.6%) are also frequently injured.

Common Causes of Exercise Injuries

The vast majority of injuries that occur in the gym happen in 1 of 6 ways (Gray & Finch, 2015).

These are the six (in no particular order):

  1. Tripping/falling while using motorized equipment (e.g. treadmill).
  2. Tripping/falling elsewhere in the gym (e.g. walking around the gym or during a group exercise class).
  3. Making contact with a wall or other equipment.
  4. Being crushed by dropped equipment.
  5. Awkward/improper landing during exercises (e.g. jumping exercises, during a group exercise class).
  6. Overexertion/overuse/excessively strenuous movements.

In this study, which tracked injuries in fitness facilities over a 14-year period, the six categories above included 90% of injuries.

As you can see, accidents and poorly-executed exercises underlie all of these injuries. Thankfully, these are all easily avoided with a few safe exercise practices.

5 Tips for Safe Exercise

1. Use machines instead of free weights

Want to avoid getting crushed by weights? Want to avoid hurting your back in an effort to lift weight?

In the aforementioned 14-year study, 55% of exercise injuries involved free weight exercises (Gray & Finch, 2015). A simple way to cut out a large injury risk is to use machines instead of free weights.

Machines mimic free weight movements, achieve comparable outcomes, and eliminate the risk of being injured by falling weights.

2. Choose low-impact exercises instead of high-impact activities

Most exercise injuries take place during free weight exercises…but where do the rest of the injuries take place?

Virtually all of the other injuries take place during high-impact activities: group aerobics classes, boxing, running on the treadmill, and jumping exercises.

These activities include two opportunities for injury. First, there’s high stress on the joints (knee, hip, lower back) when the impact is made. This impact includes landing from a step or jump. Second, if the landing isn’t proper, an ankle or wrist could be sprained.

Low-impact activities include movements where joints don’t suffer from limbs accelerating into the ground or an object.

Slow-motion strength training is a low-impact exercise. For example, in the leg press, the feet remain in contact with the footplate and the knee joint is never locked out – allowing the muscles to bear the majority of weight instead of the joint.

Walking and cycling are also low-impact activities, where joints are experiencing minimal stress.

3. Move slowly and at a consistent pace.

Injuries occur when there is too much force placed on the joints. Force, as you might recall from high school physics, equals mass times acceleration.

If you move at a constant speed, acceleration is minimal, keeping force at a lower and safer amount.

Imagine running as fast as you can at a wall– there’s a lot of acceleration and force behind you. That collision will surely hurt and result in injury.

Now imagine placing your hands on the wall and pushing against it with 25% strength, then 50% strength, then 100% strength. There’s practically no acceleration and the force against the wall can be controlled and abandoned at any time.

There is no collision, and certainly no injury.

This is a vital reason why we lift using slow speeds at The Perfect Workout. 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down!

4. Prioritize form over weight.

When strength training, the weights that you lift should be challenging at the start and finish… nearly impossible by the end of the set. However, the weights shouldn’t be impossible with good form at the start.

Common causes of injury when trying to “max out” (using the most weight you can lift for one rep) or losing proper form when lifting very heavy weight loads (ExRx.net, n.d.).

This is where the keen eye and coaching of a Personal Trainer are beneficial. They can select an appropriate resistance for each individual and coach you through nuances to achieve perfect form. They can also tell when form is breaking and help safely stop an exercise before you risk injury with improper form.

5. Train muscles in a balanced fashion.

A number of shoulder injuries, lower back pain, and muscle imbalances can come from training muscles unevenly (ExRx.net, n.d.). Examples of this are training your chest more than your back, training your quads more than your hamstrings, or training your biceps more than your triceps.

To avoid this, train all major muscle groups to an even amount.

In a traditional slow-motion workout, like what you get at The Perfect Workout, we can exercise every major muscle group every session.

trainer showing a male client his progress on the compound row

Key Takeaways

Exercise should strengthen your body, not damage it. Unfortunately, exercise injuries have increased over the past few decades. These are especially common in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hands.

Thankfully, injuries can be avoided with a few simple practices.

  • Choose machines over free weights.
  • Use low-impact exercises and activities.
  • Strength train with a consistent pace and a challenging but not impossible weight.
  • Practice good form.
  • Train your muscles evenly, avoiding an excessive amount of exercise for one particular muscle group.

Of course, if you are not sure how to execute these tips, speak with one of our Personal Trainers who will guide you through a very safe and effective exercise program.

  • ExRx.net. (n.d.). Weight training injury risk factors. Retrieved from http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/RiskFactors.html
  • Gray, S.E. & Finch, C.F. (2015). The causes of injuries sustained at fitness facilities presenting to Victorian emergency departments – identifying the main culprits. Injury Epidemiology, 2(1), 6.
  • Harris, C.D., Watson, K.B., Carlson, S.A., Fulton, J.E., & Dorn, J.M. (2011). Adult participation in aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities — United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(17), 326-330.
  • Jones, C.S., Christensen, C., & Young, M. (2015). Weight training injury trends. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 28(7), 61-72.
  • Justine, M., Azizan, A., Hassan, V., Salleh, Z., & Manaf, H. (2013). Barriers to participation in physical activity and exercise among middle-aged and elderly individuals. Singapore Medicine Journal, 54(10), 581-586.
  • Kerr, Z.Y., Collins, C.L., & Comstock, R.D. (2010). Epidemiology of weight training-related injuries presenting to United States emergency departments. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 38(4), 765-771.