For Patients
Ask the Physical Therapist

Shaun Riney, PT

Q: I am interested in starting a strength training program but don't know where to start. Do you have any advice on how to start lifting weights while reducing the risk of injury?

The biggest mistake that many people make when they start a strength training program is that they overestimate their own strength and underestimate the amount of soreness they will experience in the days succeeding the initiation of their program. In doing so, they needlessly risk injuring themselves and subject themselves muscle soreness that does not inspire one to return to the gym for more soreness.

With this in mind, I usually counsel people to start a strength program at a weight that they might consider ridiculously low. For example: If they used to lift 200 pounds with their arms on a bench press the last time they worked out, I tell them to start at 100 pounds and slowly work themselves back to 200 pounds over time. By doing this, they lessen the risk of injuring themselves early in their march toward strength AND the soreness after the workout will be diminished, while increasing the likelihood that they will return to the gym for follow up exercises.

Additionally, I counsel people to think about their goal for strengthening. If they want to build big, bulky strong muscles that impress at the beach, they will want to use a heavier weight and fewer repetitions (3 sets of 10 reps is very common).

If their goal is just to tone and build the muscle without creating large bulky, t shirt ripping muscles, they would concentrate on lower weights and higher repetitions (3 sets of 30 reps as an example).

Most of all, I counsel people to be patient and stick with it. Better looking, stronger muscles take time to build. The models that we see on muscle mags have taken years to get to where they are and they never miss a day at the gym.

Have a question you want to ask an OrthoCarolina physical therapist? Email it to askthept@orthocarolina.com.

I’d say Shaun Riney is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Monroe.

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