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Safe Weight Training: How to Protect Your Lower Back at the Gym

Medically Reviewed by Rob Caturano, PT | August 3, 2021

Weight training is a crucial part of an effective exercise routine. It helps decrease body fat and build muscle strength while also increasing your spine’s overall function. However, to get these benefits, you must know how to move correctly to protect your lower back. You’re in luck, though, because safe weight training is simple. We’ve compiled some advice to get you started.


Don’t exercise with serious spinal pain or injuries.

You should opt out of weight training if you have spinal tumors, fractures, infections, or nerve root compressions. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about how exercise might affect you, especially if you have received back surgery.


Warm up.

This is a basic rule for safe weight training. Always start slow. Light stretching, riding a stationary bike, and walking at a brisk pace are good options.


Prioritize correct form.

Exercises can be a little more involved than you may think, and you need to focus on performing each one correctly. For example, you should never lift with your back while keeping your knee straight. Instead, use your legs and keep your upper body in a neutral posture. Proper body placement ensures that you get the most out of each movement while protecting your body from injury. Also, keep a weight close to your body while removing it from and putting it on a barbell. Avoid twisting with weights in your hands. Always do the footwork necessary to keep your feet and shoulders aligned.    When in doubt, consult a personal trainer or physical therapist about your form.


Start small.

It’s always best to start with smaller weights and build muscle than to get ambitious early and risk injury. Pick a weight you know you can handle and start slowly, focusing on form. As you get stronger, add more repetitions. Eventually, you can add more weight—but not too much. You want to focus more on increasing repetition than weight.

You could also start exercising on your gym’s machines because they offer more support than free weights. Skip exercises that involve extreme or abrupt movements if you are a beginner. Instead, stick with slow and steady resistance training with great form.


Focus on your core.

Incorporate several exercises into your routine that work the back, obliques, abdominals, buttocks, and upper leg muscles. The stronger your core, the safer your spine.

Remember to focus on safety throughout your exercise routine and protect each part of your body. Our physical therapists can help if you need more guidance on safe weight training. Call (270) 575-0023 and schedule an appointment.