Be afraid, be very afraid: There is a silent killer lurking in your gym. Oh you may think your daily sweat fests are protecting you from injury and disease but in reality those free weights are a ticking time bomb with your number on it. And not just because the last person to use them pooped and didn’t wash their hands before picking up that dumbbell. (Although that does happen too. That’s another downside of having the bathrooms right on the track at my Y. When you’re running by you can totally see if there is no pause between the toilet flushing and the door opening.) Nope, the weight floor is dangerous for an entirely different reason: You are an idiot.

According to an analysis of recent data, weight lifting injuries are on the rise, increasing 50% over the course of the study. In 2007 alone there were over 970,000 hospital visits attributed to pumping the iron. The worst offender? The free weights.

I will ‘fess up: I’ve totally dropped weights on myself. The worst time was when I bounced a thirty-pound dumbbell off my shoulder while trying to bench press two of them. The shoulder hit was actually a good thing because the other ‘bell was heading straight for my lady bits, had I not rolled sideways off the bench. I ended up sideways on the floor with a dumbbell crashing down on top of me and a very concerned fellow weight lifter who refused to let me do anything without a spot for the rest of my foolhardy workout. (Note: That happened about 4 years ago and I just realized that today I only can press 40′s. This does not seem like good progress for 4 years. Although my bar press has gone up significantly from what it was. Hmph.)

In addition to that I’ve stubbed toes tripping over weights left on the floor, popped an olympic bar off my collar bone while doing cleans (nothing says hardcore like an Olympic bar-shaped bruise across your pecs), and strained innumerable muscles and joints because I was too busy telling the Gym Buddies about Natalie Portman’s most gorgeous Oscars dress ever (polka dots! Red! Vintage! To the Academy Awards! Swoon!!) to watch my form. Heck, today I jammed a finger playing basketball.

My favorite weight-induced injury however was one day Gym Buddy Krista and I were using the cable machine to do assisted pistol squats (if you have never done a pistol squat then you do not know the meaning of Toilet Sore – you will excrete green pain, you will be that sore). On this particular day Krista set the resistance too light and upon trying to stand up out of the squat found herself tipping. So she did what any good weight lifter would do: instead of merely setting her other foot on the ground, she fell over backwards landing flat on her back. The best part was thanks to the cable machine, she did it all slo-mo, Matrix style. It probably took her a whole 20 seconds to complete her protracted fall. And did I run to help her? Sadly I couldn’t thanks to laughing so hard I was crippled by my child-weakened bladder. Nothing says Great Workout like peeing your pants!

According to the study, Krista and I are anomalies as the vast majority of injuries happen to young (ages 13-24) men. And if you can’t immediately understand why this is true then you have never watched The Jersey Shore. I’ve seen this in action: not too long ago I got to help pull a heavily weighted bar off a man who had pinned himself to the chest-press bench. Trying to make him feel better I chirped, “Oh don’t worry! I’ve totally done this to myself too!” After which Gym Buddy Megan swatted me and pointed out that that probably made him feel worse. Oops.

Now, if I were a responsible blogger, I’d give you a whole list of tips on how to lift safely. I’d say stuff like maintain good form, ask for a spot, have a trainer show you how to do new moves, don’t increase your weight too quickly, don’t show off and for the love of little green apples don’t think that just because the gym is piping Eye of the Tiger over the PA that that gives you license to punch random stationary objects. But I’m not and I’m tired. So I’ll leave you with this: Don’t be dumb, dude.

So what’s your story – have you ever hurt yourself weight lifting? What’s your best weight lifting safety tip? What was your fave Oscars night dress?

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