It’s especially important for beginners to perform strength exercises slowly. Your joints, ligaments and tendons haven’t become acclimated to so much stress. Moving slowly allows your body and brain to learn how your muscles should move and feel during an exercise so you can perform it safely and effectively.

But experienced exercisers also benefit from slowing down. It’s a principle called time under tension, which refers to how long your muscles are under tension during an exercise. The slower you move, the harder your muscle fibers have to work to control the motion, which leads to muscle growth.

Here are some tips to help you know when it may be time to slow down or lighten your training load.

3 Signs that It’s Time to Slow Down

Weight too heavy

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Many people will select a weight that’s too heavy for their current ability level. Poor form with heavy weights can cause injury. You’ll know if a weight is too heavy if you feel the need to hold your breath throughout the entire movement. If your movements are uneven, jerky when they should be smooth, or if you struggle to pick up weights, it’s your body letting you know you need a lighter weight.

Tip: Your body is important; it has to last you for the rest of your life. If a weight is causing you problems, simply reduce the weight and slowly build up to the next level. Pride and ego should be left at the gym door. Safety is what’s most important especially when lifting weights.

Safety tip: If lifting heavy weights is part of your preferred training program, ensure that you have a friend spot you, especially when you initially increase your weight. It’s much safer to follow a weight routine with a training partner or coach.

Feeling exhausted

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If your workout is making you feel exhausted long after it’s over, this may be an indication that you need to slow down a little. Unless you’re an athlete training for a competition, there’s no need to feel wiped out all day long because you pushed yourself too hard in the gym.

Tip: Schedule regular rest or easy days in between intense sessions to allow your body to recover and rejuvenate. Also, be conscious to consume good nutrition and adequate hydration on days that your exercise routine is intense.

Overuse Injuries and soreness

It’s normal to feel slight muscle soreness when you’re exercising regularly. The pain you get from over-training and intense muscle soreness is discomfort, which doesn’t ease with rest. This type of soreness is an indication that you’re pushing yourself too hard. Pain is your body’s natural defense system and you should never train though pain. If muscle soreness or pain does not subside with rest, you should always visit your medical provider.

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Tip: Schedule rest days and ensure that you’re doing some form of cross training to give your muscles a break. If you are an avid runner, rest your joints by adding in swimming or biking session to your week. A cool bath or ice pack is a great trick to help sore muscles feel better.

If you take the time to listen to your body, you’ll find the perfect balance between knowing when to progress and regress your workouts. I’ve said in the past “When in doubt, think like an athlete.” Athletes are constantly tweaking their training programs and nutrition plans. They ensure their bodies are well rested and well fueled in order to get the best results. You don’t have to be an athlete to take great care of your body, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what works best for you.

I hope these tips will help you to find your own perfect workout balance. A fitness plan should never feel old or stagnant. As your body adapts, adapt your mind and your habits to ensure you keep improving.

Living a healthy active lifestyle is the best way to stay healthy.