Trendy diets come a dime a dozen, but health and fitness experts agree the best way to change your body composition can be through a combination of smart nutrition, weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise. Weightlifting, in particular, is the ideal type of exercise to help you get in shape because it can build muscle and burn fat. Not only can you improve your physical appearance, but you can gain both strength and confidence along the way.

Weightlifting is not just for bodybuilders. As long as you learn proper form and start with an appropriate level of weight, it is considered safe for most adults at all fitness levels. If you fail to learn the basics or try to force progress too quickly, however, you could injure yourself.

The key to lifting weights safely and effectively is to start slow and build strength as you go. Here are some of the most common weightlifting mistakes you should avoid to get the most out of your training and protect yourself from potential injury:

1. Failing to learn proper form

Though weightlifting is perfectly safe for most adults, it can all comes down to proper form. Lifting the wrong way could strain your muscles and increase your risk of injury. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends finding an instructor who can teach you how to do the exercises correctly. Find a physical trainer at your local gym or, at the very least, watch instructional videos from a qualified professional and take it slow when you’re first starting out.

2. Not warming up before a workout

When it comes to weightlifting safety, learning proper form is only half the equation – you also need to warm up your muscles. Fitness experts recommend dynamic stretches like jumping rope, bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, and arm circles to increase range of motion while enhancing muscle force and power. When your muscles are warmed up, you can be ready to complete your exercises safely and effectively. Start with a 5- or 10-minute jog before stretching as the perfect warmup to each workout.

3. Trying to “tone” your muscles

The idea that you can improve muscle tone without increasing muscle size is a popular one but, unfortunately, a misconception. Muscles do not change in tone – they simply shrink or grow in size. If you want your muscles to be more visible, you may need to lift heavier weights at lower reps to gain muscle mass while performing cardio to shed fat. A healthy diet plays a key role in determining your body composition, so consider consulting a licensed dietician for personalized advice.

4. Using too much weight

A way to build strength and increase muscle mass is to progressively increase the amount of weight you lift. You need to be careful, however, how quickly you progress. When you first start lifting, use only as much weight as you can while keeping proper form. Once you become familiar with the exercise you can add weight to make it more challenging. Slow and steady progress is better than doing too much, too soon and risking injury.

5. Not giving your body time to recover

Allow your muscles time to rest between sets and give your whole body at least 24 hours to reset between workouts. Rest is important for recovery – it provides your muscles the time they need to rebuild. To help maximize recovery between workouts, refuel with a protein shake after each workout and make sure you’re incorporating plenty of lean protein in your diet.

6. Forgetting about your core

When lifting weights, it’s common to focus on a single muscle or muscle group. In reality, lifting weights is a total-body activity. The muscles you aren’t actively engaging help to provide stability – especially your core. Core strengthening exercises should be part of your weekly workout routine and you should focus on engaging your core each time you lift. Just make sure to give your core muscles time to rest along with the rest of your body – there’s no need to work out your core every day!

Whatever your fitness goals may be, incorporating weightlifting into your workout routine can be a strong step in the right direction. Just remember to keep proper form no matter what exercise you’re doing and use your core for stabilization. If you stay consistent and continue to build your strength, you can see the results you want without being hindered by preventable mistakes.