While the risk for injury is lower with weight training when compared to contact sports, it definitely still exists. Don’t miss this quick guide to common weight training injuries with easy tips for preventing them.
What Causes Most Weight Training Injuries?
Weight and strength training can actually play an important role in preventing other fitness injuries brought on by muscle imbalances. Research shows, for example, that endurance runners can significantly benefit from strength training as it both improves running economy and leg and core power.
But what if you overdo it? Or simply don’t do it correctly? Then you end up with a soft tissue injury like a strain, sprain, or tear that takes weeks (or even months) to heal.
The three primary causes of most weight training injuries include:
Repeating the same lifts over and over day in and day out can result in soft tissue irritation, inflammation, or worse
2. Poor form/body mechanics
Improper lifting technique is a leading cause of musculoskeletal injuries not just in the gym but in many workplaces too
3. Lifting weights that are too heavy
Lifting too much weight too quickly can overstress your joints and connecting soft tissue
Other factors that can contribute to weight training injuries may include a poor diet of fatty, sugary and processed foods that don’t facilitate good muscle recovery but rather contribute to excessive load bearing on your joints. Bad equipment that isn’t properly maintained can also increase your risk of experiencing an injury in the weight room.
Common Weight Training Injuries
The five most common weight training injuries include:
1. Shoulder injuries
When the strong, bands of tissue which help stabilize your shoulder joint (the rotator cuff) become inflamed or even tear, you can experience symptoms in and around your shoulder ranging from pain and inflammation to tenderness and weakness.
Other shoulder injuries may include SLAP (superior labrum anterior and posterior) tears, shoulder dislocation and shoulder impingement. Common overhead weight lifting moves like shoulder presses, bench presses, and lateral raises largely contribute to these types of injuries.
2. Pinched nerve
Nerve compression can happen almost anywhere in the body, but for weightlifters, it is more common in the wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) and in the back and legs (sciatica). Swollen, tense muscles can close up around a nerve ending and literally pinch it tight resulting in prolonged pain, tingling, and numbness.
3. Lateral elbow tendonitis
Commonly known as tennis elbow, this type of tendonitis can result from the excessive gripping that happens in weight training. Pain and aching on the outside of the elbow as well as inflammation and stiffness are hallmark symptoms of this type of injury.
4. Herniated (slipped) disk
Poor lifting mechanics can result in serious back injuries, especially when you overstress the vertebrae in the spine. When one of the discs cushioning the vertebrae degenerates or experiences extreme stress and literally pops out of its casing, it can pinch nerves coming off the spine and cause vertebrae to rub together. Symptoms include localized pain in the back that radiates down the leg as well as numbness and tingling.
5. Hand and wrist injuries
Much of the gripping, pinching, grasping, and hand placement that occurs during weight training can place your hands and wrists at increased risk for injury. In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome, you may experience a sprained wrist, sprained thumb, or other tendonitis-type injury that is accompanied by pain, inflammation, joint stiffness, and limited range of motion.
Preventing Weight Training Injuries
Experts recommend these top tips for preventing injuries while weight training:
1. Warm up
Activate your muscles prior to weight training to warm them up and increase their flexibility for safer stretching and lifting. Dynamic warm-ups may involve something as simple as a brisk walk or elbow to knee raises.
2. Use aids
Talk to your doctor or trainer about utilizing orthotic aids for your ankles, knees, back, elbow, or wrist (find top wrist braces here: https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/wrist-brace) for added support, especially if you have experienced a joint injury before.
3. Do hand exercises
Strengthen the forearm and hand muscles that reinforce your grip and wrist strength with hand-specific exercises outside of your normal weight training regimen.
4. Check equipment
Commercial gyms should be maintaining their equipment regularly, but for your own home gym, make sure that you are checking equipment for flaws and failures.
5. Practice good posture
If you want to lift smarter in the gym, make sure you are practicing good posture outside of the gym. Chronic poor posture at work and at home can contribute to spinal stress that is exacerbated by weight lifting.
6. Ask an expert
When in doubt, always ask a knowledgeable trainer or instructor for guidance when it comes to lifting weights. They can teach you good form and make tailored recommendations.
The Bottom Line
Like other physically demanding activities, weight training comes with its share of potential injuries. We’ve all been there at some point on the fitness journey and we will all likely end up there again. That being said, a little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to preventing a debilitating injury from occurring in the first place. Utilize the tips in this guide to keep yourself injury free and moving towards your goals!