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Most Common Weightlifting Injuries and 5 Tips to Avoid Them
You’re probably here reading this because you want to know if the pain your feeling falls under the most common weightlifting injuries.
I get it — injuries suck — and you can’t seem to avoid them.
Well, in this article, I’ll be discussing how to actively work to avoid them, so you can keep your gym time productive.
Why these two items? Well, we’ll definitely discuss that more, but trust me, you’ll want those items for protection.
When it comes to weightlifting injuries, I think of us bodybuilders as those who participate in extreme sports.
How many times have you seen street BMX riders and skateboarders go out without any safety protection and end up injured?
Then, when they do get injured, they try to shrug it off and don’t necessarily make a big deal about it.
Well, the problem here is, with weightlifting you need to address your injuries.
Most of the time, these injuries are small pulls or tears that aren’t too bad at first, but then fester for life.
It isn’t uncool to use proper protection — so please, don’t let that be the reason you avoid using accessories while weightlifting.
Now, we’ll be discussing the most common weightlifting injuries, and you’ve probably experienced one, two, three, or all of them.
Don’t worry though, because I’m going to tell you how to prevent them in the future (and good remedy tips for current injuries).
Related: Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain?
Why Do We Get Injured?
Improper Weightlifting Techniques
One way we get injured that I would consider as “not our fault” is by lifting improperly.
Often times we take advice from other people who we trust, and they may be lifting incorrectly.
So, if we learn wrong, we lift wrong, and we can end up slowly hurting our bodies.
It’s like the 100-lb head cellphone use effect.
Looking down at our phones all day long causes our heads to naturally become stuck in a bad position.
Same thing with working at a computer desk where your body slouches and your head pulls forward.
If you are lifting incorrectly over time, your muscles and posture can end up fusing and being comfortable in the wrong positions.
This is why I highly suggest studying form from the pros who have lifted successfully throughout the years.
The ones who are still healthy (at least somewhat healthy) to this day and have no problems with their posture.
Just as an example — if you are someone who always does behind-the-neck pulldowns, there’s a good chance you will be messing up your neck and rotator cuffs.
Please, study proper lifting techniques and don’t be afraid to ask others if you are lifting correctly.
Ego lifting is one thing that can cause injuries quick.
You start lifting weights that are way out of your ability level.
Maybe it’s to impress your workout partner, a girl or guy in the gym, or just because you want to be the strongest.
Well, it doesn’t work — want to know why?
That one day in the gym that you try to impress someone else, and then hurt yourself, could be the last day you lift that much weight.
If you injure yourself bad enough, you’ll need to go through rehab, take time off from the gym, and start lifting way lighter than you did before.
Ego lifting is not only ridiculous, worthless, and unimpressive — it’s also dangerous.
A lot of us do this, and sometimes, it’s because we have to.
Maybe we end up going to the gym at odd hours or we workout at home.
Well, lifting alone is a surefire way to be susceptible to injuries, especially if you want to lift heavy.
You’ll catch yourself wanting to do a PR squat or try for a 1RM on the bench press and get stuck in a sticky situation.
If you’re at the gym lifting alone, and you just have to do a risky lift — make sure you ask someone, anyone, to spot you.
Not Addressing Problems Early On
If you feel an injury happen — that’s the time to seek help.
Maybe something you did while lifting felt wrong and didn’t start hurting until later.
Well, then that’s the time for an examination.
Don’t be stubborn and avoid the doctor out of some weird sense of pride.
Also, if you know that you clearly hurt yourself, don’t continue to stress that area.
If you hurt your knee doing box jumps, it wouldn’t be smart to do heavy squats the next day.
A lot of the time lifters will do this because their workout partners will encourage them to push through it.
Well, your workout partner isn’t you, and it’s better to keep your body safe and able to heal.
Address any and all problems, injuries, pain and discomfort as soon as you can.
Related: Why Do Squats Hurt My Lower Back?
Overtraining (Yes, it’s Possible)
When it comes to overtraining, there are mixed opinions.
A lot of people have a hard line and say that it doesn’t even exist.
While others are very cautious about overtraining to the point that you wonder how they even grow when working out so sparse.
Well, I’m sort of someone that falls in the middle of these two schools of thought.
I believe our bodies are meant to train hard and can withstand plenty of stress.
However, I do believe that there needs to be downtime to properly rest and grow.
I think one of the biggest problems isn’t actually the training portion of the “overtraining.”
Let’s say you workout for two hours in the gym: an hour of constant heavy lifting, 30 minutes of accessory work and 30 minutes of pure cardio.
Well, for some, this would be too much time in the gym.
In some cases, I would agree, but more so when the person training like this has a busy day ahead of them.
If you train like this in the morning and then go home and sleep for a couple hours, it probably won’t be too bad.
However, if you did a two-hour session then headed straight to work, then pick up your kids from daycare, then go home and cook dinner — at some point you need to realize your workout and day are causing overtraining.
Too many days like this back to back will make your workouts much worse and those are the times you become prone to injuries.
The constant training breaks down your body and mind, causing you to make mistakes in the gym.
Let your body rest and heal properly before trying to go hard in the gym again.
The Most Common Weightlifting Injuries
Let’s not save the best (or worst) for last.
Back injuries are probably some of the worst possible weightlifting injuries.
Seriously, hurting your back can ruin a majority of potential exercises for you.
But, not only that, back injuries can hinder your everyday life to a huge degree.
Usually, the most common weightlifting injuries regarding the back are herniated discs.
Other back injuries will include daily pain and constant site pain from improper lifting or bad posture.
This is further exacerbated by continuing to lift poorly or by not attending to your back with treatments or physical therapy.
Even after you receive treatments and rest, people often mistake themselves as being healed.
It is very difficult to immediately get back to your normal lifting routine after any back injuries at all, so make sure you ease into it.
To continue protecting your back before and after an injury, check out our genuine leather weightlifting belt.
Sure, shoulder injuries seem less crucial in comparison to back injuries, but they are definitely serious.
Injuring your shoulders can cause a host of problems and difficulty in lifting.
Furthermore, you will find it hard to do any daily activities.
The pain and discomfort that stems from your shoulders will limit what you can do with your arms.
And, when you think about it, we do a majority of everything with our arms, hands, and the range of motion from our shoulders down.
In my opinion, one of the most common weightlifting injuries is shoulder injuries because of the way we work out.
We often do our arm and shoulder exercises with a lot of momentum and less strict with control.
Throwing up the weight like this (especially if done with bad form) will cause stress on the joints and ligaments.
I believe that the most common back injuries are much easier to rehab and overcome than the most common shoulder injuries.
It’s a lot easier to take time off resting your back than it is going about your day without using your shoulders.
Also, your back is more lenient when it comes to working out cold, without warming up, whereas your shoulders will be more crunchy and unforgiving towards immediate physical stress.
Train smart when it comes to your shoulders, you do not want to injure them, ever!
Tennis elbow is one of the most common weightlifting injuries because it is a common injury in general.
Several people suffer from tennis elbow or some form of it at varying degrees.
It is essentially the inflammation in your elbow tendons that connect to your forearm joint.
What this does is make it completely uncomfortable to lift weights, primarily heavy weights.
The recommendation here is to always warm-up, but also to lean towards high repetition at a lower weight than vice-versa.
Tennis elbow is often due to overuse, which occurs in the namesake sport, tennis, but also in other activities.
For example, those who spend most of their day at a keyboard (as I often do) will experience these problems if breaks aren’t taken.
Furthermore, if you start lifting weights every single day, on top of your job, and possibly sports, this can be pushed to the limits.
Stretching, proper lifting, lighter weights, and the resting/massaging of the elbows can all be helpful in relieving the symptoms associated with tennis elbow.
Now, wrist injuries can be problematic, for sure.
But, for the most part, your wrist injuries are going to be inconvenient.
Usually, any time you feel wrist pain or get a wrist injury from lifting, it’ll pass within a few days or a week or two.
Yet, the bigger problem here is what that does to your weightlifting routine.
I’ve seen people with such severe wrist pain that they couldn’t go on with any upper body workouts, calisthenics, push–ups, or anything.
I, too, have dealt with wrist pain, but never a full on wrist injury.
But, I can tell you, that discomfort in your wrists can really make you feel like leaving the gym early.
My suggestion is to strengthen your wrists and forearms as much as you can in order to prevent weak wrists getting injured.
The stronger your wrists and forearms, the better you can control and maintain heavy weight.
Wrist problems are some of the most common weightlifting injuries because they stem from the actual act of trying to lift more and heavier.
Try out some wrist wraps, like our Dark Iron Fitness suede wrist wraps, which will give you the support to protect against injuries.
Hernias are definitely one of the most common weightlifting injuries — to a degree.
I say this because they aren’t a prominent plague within the weightlifting community, but they do occur, and often because of the weightlifting.
These are tricky because building up your muscle and strengthening your abdomen can help prevent hernias, but lifting heavy and improperly can cause hernias.
It’s sort of a catch-22 because you want to lift safely, but you also don’t want to lift in fear.
Overall, I’d say as long as your routine is done properly, you won’t experience the pain of a hernia.
However, an abdominal hernia is one of the more serious weightlifting injuries.
You can’t simply “work through it” or disregard the fact that it has happened.
If you have an abdominal hernia, that most likely means surgery.
It also means a weakened abdominal wall during recovery and at the start of your journey back into lifting.
I truly believe that a weightlifting belt can be a huge assistance in prevention.
So, for anyone out there who is concerned about a potential hernia, look towards strengthening your abdomen and protecting it with quality accessories.
If you have knee pain or injuries, I highly suggest keeping close tabs on them.
A lot of people have weak knees or weak knee genetics, which is hereditary and hard to break from.
You can’t necessarily “build up the knee,” but you can build the muscles around your knees.
So, first things first, attempt to strengthen the surrounding areas of your knees to protect them.
Then, invest in something like knee sleeves, knee wraps, or a patella band for support.
The biggest issue I see with knee injuries is the ability to make someone completely immobile.
A lot of runners will suffer from knee pain and problems, as will heavy powerlifters.
Even those of you who are overweight will have extra pressure on your knee joints making them susceptible to injury.
Make sure to always warm-up your knees and protect them before running or heavy lifting.
And, if you are overweight, make sure to take into account that the stress on your knees can cause injuries and make your gait suffer.
It is reported that 1-pound of excess fat (and even muscle) can be felt as 4-lbs of weight on your knees.
Take care of your knees, as they are one of the most common weightlifting injuries that can derive from other factors, as well.
Most Common Weightlifting Injuries — Muscle Tears and Strains
Muscle tears and strains will usually just need to be babied and given rest.
They are without a doubt painful and definitely can lead to worse problems (see all of the injuries above).
So, make sure if you feel like you could have strained or torn a muscle, that you visit a doctor.
It doesn’t hurt (no pun intended) to get a few scans and x-rays to be sure nothing is seriously wrong.
However, with proper treatment and recovery, you can overcome muscles tears and strains fairly quickly.
Usually, these types of injuries will not cause a significant problem in the future regarding your lifting or daily life.
The biggest threat, though, is the avoidance of acknowledging the potential problem, which can lead to a full-blown injury down the line.
Be smart and take even the smallest injuries with a level of seriousness.
5 Tips to Prevent the Most Common Weightlifting Injuries
I know, I know, you hate stretching.
There are definitely days when I jump straight into my workouts without any stretching.
What I notice, though, is more soreness early on, tight muscles, and a lot of joint crunching.
I normally work through it and then complain later about how I should have stretched.
Stretching can really change how well you perform your exercises and dictates your longevity.
Furthermore, stretching allows you to break through most of the plateaus you hit.
This can be normal stretching on the ground before you start or light weighted stretching.
Either way, you should definitely consider stretching before heavy working sets, because it can prevent injuries!
Don’t fall into the trap of stretching being “stupid” or “for losers” or “for weaklings,” because that is simply ridiculous.
Warming up gives you similar preparation to lift as stretching.
But, warming up is usually done with weights and pertains to the exercises you are going to do.
For example, before bench press or dumbbell press, you can do some light chest flys to stretch the chest muscles.
Or, before barbell bench pressing you can do some sets with only the barbell to warm-up with the movement and perfecting your bar path.
Then, you can add low weight, which allows you to warm up the chest muscles and work out any kinks in your elbows.
Warming up like this applies to all your exercises and it is highly beneficial as it protects against injuries as opposed to jumping into your working sets cold, which causes injuries.
Furthermore, warming up properly will allow you to build the mind-muscle connection and help dictate your proper form for each exercise.
Related: 6 Exercises for Better Posture
As I said earlier, one of the biggest causes of injuries over time is the improper use of form.
We slowly work our bodies into terrible positions or unnatural movements without even realizing.
Well, that is why proper form is key, and I mean the key to everything.
If you learn proper form for each exercise you do, not only will you lift better, see more results, get stronger quicker, but you will also reduce your chances of injury by basically 99% (bro-science approved!).
But seriously, in all honesty, don’t ever sacrifice form.
You never have to lift heavier weight if you simply can’t yet.
Lift what you can, get some good repetitions, good sets, and with proper form.
Then, in a few days, try to move up in weight.
This is progressive overload — you aren’t going to lift the whole dumbbell rack in one training session.
If you start swaying, swinging, using other muscles to help you lift the weight, then pull back.
Start over, with lower weight, and lift it the right way.
Trust me, this will save you a load of headaches, and if not an injury, it’ll protect against unwanted pain.
Using a Spotter
If you want to lift heavy, or are going to regardless, then get a spotter.
This can be your friend, your workout buddy, or any random person in the gym who is capable.
Trust me, I’ve personally seen plenty of people get hurt because they refuse to ask for a spot.
Well, they didn’t ask until it was too late.
You’ll have people watching from afar, and then the lifter struggles and people run over to help.
Or, they’ll be trying to pump out some reps, but end up yelling “SPOTTTTT!!!!” from under the weight.
In those moments, they are hurting their bodies.
They are under such stress, and without a doubt fear, that it’s almost impossible to prevent injury.
So, always lift with a spotter if you are going heavy.
Your other options are to use the Smith machine or any rack with safety catches that can help in a time of distress.
If you are lifting alone, make sure you have an escape plan before you find yourself crushed under some weights.
Wearing Safety Accessories
There is a reason these products exist — they work.
If they don’t help prevent an injury, they’ll at least help you lift better.
But, in most cases, you will avoid a lot of pain and suffering by implementing the use of these items.
A lot of these accessories are so important and encouraged to use that a lot of powerlifting meets actually allow them to be worn.
And, when you hear about people lifting without these accessories and putting up high numbers, they are considered “raw” lifts.
So, what this tells me is that a majority of people are protecting themselves while lifting — and you should, too.
Final Thoughts on the Most Common Weightlifting Injuries
The Most Common Weightlifting Injuries — Preventing Instead of Curing
I believe prevention is your best bet in avoiding the most common weightlifting injuries.
There’s nothing worse than getting injured, especially when you weren’t doing something risky.
Then, you are now forced to work through the injury and perform rehabilitation on the injury.
Or, depending on how bad it is, you may have to avoid certain exercises altogether.
Trust me, this sucks, and I know a lot of people who can’t do squats or deadlifts for health reasons.
So, always think prevention of the injury instead of curing the injury.
If you never get hurt, you never have to worry about “dealing with it.”
The Most Common Weightlifting Injuries — Going Your Own Pace
Always go your own pace.
This idea goes along with warming up and avoiding ego lifting.
Don’t let someone else dictate how you should lift, when you should lift and where your progress should be.
Maybe you aren’t getting as big and strong as the person next to you — that doesn’t mean you won’t.
So, don’t make risky decisions based on your fear of lacking behind someone else.
Also, going your own pace will not only prevent injuries but allow you to master your exercises.
You will definitely get stronger, lift better, and have more longevity in the sport of lifting.
Take Precautions and Action — Before and After
Lastly, take precautions and actions before and after everything you do.
To prevent the most common weightlifting injuries, you need to be proactive.
Stretch before and after your workouts.
Make sure your squat rack, Smith machine, bench rack, etc. are all set up in preparation for the worst-case scenario.
If you know it’s leg day or back day, then bring your weightlifting belt with you to the gym!
Precautions and action are two things that will keep you safe.
But, you must remember to perform these both before and after your workout, as to remain in good health.
Let’s say you follow certain precautions before you lift but still get hurt.
Well, then it’s time to take action and get yourself help before the problem gets worse.
Or, maybe you already have injuries — well then it’s important to always take necessary precautions to avoid further hurting yourself.
It’s all one big circle, and you need to keep that circle flowing smoothly so you never end up with any of these injuries.
There’s a good chance, though, that you will.
The good thing about knowing about the most common weightlifting injuries is that you also know how to avoid them and treat them.
Go out there and lift, but lift smart and safely.