Mostly affected are beginners who just started lifting weight’s or are still learning the techniques.
So why are they more in danger of getting hurt?
Most people start working out in a gym after years of living a sedentary lifestyle and limited amount of daily exercises. Their muscles and tendons are most likely “withered” and weak. This combined with bad lifting techniques and to much weight can easily lead to injuries.
Women seem to be more likely to injure their ankles, knees, and wrists, while men’s injuries are more common in the lower back and shoulders; men have more sprains and strains, and women have more fractures.
Main reasons for injuries
- Inadequate fitness level.
To many hours sitting in an office in front of a screen weakens the muscles and tendons. In combination with with bad lifting techniques and to much weight can easily lead to a herniated disc or tendon injuries.
- Not paying attention
and multitasking while working out. Watching a movie while lifting weights can be dangerous. For an efficient muscle workout you need your mind and attention as well as your body – focus on the muscles you are working out. Avoid multitasking. Leave your phone, ipod/tablet or any other electronic device in the locker room and focus on your exercises. I really see people lifting weights while watching a movie! It’s as if you are trying to hit a nail into a wall while looking out of the window. Weight training trains your body and mind. So keep your mind free of distraction and focus on what you are doing.
- Weights laying around
the floor or hanging on the machines and barbells. Sometimes people don’t put back the weights back after using them, they just leave it to the next one or the staff to clean up. All the heavy weights – I rarely see light weights – lying around can be dangerous for people who are maybe not as strong as them and who wants to put them aside so they can do their workout. The danger is, these weights usually lie in positions from where it is difficult to lift them up in a proper form. This can create a big stress on the joints and discs while trying to lift them up.
- Bad techniques when lifting the weight.
A lot of fitness enthusiasts think it’s not worth to hire a personal trainer, they just download some training apps for a few bucks and start training. Well even if this apps are getting better, they still can’t replace a trainer who is standing beside you, corrects and supports you on each exercise. People are often tempted to start with difficult, complex exercise for which they don’t have the basic strength and coordination yet.
- Bad lifting technique.
I see a lot of gym goers doing an exercise correctly, but when picking up the weights from the ground/rack or putting it back, they don’t care about good posture anymore. The most critical moment in lifting a weight is in the starting phase (picking up the weight) and at the turning point (where you lower the weight again). Because for getting the weights moving from the ground you need the most strength. A good technique is required for not getting hurt. So next time try to lift the weights with a straight back and as close as possible to your body. And bend those knees! I see to many people picking up dumbbells with straight legs and round back!
There are some machines or free weight exercises which causes more injuries than other.
- Home exercise equipment
- Barbell Squats
- Overhead shoulder press
- Jumping exercises
1. Home exercise equipment
There are a lot of fitness machines you can buy to train at home. Most people buy this kind of equipment, because they think it’s cheaper than buying a fitness abo and more convenient than going to a gym. Unfortunately a lot of this machines are not very good quality – you get what you pay for – so therefor they can be risky to train with, especially if you are a beginner and don’t really know what to look for when the machines.
Running on a treadmill is not the same as running outsides on the streets. Most people have difficulty to run nicely on them. This combined with watching a movie while running – you easily miss a step or loose balance and fall backwards off the machine.
3. Barbell back squats
Even if the barbell back squat is an excellent full body workout. It is very stressful on your vertebras and discs. To much weight and improper technique you can easily hurt your back – most common are low back injuries. It’s a well known problem, so some coaches train their athletes with one leg squats “lunges”, which requires less weight.
4. Overhead shoulder press
We are not used to move our arms overhead anymore in our daily life. The shoulder joint capsule usually shrinks and the tendons shortens if not used. If you suddenly start pushing and moving weight over head you irritate this structures and you might injure them.
5. Jumping exercises
Any kind of Jumping creates a big stress on our joints. Your body has to absorb about 6 x your body weight with brisk walking and about 20 x your body weight while jumping. That’s a lot of weight which needs to be absorbed through your body. If your muscles are not well trained – all the safety muscles and tendons around your knee, hip and lower back joint – it can be very stressful on these structures and might hurt them over time.
Which body parts are most often injured?
In order to absorb the energy of the lifted weight – so you don’t fall forward – you need to be aware through which structure/muscles the energy flows. If you are lifting weights with your hands, most likely the energy will go through your arms, shoulders, neck, down the spine, legs into the ground. Even if you have a biceps exercises, your neck will get some of the weight force, therefor a straight forward look is preferable. A lot of people like to stand sideways in front of the mirror and while doing a curl they look sideways into the mirror – this puts a lot of stress on the neck muscles and vertebras.
Pay attention to your form, look straight forward while lifting, don’t turn the head to the side. Include more exercises for the neck into your training. Ask your fitness Coach for specific exercises.
Most people sit most of the time in front of a desk. Seldom they move their arms in all possible direction, so over time a limitation of range of motion will occur – shrinking of the joint capsule and joint tendons. In the gym they suddenly start with doing shoulder exercises over head which produces a lot of stress on the shortened capsule and tendons.
Include flexibility training of the shoulder into your training, like swinging a indian club around your head is a good full ROM movement and improves the flexibility of your shoulder.
Lower Back Injury
The worst thing for the back is inactivity. Sitting all day in front of a computer shuts down the metabolism in your whole back. The back contains more than 300 muscles which helps us to walk in an upright position an move in all directions.
Even if you are going regularly to the gym, make sure to warm up your whole body and before doing a back exercise warm up specifically the back by moving your back into all directions (sideways, backward, forward) to loosen and warm up the area you want to train.
Injuries often happens with squats and back extension. Squats injury usually happens because of not warming up properly and using to much weight with poor lifting technique. Injuries by using the back extension machine happens, because people swing up from a lower into an upright position using more the hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) instead of the lower back muscles, this causes unwanted stress in the lower vertebras and can cause injuries.
For the squat: it’s always good to have a good spotter who is helping with a good form. Don’t go to low in the squat especially if you are not very flexible in the hips and ankles, because limited flexibility in those two will let you arch your lower back at a certain hight which causes unwanted stress onto the lower back. The spotter should check when is the moment you are starting to get round, shortly before that moment you should stop and stand up again.
For the back extension:
Try to do the back extension with a fixed pelvis and just use the back muscles to come up. Avoid swinging upward movements.
Foot and Ankle Injury
Who is practicing the muscles of the foot and ankle in the gym? Almost nobody. Everybody focus on the big muscles, the big exercises like dead lifts and squats. Nobody cares about all the muscles which supports and holds your feet in position. We usually forget that our feet have to carry all our weight. So these muscles are usually rather weak combined with wearing shoes with higher heels cans cause plantar or achilles tendons pain.
To overcome this problem train your ankle and feet regularly by including specific exercises into your training program. Exercises where you move your foot in different directions against a resistance (rubber band, tubes, cable).
Also wear flat shoes like indoor sports shoes or tennis shoes. Don’t use jogging shoes. I wouldn’t recommend jogging shoes because they are to high in the heals.
Having weak hip and ankle muscles makes your knee „wobbly“ and more hard to move in a straight line while lifting, this causes unwanted stress on the knee.
Running and Jumping „Plyometric exercises“ are great for well trained athletes, for the rest it has to be done with cautions because they are extremely stressful on the joints especially knee and lower back. If you don’t have strong hip and ankle muscles, the full force of impact will go into your knee joint.
Solution: train your hip and ankle muscles, wear proper shoes.
How to prevent this injuries
The risk of injury is what keeps a lot of people from lifting weights. But the risk of getting hurt is nothing compared to the benefits you get when you lift weights.
There is of course no 100% guarantee not getting hurt while working out. But you can reduce the risk of getting hurt by following some simple general rules:
- Proper warm up before exercises. Global warmup (bike, stepper, etc.) followed by specific warmups for the muscles and joints you want to train.
- Fatigue your muscles don’t exhaust them.
- Get a spotter while lifting heavy weights, he/she will will help you keeping a good technique while lifting.
- Learn proper techniques how to lift the weights from the floor or from the rack
- Choose exercises which don’t put to much stress on your joints in an end position of a movement when the muscle is tired. Check if the weight is stressful on the joint if the muscles can’t hold it anymore.
- Get proper instruction of exercise techniques. Youtube is not always a good source!
- Wear proper outfits. Training clothes which are not to loose, so you don’t keep hanging on the machines. Wear flat shoes, like indoor shoes or ‘barefoot shoes” don’t wear jogging shoes for lifting weights because their heel is to heigh and you don’t stand as stable as you should
- Choose the weight appropriately according to your level. Progress slowly don’t rush.
- Give yourself enough rest till the next training session. For the same muscle group at least 48 – 72 h.
- Don’t train with completely empty stomach. Pay attention to drink enough between and after the training (depends how much you are sweating).