Common Weight-Training Injuries - dummies

By LaReine Chabut

Accidents happen, even to careful weight lifters. So, here’s a primer on weight-training injuries in case you do run into one. When you strain or pull a muscle, you actually overstretch or tear the tendon, the tough, cordlike tissue at the end of the muscle where the muscle tapers off and attaches to the bone.

A strain can happen when you push up the bar too forcefully during the bench press or stand up too quickly out of the squat. Strains are often accompanied by a sudden, sharp pain and then a persistent ache.

A sprain is something different altogether. This injury happens not to a muscle but to a joint, such as your ankle or wrist. When you sprain a joint, you’ve torn or overstretched a ligament, the connective tissue that attaches one bone to another.

You may feel pain and throbbing and notice some swelling and bruising. You can sprain just about any joint in your body; ankles and wrists seem to take the most beating in weight lifting.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the healing process may take anywhere from a couple days to a couple months. If your injury doesn’t appear to be healing, see your doctor. Some of the common injuries caused by lifting weights include the following:

  • Torn rotator cuff: The muscles of your rotator cuff are often injured during bench presses and shoulder presses. You may have torn your rotator cuff if

    • You feel a persistent ache or a sharp pain deep within your shoulder at a specific point during the exercise.

    • You’re unable to raise your arm in front of you and over your head.

    If you’ve injured your rotator cuff

    • Stop performing any exercises that cause you pain or soreness in that area.

    • Skip all overhead pressing movements for as long as your healthcare provider recommends that you rest. You shouldn’t exercise while you have any pain.

    • Lighten up your load on the bench press to a weight where you don’t feel any pain.

    • Limit the distance you move the bar.

    • Or skip the exercise altogether.

    Review your form: Make sure that you’re not bouncing the weights up and down or taking the exercise past your natural active range of motion that you can control.

    Rotator cuff exercises can help prevent injuries to these muscles. These exercises are a must if you lift heavy weights, if you lift regularly two to three times a week, or if you participate in a sport that uses the upper body, such as tennis, rock climbing, or swimming.

  • Sore knees: Pinpointing the source of the problem can be difficult with knee injuries because the injury can come in so many varieties and have so many different causes. Often, the injury is caused by something you did outside the weight room. Still, certain weight-training mistakes are likely culprits. Runners, walkers, and cyclists can ward off many common knee injuries by performing quadriceps exercises.

    • If any leg exercise causes you pain, skip it or modify it by following our instructions. Some people try to protect their knees from injury by wrapping them in yards of bandages. A wrapped knee may mask a problem that needs immediate attention.

    • To help protect your knees, make sure that you strengthen both your front and rear thigh muscles — the muscles that support your knee joints. Stretching is also helpful to keep all the muscles that surround the knee loose and limber.

  • Sore wrists: Some people injure their wrist muscles by bending their wrists too much when they lift weights.

  • Lower back pain: If you have a history of back problems, you can just as easily throw out your back reaching for an apple in the fridge as you can pumping iron. But because the weight room constantly challenges your ability to stabilize your spine and maintain good form, it increases the risk of triggering an old injury — or developing a new one.

    Always take precautions for your lower back when you lift weights. One key preventive measure is to pull in your abdominals. By tightening your abs, you create a natural girdle to support and protect your lower back.