Weight training injuries

Weight training is a demanding activity that calls for concentration, commitment and overall health and fitness.  Although it is not a high-impact sport like rugby or football, injuries are still likely to occur if you don’t use the correct technique, if you employ poor posture while training or if you overstrain the muscles. These reasons and more will be discussed in this article.

Some common weight training injuries are:

  • Rotator cuff injuries: Inflammation of the four muscles and tendons that stabilise the shoulder and help to move the arm. Shoulder pain and weakness are common symptoms. Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications are the first line of treatment followed by physiotherapy rehabilitation.
  • Tennis elbow: This may arise from overusing the forearm muscles to compensate for weak triceps and biceps muscles. Symptoms are a pain in the wrist and along the forearm, weakness when attempting to lift, elbow pain when gripping or using the wrist. Treatment calls for rest from lifting, then physiotherapy for stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS): The thoracic outlet is the area at each side of the neck along the front. Compression of the subclavian artery and brachial plexus nerves as they pass through the narrow thoracic outlet space leads to this syndrome. Symptoms include neck and shoulder pain, feeling of cold, numbness and tingling of the fingers and a weak grasp. Rest from weight training along with physiotherapy are indicated to strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve range-of-motion and posture and take the pressure off the thoracic outlet. Very rarely with a severe thoracic outlet compression, you may need surgery.
  • Low back pain: Causes are improper form during lifting, weakness of the surrounding muscles and using too much weight. Rest and physiotherapy to strengthen the core muscles are vital to help the person return to weight training.

Weight training injuries occur for the following reasons:

  • Improper stretching: Overstretching of muscles, tendons and ligaments can lead to weight-training injuries. Proper passive stretching relaxes the muscles, increases flexibility and eliminates soreness. Stretches should be held without bouncing for around 30 seconds at the first point of stretch following the exercise. Stretching too vigorously before the exercise may cause more damage than good.
  • Inadequate warm-up: Exercising on a cold, stiff muscle can lead to muscle strains and ligament sprains. To get the most out of your workout, warm-up with five minutes of aerobic activity such as stationary cycling or treadmill walking followed by a few high-repetition, low-intensity exercises first.
  • Overtraining: Sessions should be no more than an hour. Rest between sets and between workouts. It is a good idea to work the same muscle groups no more than twice a week with at least two rest days in between. For example, shoulders and legs one day, followed by arms and chest the next, followed by back and abdominals the next. Using a weight that is too heavy also adds up as overtraining.
  • Incorrect technique: This can tear or injure a muscle. Avoid twisting and turning while lifting and do not lock your joints. Always use your core muscles to stabilise your trunk during an exercise and breathe out while you perform the lift, breathing in as you release the weight. If you are performing a new exercise for the first time, have a personal trainer demonstrate the correct technique for you first and ask them to watch you performing the exercise to ensure you are doing it the right way.
  • Poor support: Always make sure you support your body as best you can with weight training. For example, have both feet fully supported during bench press, and have your back fully supported when performing a shoulder press.

Injuries suffered during weight training can be far-reaching and complex. Please see us if you have suffered any type of weight training injury.