Weight for it- Avoiding Weight Training Injuries

Weight training injuries are normally related to extreme overload of soft tissue structures and can occur to your legs, knees, hips and backs. They also affect the upper limb, especially you shoulders, elbows and wrists.

Weight training as a sport or recreationally can result in various injuries and tissue damage. The severity can vary from the mild strain to the severe dislocation.

Most gym related injuries are due to one of two things: poor technique and failure to gradually increase loads.

These are the 3 most common injuries we see at Hindmarsh and Fitzroy Physiotherapy and some tips to avoid them.

1.Back pain

Back injuries are caused by muscular strains, ligament sprains and joint dysfunction, particularly when pain arises suddenly during or following repetitive or unaccustomed physical loading of your spine.

Inefficient, weak, or back muscles that lack endurance or normal contraction timing can lead to poor joint stabilisation and subsequent injury.

Discs in particular are at risk due to our pre occupation with sitting. Many people head to the gym with their discs already under strain from hours of constant sitting and poor posture. The disc can be further stressed through loading and cause considerable pain and disability. In more severe circumstances they can cause irritation of the lumbar nerve roots resulting in sciatica. One way to avoid this is to split up the workout. It is not necessary to do multiple sets all in one workout and can be spread out during the day or the week in order to greatly decrease your back loading.

Another tip is before performing exercises that load the spine, spend ten minutes walking on a treadmill or a few minutes lying on your front while propped on your elbows. This reverses the direction of disc pressure.

Improving your core stability is also vital for correct posture and control during overloading.

2. Shoulder impingement

Irritation of the rotator cuff tendons under the acromion in the shoulder is another common injury. When this space is narrowed, it irritates the tendons. The three things that can commonly lead to a reduced sub-acromial space are :

  • A lack of shoulder blade and rotator cuff control,
  • Poor lifting technique,
  • A stiff middle back (thoracic spine).

During our Physio rehabilitation program we focus on improving the scapula control and rotator cuff activation. Once the scapula position and control are corrected, the shoulder pain usually settles.

A tip for preventing shoulder injuries in the gym is to make sure you can see your hands. If you can’t, then your shoulder is probably in a vulnerable position.

You should also always make sure the shoulders are adequately warmed up before progressing to heavier weights. This is a good time to add your Thoracic mobilising stretches and exercises.

Impingement can occur if you have a dynamically unstable shoulder. This means that there is a combination of excessive joint movement, ligament laxity and muscular weakness around the shoulder joint.

Poor technique or bad training habits such as training too hard is also a common cause of overuse shoulder injuries.

3. knee pain

Patellofemoral maltracking can occur as the patella shifts during flexion and extension of the knee often because of muscular imbalance during overloading. The irritation of the patellofemoral joint then leads to pain.

Around 90% of cases can be due to one of three problems:

  • Foot pronation,
  • Weakness of the inner quadriceps (VMO) and gluteals,
  • An overly tight ITB (iliotibial band)

Specific rehabilitation to correct these problems is successful in most cases.

Try to avoid taking your squats beyond 90˚ of knee bend. There are only a few athletes that require deep squat strength. If you’re not one of them, there’s no need to overload the knees.

Stretching your calves is also very important as tight calves contribute to foot pronation, which contributes to PFJ maltracking. Stretch three times per day, holding stretches for 30-60sec.

Strengthening of your hip abductors will help with pelvic and hip stability which in turn protects your knee under load.

Preventing injuries also means looking at some other factors.

1.Problems with equipment

Check your working surface is not unstable, bars are not bent or don’t rotate rotate properly, machines maintained, clothing needs to be snug so it cant catch and shoes supportive .

2.Warming up

The reason you warm-up is to stretch and activate your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and to get the blood flowing and to practice the coming movement patterns. Shortening your warm-up will have adverse effects when the heavier sets occur.

3.Overtraining is also problematic.

Overtraining is the result of chronically training beyond your recovery capabilities. After heavy training for a period of time, you need to have unloading training sessions in order to affect an eventual adaptation to the higher loads. If this unloading is delayed too long, then injury and breakdown will be the result.

Too often, weight training and injuries go together. Avoiding injury by talking with experienced lifters and health professionals on technique and correct application of loading principles is vital for avoiding problems. Once small pains start, seek professional advice and early treatment to prevent them becoming chronic and debilitating. Speak with one of our physiotherapists regarding any of your injury concerns. 

Get in touch

If you’d like to make an appointment call us on 8346 2000 and we will find the right Physio for you. Or if you prefer, schedule a personalised consult right now with one of our caring Physiotherapists experienced in assessment, management and treatment by requesting a booking here. We would love to help you soon.

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