As athletes, we push our bodies to the limit on a daily basis. It's the only way to achieve your full potential. But pushing limits has risk and it’s inevitable that at some point we'll be faced with some type of injury.
Dr. Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S., is here to discuss some of the most common weightlifting injuries and give his expert advice on how to prevent them.
1. WARM UP & COOL DOWN
Do you warm-up before a workout? Do you cool-down afterwards? If the answer is no, you place yourself at a higher risk for injuries such as sprains and strains.
Take 3-5 minutes to actively warm-up, which is superior to stretching prior to physical activity.1,2 This increases your heart rate, which in turn pumps more blood to the now active muscles, making them more pliable and ready for activity.
After each workout, be sure to cool-down. This may be a more appropriate time to stretch, as you can now take advantage of the increased flexibility your muscles have compared to when you first walked into the gym.
2. PERFECT YOUR FORM
How’s your form?
Whether you are squatting for a PR in preparation for a Strongman competition, or you enjoy some body-weight lunges to ready your buns for beach season, it is imperative to utilize proper form.
Any deviation may lead to the recruitment of muscle groups unrelated to the exercise and/or placing undesirable strain on muscles or joints.
If you are unsure of the proper technique for any lift, or notice pain that seems to arise while performing the activity, seek help from a trainer or other knowledgeable person. Alternatively, you can get great advice on form online from guys like Jeff Cavaliere at ATHLEAN-X.
3. DON'T OVER TRAIN
Muscles need time to rest and recover, just like we do after a long day of work. Improper exercise programming can greatly reduce the recovery period and lead to repeated stress on a particular tendon or ligament.
Overtraining can lead to soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) injury and prevent your muscles from growing.
It may be obvious to a novice lifter that performing bicep curls every day of the week should be avoided. However, what may be less obvious, is the involvement of the elbow flexors during “back” exercises. Again, the advice of an expert may be necessary to ensure you give muscle groups proper rest.
4. USE A SPOTTER
Whether you are lifting for reps or for weight, make sure you have a spotter.
Your spotter is not a spectator, present simply for encouragement. He or she should also be as actively engaged in your lift. Fan-girling while spotting somebody squatting 110% of their PR can result in a heavy barbell crushing the squatter and the spotter.
Don’t risk it. Know your limits and ask for a spot when you need one.
5. KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT
Preventing injury in the weight room also involves simple practices like utilizing weight collars for all lifts, or setting side rails for squatting. The weight room can be a dangerous place, it’s simply smart to use the tools provided to make you safer.
It’s also important to know the function of each piece of equipment you’re using, and to use it properly. It is dangerous enough to use a box not intended for box jumps. Stacking 4 bumper plates on top of said box…even more so. Be safe.
- Warm-up – the activity doesn’t matter, just make sure it is total body and you start light and easy before increasing intensity
- Cool-down – stretching may be employed at this time, I recommend reciprocal inhibition
- Form. Form. Form. Do not sacrifice for another rep or more weight
- Rest and balance is key
- Know your equipment and take advantage of a knowledgeable spotter
- Many musculoskeletal injuries can benefit from rest, Ice, Compression, & Elevation ("RICE") and/or the addition of an appropriately used NSAID (Aleve, Ibuprofen, Aspirin)
Anthony Dugarte M.D., C.S.C.S.
About Dr. Dugarte
Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S. is a Cleveland, Ohio native who has enjoyed success in sports, as well as academics. He accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend Kent State University and graduated, Cum Laude, with a B.S. in Exercise Physiology. At Kent, Dr. Dugarte was a member of the Golden Flash Football Team and earned Academic All-American Honors as a defensive lineman.
He is currently the Research Fellow for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Dugarte has 8 years’ experience as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
1. The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Thacker SB, Gilchrist J, Stroup DF, Kimsey CD Jr. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Mar;36(3):371-8.
2. Acute Effects of Different Methods of Stretching and Specific Warm-ups on Muscle Architecture and Strength Performance. Sá MA, Matta TT, Carneiro SP, Araujo CO, Novaes JS, Oliveira LF. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Aug;30(8):2324-9.
Keywords: weightlifting; lift; injury; prevention; warm-up, sprain, form, RICE, overuse, spotter, box jump, overtraining