When you lift weights, whether you use resistance bands, barbells or dumbbells, keep the “big picture” in mind. It’s just as important to train smart as it is to train hard. The last thing you need is a sudden injury or an overuse injury to keep you from lifting weights for a few weeks. All it takes is a few careless moves to end up injured.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, weight-training injuries are on the rise. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your muscles, tendons, and joints healthy so you can keep getting stronger – safely. Here are some of the most common causes of strength-training mistakes that lead to injuries and how to avoid them.
Strength-Training Mistakes: Using Improper Form and Weights That Are Too Heavy
Some people are more concerned with how much they can lift rather than how they’re lifting it. Using proper form not only gives better results, but it also reduces the risk of injury. If you have to twist, rock or contort your body to control the weight, you’re training too heavy. Lifting a heavy weight is an ego booster, but having to arch your back or otherwise compromise form to do it is a surefire recipe for injury.
What can you do to make sure you’re using the proper form? Reduce the weight and stand in front of the mirror to monitor your form until you’ve perfected it. Concentrate on doing the exercise through the full range of motion without jerking, bouncing, twisting or using momentum. When you use proper form, you’ll get more out of the exercise and lower your risk for a painful tear, strain, dislocated shoulder or back injury.
“Cheating” has its place, as a technique to help muscles grow, but only when you’re more advanced. Some bodybuilders compromise their form a bit on the last rep or two but avoid doing this until you know how to use good form.
Strength-Training Mistakes: Not Warming Up
When you’re pressed for time, do you skip the warm-up? Not a good idea. Don’t confuse the warm-up with stretching. Most research shows static stretching doesn’t reduce the risk of injuries and temporarily reduces muscle strength, but you still need to warm your muscles up. A 5 to 10 minute light cardio warm-up increases the temperature of the muscles you’re about to work and makes your muscles and tendons more pliable.
Begin by doing a few minutes of a general warm-up to increase your body temperature. Jogging in place, high knees and jumping jacks are all good warm-up exercises. Then do reps using light weights to increase blood flow and mobility before starting your workout. Save static stretching for the end of your workout when your muscles are their warmest to reduce the risk of injury.
Strength-Training Mistakes: Unbalanced Training
When one muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle group, it creates a strength imbalance that increases the risk for injury. This can happen when you train one group of muscles harder than an opposing muscle group. For example, bodybuilders are prone towards shoulder impingement injuries, partially because they overtrain their pectoral muscles and lats that internally rotate the shoulder and undertrain the upper back muscles that externally rotate them. To lower your risk for injury, make sure you’re training opposing muscle groups equally.
Strength-Training MistakesNot Periodizing: Your Strength-Training Workouts
If you’re trying to build lean body mass, lift to failure, but not every time you work out. You’ll reduce your risk for injury if you cycle or periodize your training, focusing on lighter weights and a higher number of reps some weeks and other weeks on heavier weights and a lower number of reps. Some studies show periodized training programs offer better strength gains than non-periodized ones. Plus, periodizing your workouts will help you avoid plateaus.
Strength-Training Mistakes: Overtraining
Overtraining not only increases the risk of injury, but it also makes it harder to build strength and lean body mass. Muscles grow and change between workouts, and when you train the same muscles too often you limit the ability of your muscles to adapt. Overtraining also increases muscle fatigue and soreness, which can affect your form and increase the risk of injury. Give each muscle group at least a 48-hour rest before working it hard again.
Strength-Training Mistakes: Lack of Focus and Concentration
If you don’t focus, your form suffers and your risk of injury goes up. Plus, you won’t get the same benefits as you would by using proper technique. When you weight train, tune out the outside world and focus only on the muscles you’re working. This kind of laser-like focus will not only reduce the risk of injury but help create the kind of “good burn” you need to see results.
Strength-Training Mistakes: Calorie Restriction
Your muscles need adequate carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores after a workout and protein to repair micro tears that form in muscles during training. Training in a nutritionally-depleted state limits strength gains and increases the risk of injury. Make sure you’re getting enough calories, protein, and carbs to compensate for the extra stress you’re putting on your body. Give your muscles the nutritional support they need to grow and become stronger.
The Bottom Line?
Avoid these common training mistakes to reduce your risk of a strength-training injury that can keep you out of the gym. Injuries are painful and sometimes slow to heal. Don’t let one happen to you.
WebMD. “Keep Weight Training Injury Free”
Am J Sports Med. 2010 Apr;38(4):765-71. doi: 10.1177/0363546509351560. Epub 2010 Feb 5.
ExRX.net. “Most Common Weight Training Mistakes”
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33, 635-643.
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