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Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.

Strength Training Injury Prevention

When done properly, strength training is one of the safest forms of exercise that exist. However, it’s not without risk of injury. Being aware of the most common injuries will help you to guard against them. In this article, I’ll lay out 3 key injury prevention strategies as well as identifying the most common strength injuries and what you can do to prevent them.

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3 Injury Prevention Strategies

Progressive Consistency

Many strength training injuries occur because the trainer is trying to do an exercise that their body is not ready for. This may be because they’re trying to do an exercise that is too heavy for them or they’re performing a move with a resistance they can handle but they haven’t taken the time to learn the proper mechanics of the movement.

By following a progressive exercise program, you are able to allow your body time to adapt to the workload that is being imposed upon it. As your muscles get slightly bigger and stronger, you can then add a little bit of resistance. This way your body is able to adapt to the new load being imposed upon it and you are far less likely to overstrain a muscle.

This progressive adaptation to your workouts is totally reliant on your training consistency. If you are hit and miss with your workouts, you are going to be far more likely to injure yourself. I suggest having a monthly planner and plotting in your workouts before anything else. Make that time non-negotiable. That level of consistency will make you far more likely to reach your goals injury free.

Preparing the Body

Another major contributor to training injury is a failure to warm up the body. If you jump straight into resistance training without preparing your muscles and joints, you’re simply asking for trouble. It is also important that your workouts are structured in a logical manner that minimizes injury risk. Here is a proven structure for optimum training safety.

  • Warm Up: your strength training warm up should consist of 5-10 minutes of aerobic exercise to get your blood pumping and your heart rate.
  • Dynamic Stretching: Now move onto some dynamic stretches that move your muscles through their full range of motion. Start with a neck mobility stretch then work on the body areas you’ll be targeting in your workouts.
  • Strength Training: If you are training major (quads, hamstrings, chest, back) and minor (shoulders, arms, abdominals) body parts in the same workout, be sure to train your major body part first. Rather than winging your workout, have every exercise, set and rep planned out before you hit the gym.
  • Cool Down Stretches: Your cool down will remove accumulated lactate from your blood and muscles, speed recovery, help mitigate delayed onset muscle soreness and help you unwind from the intensityof the workout. Your cooldown may include such active forms as foam rolling, static stretching or rhythmic breathing, along with passive forms like spending time in a sauna or steam room.

Focused Execution

The major risk of strength training injury comes from putting your body in an unstable position while the body is under a resistance load. As you increase your flexibility and strength level that instability will reduce and your injury risk will go down with it. The key to that transition, however, is learning proper exercise technique.

The following 5 elements are needed for optimized execution of strength training exercises:

Knowledge

Discover what muscles are involved, what the direction of fiber movement, and full biomechanical range of motion, is and where you should be feeling tension in the muscle. Learn also what proper execution of the exercise looks like.

Focus

You cannot afford to let your mind wander when you’re in the gym. Stay mentally plugged into the exercise you’re performing, putting your mind in the muscle by visualizing it contracting and expanding.

Breathing & Bracing

Your breathing will set the rhythm of the reps you perform; breath in on the concentric part of the rep and out on the eccentric part. Engage your core to stabilize your torso.

Tempo

Control the tempo of every single rep to eliminate momentum, ensure a full range of motion and lower the weight under your control.

Constant Monitoring

Never become complacent with your exercise form. Whether it’s your first aor your hundredth time of doing the exercise, check your form points to ensure that you are optimally working the target muscle while keeping your body within a safe and controlled movement pattern.

Here’s a mobility workout you should try:

The Most Common Injuries

Here’s a list of the most common injuries:

Shoulder

Causes and Symptoms

  • Tears - micro tears of the muscles or tendons
  • Tendinitis - acute joint inflammation
  • Tendonitis - degeneration of the tendon
  • Impingement - pinching of the tendon within the rotator cuff

Prevention

  • Do not overhead press behind the neck
  • Use dumbbells for front presses
  • Warm up the shoulder joint with dynamic stretches
  • Progressively increase resistance

Elbow

Causes and Symptoms

  • Pain at the bony part of the elbow
  • Repetitive use of the extensor muscles of the forearm
  • Poor exercise technique
  • Repetitive use of barbells locking the elbows a fixed position

Prevention

  • Use dumbbells rather than barbells
  • Strengthen the forearm extensor muscles
  • Don’t overtrain your biceps!

Lower Back

Causes and Symptoms

  • Sharp pain
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation
  • Spinal misalignment
  • Excessive spinal loading
  • Overuse

Prevention

  • Proper exercise technique (neutral spine)
  • Perform squat variations that do not load the spine such as cable squats
  • Build core strength
  • Wear a weight belt on your heaviest sets of compound exercises

Hip

Causes and Symptoms

  • Hip pain
  • Discomfort when walking
  • Pain in the gluteal tendinous attachments of the gluteus medius and minimus muscles
  • Hip bursitis (inflammation of fluid filled sacs that cushion muscles, bones and tendons)
  • Weakness in the glute medius can create hip/lower back pain

Prevention

  • Avoid repetitive use of exercises such as band walks and hip abductions.
  • Don’t overdo lower body resisted mobility exercises
  • Perform targeted glute medius strengthening exercises like clamshells and frog pumps

Knee

Causes and Symptoms

  • Pain around, behind or below the back of the knee
  • Overuse
  • Lower body muscular imbalance
  • Improper execution of lower body exercises such as squats and leg extensions
  • Improper loading

Prevention

  • Proper lower body exercise execution
  • Stopping short of knee lockout on exercises like squats and leg extensions
  • Proper warm up

Conclusion

Minimizing your strength training injury risk will allow you to train safely year in and year out. The worst thing you can do when you enter the gym is to switch onto auto pilot. You need to be switched onto every exercise you are doing, monitoring your technique and putting your mind into the muscle on each set.Be sure to perform both a cardio and dynamic stretching warm up, logically structure your workout and follow our specific injury prevention tips to stay injury free for the rest of your training lifetime.

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