Today I’m talking about gym injuries – with the most common exercise related injuries I’ve seen over the years – both from my clients and in the dozens of gyms I’ve worked at and worked out in!
The truth is if you work out regularly, chances are you will suffer an injury at some point. Like any machine your body will break down from use, it’s inevitable. The really amazing thing is that unlike many other mechanical devices, your body will normally heal itself with proper rest – and time. But of course the trick is NOT to get injured in the first place. Hopefully you’ll find a few tips here that will help you avoid some of the most common exercises related injuries…
1. KNEE INJURIES – This is without a doubt one of the most commonly injured areas. Why? Because most people attempt exercises like squats and lunges without having a clue as to how to perform them. Even worse is the fact that some trainers don’t know what they’re doing either – I’ve seen it. Common complaints include worn out cartilage, torn tendons, and muscle imbalances that can misalign the joint and are caused by excessive training in one discipline.
The key problem is usually improper foot placement and body positioning. Read my Top Ten Exercises Your Probably Doing Wrong for advice on correct form and stay injury free!
2. SHOULDER PAIN – This is the most versatile and complex joint in the body, as it moves in all planes of motion. Too many trainees load up the weights on heavy overhead shoulder presses and do nothing to to strengthen the rotator cuff – a group of internal muscles that provide the shoulder with stability .The result is that without the stability needed for control, it can lead to rotator cuff tears, strains, a loss of range of motion and weakness. You must include some proper rotator exercises twice each week – here’s a few sample exercises you can try.
3. TENNIS ELBOW – No you don’t have to play tennis to get this injury, and I’ve actually known many bodybuilders succumb to this one. Tennis Elbow is an inflammation of the tendon near the outside of the elbow and unfortunately, it’s not a very easy injury to deal with. It’s usually caused by overuse of the forearm extensors; most people over-train their arms as everybody wants to have big “guns”. Plus you use your hands in almost every exercise. Make sure at the first sign of any discomfort you rest, ice your injury and give it time to calm down. And proceed cautiously when you try exercising again.
4. BICEPS STRAIN – This is a common injury in men that are die-hard ‘bicep curling’ guys. I see a lot of people ‘lift their egos’ in the gym, not the weight, and end up cheating or swinging the weight up. This places tremendous strain on the biceps and tendons, which are relatively small muscles. I’ve seen strains, tendon tears, and even a complete bicep tear where the muscle itself detaches and balls up near the shoulder joint. It’s unsightly and can only be fixed by painful surgery. The moral of the story is only lift weight that’s appropriate and don’t worry about showing off!
5. GROIN PULL– OK, these suck! I’ve had this injury quite a few times myself and let me tell you how painful it is. Daily life makes this muscle on the inside of your thighs super stiff and a bit weak. When you start exercising it can be quite a shock and this muscle is one that strains very easily. I’ve seen people on their very first rep of a lunge pull this muscle horribly. Be sure to take new exercise ranges of motion slowly to give your body a chance to acclimate
6. BACK PAIN – Let’s face it we’ve all experienced this one! Back injuries are often caused OUTSIDE the gym, often by sitting all day and poor posture. While I hear of people hurting their backs, the most common complaint comes during abdominal work. A lot of trainees are what I call “mirror exercisers” meaning they only work the muscles they can see. They don’t realize that your abs and back both need to be trained to support each other otherwise an already weak lower back gets even more strained by excessive abdominal work. Be sure to include at least 1 set of lower back for every set of abs.
7. HERNIATED DISKS – You’ve doubtless heard of either protruding, bulging, or herniated disks in your spine. What you should know is they’re all bad. Really bad. Think of disks like jelly donuts. When they’re squeezed or too much pressure is applied – out comes the jelly. And if the ‘jelly’ pushes against a nerve it can radiate pain, cause loss of strength and potentially result in permanent damage. I suffered from this injury and required neck surgery from my years as a bodybuilder. Use weights that challenge you, but don’t go so heavy as to literally crush your spine or pop a disk. Being a knucklehead is just not worth it, trust me.
8. HIP FLEXOR INJURIES – Many people are under the impression that running is the answer to health, fitness and weight loss. What they don’t realize is that running excessively can over use the hip flexors; the muscles near the front top of the hip. As you know I don’t recommend for anyone to run consistently for extended periods and this injury is just one of many reasons to stay away! Once again, you must strive for a balanced routine and make running part of an intelligent routine, not the routine.
9. BONE SPURS – I’ve had a few of these operated on and I know they are very common in many people, not just those that exercise. All of your joints can create friction as muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones rub against each other in tight spaces and bony structures called spurs can form that pinch the surrounding area and can cause inflammation, pain, and weakness. The most susceptible areas are the feet and shoulders – and high-rep, low weight training can be a causal factor. So stick with heavier weights and medium to low reps and if there is any sign of pain, make sure to rest, ice the area immediately, and when needed go see an orthopedist.
10. BRUISED EGOS – I had to include this one as I think it is the most common gym injury of all! In my opinion too many people go to the gym to put on a show instead of getting into shape. And when people are showing off their form often suffers and injury results. I know if people were alone and working out at home without anyone watching, we wouldn’t see so much of this sometimes crazy behavior. And while it’s mostly men who like to hurl around the heavy weights, I’ve also seen women push themselves too far in competition with each other and hurt themselves.
People need to understand that exercise is not a contest, but a lifestyle. There will always be someone bigger, stronger, faster, more flexible, and better than you in a particular area. Exercise for YOU, and get stronger and healthier for YOU, no one else.
To summarize, while some injuries are preventable, others are just a fact of life and there is little you can do to ensure complete prevention. One thing is clear though; you can greatly reduce your chances of serious injury by properly exercising in a balanced routine and understanding how your body works. In my opinion, too many people tend to ignore their body’s signals of being hurt and continue on in their program. When you are hurt make sure to rest as small, innocuous aches and pains can develop into much more serious injuries if not dealt with properly. A week out of the gym to heal is better than months recovering from surgery. Take it from me as I learned this the hard way.
Do you agree? Have I missed an injury? Have you suffered one that I’ve mentioned? Let me know, I’d love to hear your comments…