If you have ever trained in the gym or exercise a lot, including things like pilates and yoga, then you would be familiar with pain and/or injuries. By acknowledging pain and getting regular treatment you can limit the frequency or likelihood of getting injured in the first place.
We take a look at 10 common reasons you may be getting injured in the gym. This is by no means a definitive list as there are many reasons people become injured.
1. Over training - this is a really common issue especially in people who are new to the gym or who are stop/start in their approach. Taking your body from no training to training 7 days a week is a recipe for disaster. The best approach is to ease into it. Train at least 3 times per week with lower intensity training and then build gradually. A personal trainer is a wise investment at these times as this is when you are most likely to injure yourself.
Over enthusiasm + poor form = injury
2. Having had an injury in the past 6 months - the person who is most likely to injure themselves is the person who has been injured within the last 6 months. If you have had a previous injury then you need to be extra careful at the gym. Tell any personal trainers or gym instructors of your injuries and feel confident to modify your exercise or say no to things that you feel will reinjure you. This is especially important for trainers and instructors to remember.
3. Bad/poor form - This is one of the biggest reasons people get injured in the gym. They think they are doing the exercise correctly as they have seen it on youtube or in a picture but have no idea of the risks involved in having bad form. This is where having a personal trainer who is qualified can be a major asset in checking that your form is correct so that you're less likely to injure yourself.
Exercises like deadlifts and squats can look easy but there are many nuances that require practice and mastery before you can just lift heavy. We are always shocked at people who say they have great form and then show a video of them lifting and it is anything but good form. Again these are usually the self trained types.
4. Straining your neck - When lifting heavy weights, especially over head, deadlifts or in chest press, it can be easy to strain the neck. Another common exercise we see this from is pull ups. Especially if you aren't strong enough to lift your bodyweight or are doing lots of reps. A simple way to combat this is to slightly tuck the chin (keeping the spine neutral) in while you train can mean you avoid putting unnecessary strain on the muscles at the base of your skull and also the front of your neck. Often you can wake up after a heavy gym session with neck pain and headaches that seems unrelated to your training session. This overstraining can be the culprit.
5. Forward shoulders - if you sit at a desk all day for work then it is highly likely that you have forward shoulders and tight pectoralis major and minor muscles as well as internal shoulder rotators. If you then go into the gym and start doing lots of heavy chest press or over head pressing then you are cooking the recipe for disaster, or a nasty shoulder injury. Stretching you chest, extending or laying over a foam roller as well as strengthening your upper and middle back will help reduce the likelihood of this. And again form is key. If you set your shoulders correctly before you lift and maintain it during the lift then your shoudlers will be less likely to drift forward.
6. Pushing through when your body is in pain - When your body is in pain you need to listen to it. Imagine your car starts sputtering as you are driving along. Would you say “I’ll just drive it off” or “if I drive faster it’ll go away”. When it comes to a car we’d take it to the mechanic without hesitation. When it comes to the gym the hardest thing to do is acknowledge pain and rest an area when required.
7. Doing the same training you’ve always done - if you always train the same muscle groups or over train them then you are heading towards an over use injury or RSI (repetitive strain injury). The more you use the muscles and connective tissues the more tension and scar tissue can build up in them. The amount of load or repetitions will be the factors that can speed up this process and bring on an injury faster. If you are doing heavy weights for your arms only and lots of them then it is no stretch to think that you may end up giving yourself a shoulder injury. The body's nervous system responds really well to new challenges so mixing up your training is the best way to give your body an overall workout. Sometimes we do the same exercises as this is all we have ever done. Getting a training program can give you more ideas on some variations on exercises or exercising different areas that you may never have worked on. There are tons of different training styles and approaches so if you always stick to one then you may stagnate with your training or become injured.
8. Not acknowledging injuries or pain - injuries can be debilitating and put us out of training for weeks or months at a time. If you train regularly then you have probably had an injury or two. If you know you have wrist pain for instance and you keep doing push ups or front squats and keep putting strain on those ligaments and joints then you can’t expect that these injuries will get any better. In fact most likely you will be making them worse. This little niggling pain can rapidly become an more serious injury. Getting professional advice on your injury and also your training form is crucial.
9. Not seeking treatment/guidance immediately and putting it off - a lot of times we don’t take into account that our body is trying to tell us something in the form of pain. The fact that your knee starts to hurt when doing lunges is a good indicator that there may be an underlying issue going on. By getting some assessment and treatment you are reducing the risk of your pain turning into something more serious.
10. Not taking a break from the exercise that is causing your injury or modifying it - a guy comes into clinic and says “I get these really bad headaches”. I say “ What do you do that brings them on”, he says ‘banging my head against the wall”. I say “ have you thought of not banging your head against the wall?”. “But I love to bang my head against the wall” he replies.
Whilst this example is clearly ridiculous it not far off the reason a lot of gym related injuries don't get better. The injury is not given the rest it requires to heal and the client is continuing to aggravate the injury by continuing a damaging exercise.
So in summary the big takeaways are don't over train the same area and if you start feeling pain then rest that area and stop or modify the exercise that keeps aggravating it until you are recovered. Also getting guidance on how to train properly as our egos can get in the way here.
Getting regular treatment can be a great way of preventing injuries coming on in the first place and also finding and fixing them as they arise.
As always feel free to comment on this article or let us know any other things you think could be contributing to injury in the gym.