Do your knees hurt when you squat? What about your shoulders when you bench?
These are two of the most common injury complaints among regular gym goers. These potential ailments can also be barriers of entry for those new to strength training.
Call me crazy, but I don’t want to participate in an activity that hurts to do and hurts when I am not doing it either.
As Rippetoe and Kilgore mention in their book, Practical Programming for Strength Training, programs supervised by qualified coaches are safer than physical education classes in schools.
I am assuming PE hasn’t been abolished along with long division yet. I haven’t been in a PE class in years but I’m sure the risk of injury is still extremely low.
This means that weight training has a lower risk than the easiest class in school that was never all that physically demanding. The reason is simple; Weight training assists in preventing injury and does not cause it.
Let’s look at the injury rates in sport:
This is an awesome chart that I first saw in the manual for the USAW certification. Number 1, it shocks me that soccer is that high compared to everything else. Number 2, look at weight training.
The only sport with a lower injury rate than weight training is weightlifting, a resistance training sport!
The number of injuries from weight training is borderline microscopic. That should be good news to trainees everywhere. There are problems with the fitness industry, however, which is why the number is even that high to begin with.
Why do we have injuries?
Sports are uncontrollable and unpredictable. Accidents happen and freak instances occur. This is usually how athletes are injured in sport. Not very often is it from something intentional.
Weight training is not a sport and should have the highest level of control, yet people still get injured. This is how:
1. Trainees are Unsupervised
Most people at the gym write their own programs or take them from public sources. They are their own coach. Gyms have staff but they are there to make sure of safety not effectiveness.
Find a partner, look at videos put out by good coaches, or find a good coach/trainer in order to monitor your training. Remember to beware of…
2. Coaches that are unqualified
Was your strength coach or trainer an athlete? Do they just have a lot of shirtless pictures of themselves displaying how much they know about exercise? These are not good qualifications.
Good coaches have an educational background and certifications in exercise science/ strength and conditioning. These certifications also were not earned over a weekend or online class. (Preference towards NSCA-CPT or CSCS)
Note: if you are participating in Olympic weightlifting, the coach should have both of the above and experience in the sport.
Someone who is just in shape is not a good trainer. Someone who can just bench 854 pounds is also not a good coach.
When seeking out a coach or trainer, look for certifications, educational degrees, and writing of theirs to see what they can teach you.
3. Improper Exercise Selection and Technique
If your knees hurt when you squat, you are doing it wrong. It should not hurt. Proper squatting technique should reduce knee pain over time. The same goes for the majority of other exercises, excluding some poorly designed ones.
If an exercise hurts, it is not the exercises fault. It is the technique of the exercise or an individual restriction that is causing problems. Clean up your technique and the pain will vanish.
If your technique is perfect and pain is still present, then you need to look at the pathology of the injury.
You also must be qualified for certain exercises. The snatch and the clean & jerk are two exercises that are too common for their difficulty. Training for these two exercises takes a lot of time and rushing the process is not recommended. They are safe and effective exercises, when technique is mastered.
Start with the basic exercises and perfect them first. Once you master the basics, you can move onto more complex exercises.
First, look at the technique of the exercise that causes pain. Is it perfect? Would the people around you agree? If you are not sure find someone (point number 2 above) who is.
If the exercise is perfect and it still hurts then you have dysfunctional movement patterns. Again you need to find someone who can properly help you with this.
Never just keep lifting through an injury and expect it to get better.
I believe that with the right steps the number of weight training injuries can be lower than the weightlifting (Olympic lifting) total. To get there we need to seek out the appropriate personnel to assist with reaching your goal.