Is there anything more exciting than those first days of spring when you have 6 full months of being outside, exercising and looking great to look forward to? Is there anything more disappointing than suffering a joint or ligament injury that sidelines everything?
Even if you're consistent in your workout routine and are in pretty great physical condition, calamity is always as near as the next mental lapse or flawed technique. Indeed the combination of big muscles and weak, undernourished joints actually increase your risks of disaster. It doesn't even take an obvious injury to completely ruin your training efforts; the pain from just regular wear and tear can keep you from working out and side-track your progress toward your fitness goals. Here are six common but painful weight training related injuries and simple techniques for avoiding them.
Shoulder Inflammation / Labrum Tear
This type of injury, most often associated in the public imagination with baseball pitchers, involves a rupture of the superior labrum anterior and posterior in the shoulder girdle as a consequence of repetitive motions (such as throwing a ball). In the gym, it is most commonly linked to exercises like overhead barbell presses, lateral raises and reverse flyes, especially movements in which leverage is lost and the weight isn't properly supported.
Although the most severe form of this injury is a tear, a less severe condition called Shoulder Impingement Syndrome (in which an inflammation occurs around the tendons at the rotator cuff) can also be quite painful. By and large, the majority of these injuries are caused by bad form and using too much weight. If you find that you're resorting to momentum (swinging your back or shoulders) to complete reps in the lateral raise or flyes, you're putting yourself at risk. Use a weight you can control over the complete range of motion with proper technique.
Any certified trainer will tell you that the squat, the king of the compound movements, is indispensable to a productive weight training regimen. No exercise engages more muscle tissue (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abs and obliques) with each rep. The squat also promotes mobility and balance and has even been linked in some studies to increased fat burning. This all occurs if you're doing them right, of course. If you're doing them wrong, you're asking for a debilitating knee injury.
Patellar tendonitis occurs when the quadriceps muscle is too tight or is being overstressed. This effects the kneecap, which becomes inflamed. Runners will sometimes incur this kind of injury over an extended period of time, but on the gym floor it is most associated with hack squats, lunges, and good old barbell squats. To avoid it, keep your knees behind your toes when doing a squat. This will keep your knees in correct alignment with your hips and ankles and keep your knees from buckling inward. Any lateral movement of the knees during a squat is to be avoided. And then there's the matter of depth during a squat. Whole encyclopedias have been written on this topic, but for the most part, your hips should drop just slightly below your knees and no further. Don't overdo it! Also, as always, use a weight you can control in both the positive and negative halves of the lift.
This is a condition common in the neck and back, and can be seen as a precursor to a much more serious condition, namely a herniated disc. Clearly, it is not something you should be content to try to "work through." Putting undue stress on your neck or your back is often a product of poor lifting technique. If you're placing the brunt of the resistance in your training on your bones or spine (as opposed to your muscles), you're doing it wrong. Try to avoid curling or swaying your back during movements. You can achieve this by tightening your abdomen and simply not overcompensating for trying to lift weights that are too heavy for you.Nerves can also become pinched when the tissue around them becomes inflamed. The best treatment for this development is rest, pure and simple. Every fitness enthusiast can benefit from a few days' rest or simply a change of pace like hiking, swimming or yoga. A pinched nerve is nothing to mess with.
This one will put you on the sidelines for an extended period of time. There are plenty of ways to hurt your back in the gym and most of them involve awkward lifting of heavy weights in which your back is not supported properly. While this can certainly occur as a result of poor form in the squat rack or trying to lift too much weight in a standing barbell curl by throwing your back into it, it can also arise from causes that don't even involve reps. Think of how many times you reached past someone to pick up or replace a dumbbell in the rack and felt a sudden sharp twinge in your back. Or the times when you've bent from the waist to retrieve a "light" kettlebell from the floor and thought "uh oh." Mindfulness and proper technique is essential everywhere on the gym floor. Bend your knees to lift and keep your spine straight, whether you're in the squat rack or picking up a laundry basket. Also, consider a secure, sturdy weightlifting belt. We see less and less of these in gyms these days (are they too old school?) and that's a shame.
While we're on the subject of back injury, stay away from machines that theoretically target the back and obliques but provide little or no benefit while exposing you to the risk of injury. We're talking about the largely useless back extension machine and the seated ab rotation machine. Subjecting the spine to vigorous twisting and lunging while keeping the hips in a static sitting position is just asking for trouble. Simple crunches or lunges incorporate much more natural movements and neutral pelvic positioning. Also, think about it for a minute. Have you ever seen a serious athlete on either of those machines? No? There's a reason for that.
IT Band Syndrome
This condition involves the thick, fibrous band of connective tissue that runs down the outside of your thigh and connects at a point just below your knee, and usually manifests as pain on the outside of your knee. Interestingly, though it seems your knee is the cause of ITBS, the malady actually originates from weak gluteal muscles, which destabilize the long tendon in your thigh. Glutes are very often the weakest link in a fitness enthusiast's physique, so there's plenty you can do to strengthen this area and gain some relief from ITBS. First, though, you're going to need some rest.
Weighted squats, lunges, and barbell hip thrusts all target the glutes to some extent, but you're probably going to want to start off light with some simple non-resistance training exercises. Simple side leg raises and side shuffles (steps to the right and left) with or without resistance bands are a good beginning, then you can gradually employ a stability or exercise ball and transition to side hip bridges and hip thrusts.
This injury isn't limited to strictly tennis players (in the form of "tennis elbow"). It afflicts anyone who does a lot of gripping. Sounds like you, right? Characterized by inflammation in your elbow tendons that connect to your forearm joint, elbow tendonitis can be hard to avoid, because gripping is pretty much unavoidable in weight training. One key thing to remember is that it's not smart to try to work through it; you'll only make it worse. Things that you can do, however, include temporarily emphasizing higher-rep-count, lower-weight reps in your workouts and employing pre-workout warm-ups, stretching and post-workout massage to the effected area. Also, it's possible to build overall wrist strength with exercises that don't involve gripping, like push-ups and resistance band movements. Consider a wrist brace as well.
Support Joint Health With
One strategy for avoiding joint injury that applies to all the conditions listed above is proper supplementation. Your joints, tendons, and connective tissues require proper nutrition just like any other organ of your body. In many cases, the specific nutrients required to support joint health tend to be trace minerals that can easily be deficient in even an otherwise healthy diet. That's why we here at ProSource are always closely monitoring new developments in the science of joint support. The result of that research is ProSource's Extra Strength Joint Command, the most comprehensive and wide-spectrum connective-tissue nutritional complex available to athletes.
Extra Strength Joint Command employs a multi-pathway approach to total connective tissue nutrition that includes ultra-potent HyaMax™, a natural standardized hyaluronic acid that possesses a unique water retaining action to help highly active joints stay healthy, plus Meriva®, an advanced phytosome technology that enhances the bioavailability and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Additionally, 5-LOXIN® contains the most active of the 6 boswellic acids, AKBA, which helps inhibit 5-lipoxygenase, the compound responsible for the conversion of arachidonic acid into pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Extra Strength Joint Command also contains the more common ingredients associated with joint support, but in purer, more potent dosages than you’ll find anywhere else. Joint Command provides pure, stabilized, 98% absorbable glucosamine sulfate (at the clinically researched potency), paired in precise ratio with chondroitin sulfate, plus MSM and UC Type II collagen, compounds linked to anti-inflammatory action, flexibility support, and overall joint health. These compounds combine with the earlier-cited co-factors to create a massively synergistic powerhouse of connective tissue nutrition and support that will ensure that your workouts are both productive and pain-free.
You've heard the saying a hundred times, but it's always true. An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. Support joint health with proper technique and targeted supplementation and your joints will support you with months and years of productive exercise and overall fitness!
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The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.