Is Lifting Weights Bad For You? What Sports Injury Rates Say

CrossFit meme.

Performed properly weightlifting is actually very safe. And can actually prevent you from getting injured. But just like anything, there’s a risk attached. Is weightlifting all roses and dandelions or are there some downsides to lifting weights? How dangerous really is weightlifting?

Sports Injury Table- Credit To The Muscle & Strength Pyramids : Training By Eric Helms Andy, Morgan And Andrea Valdez

Weightlifting injury table from Eric Helms.

Above as you can see, are statistics on how dangerous weightlifting is. You’ll see that the injury rates are fairly low. Especially for bodybuilding which for most people, characterises recreational lifting. And it would take over 4 years of consistent training 4 hours per week to eventually get an injury.

And you should know that these injuries aren’t life threatening. They mainly account for minor aches and pains.

If you’ve been lifting for long enough, you will get small niggles, aches and pains they’re just part of the process. But for most lifters these injuries are few and far between.

How Dangerous Is Weightlifting? : As Opposed To Other Sports Lifting Is Very Safe

Is lifting weights dangerous

The popular sport soccer is actually more dangerous than properly lifting weights. Soccer has an injury rate of 16.9 injuries per every 1000 hours. Whereas most lifting endeavours only give rise to 1 injury every 1000 hours. This means that by playing soccer you multiply your chance of getting injured almost 17 fold!

Done Inappropriately Lifting Weights Can Be Dangerous

Is lifting weights dangerous?

I’m not saying that weightlifting is completely safe. But it’s much safer than many other sports. If it’s done inappropriately. By making mistakes such as lifting weights with bad form, you greatly increase your likelihood of injury.

Here are some tips on how you can avoid Injury.

5 Tips So That You Can Avoid Injury When Weightlifting: Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?

These tips may seem like common sense but common sense isn’t all that common.

1. Lift With Proper Form (Especially On The Compound Exercises)

Is lifting weights dangerous?

Compound exercises are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Whereas isolation exercises only work one muscle group at a time.

Your compound exercises are inherently more technical than your isolation exercises. And you lift considerably more weight with compound exercises. If you use bad form whilst using a heavy weight you’ll increase your chance of getting injured.

This is why you need to nail down proper form.

Whereas bad form doing bicep curls with a pair of 14kg dumbbells will mean a smaller likelihood of injury.

Form Tips For The Big 3 Lifts

When you deadlift and squat make sure that your lower back isn’t rounding. This is because if you overly round your back under a heavy load it makes it very easy to herniate a disc and this can damage the structures within your spine.

When you bench press don’t flare your elbows out. Tuck them in so that the bar touches your nipples.

Flaring your elbows out can put your shoulders in a compromised position.

And putting your shoulders in a compromised position with heavy loads is a recipe for disaster.

Always Use A Full Range Of Motion

Using the proper form for all of your exercises and using a full range of motion will strengthen your whole body. And because of this, you’ll be much more likely to not get injured.

2. Use A Proper Warm Up Routine

Your warm-up doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does need to achieve 2 purposes.

  1. To raise the temperature of the tissue being used for the specific exercise.
  2. To help you groove in the proper movement pattern and practice before you do your hard sets.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to warm up for 30 minutes before you start lifting weights. What you do need to do, is work with submaximal weights to warm up the muscles, the surrounding tissue and practice the movement before you perform your heavy sets.

Here’s a simple warm-up routine I use for myself and for my clients.

First warm up set – 50% of your working weight for 8-10 reps.

Second Warm up set – 70% of your working weight for 3-4 reps.

Third warm Up Set – 90% of your working weight for 1-2 reps.

Work sets.

This is what it looks like for barbell squats with a work set weight of 220 pounds or 100 kg

First warm up set – 8-10 reps with 50 kg or 110 pounds.

Second warm up set – 3-4 reps with 70kg or 154 pounds.

Third warm up set – 1- 2 reps with 90kg or 198 pounds.

3. Plan Deload Weeks Into Your Training Cycle

One of the biggest reasons why many people get injured is because they’re under recovered when they train.

A deload week is a week where you reduce the volume and intensity of your workout or even just have a week off from the weights.

Deloads are important because they help you recover from any fatigue/ minor injuries that have been built up during your previous training block. This accounts for small niggles and minor aches and pains.

But what do you think happens if you don’t have a deload week and try to train through these minor aches and pains?

You get injured.

And that’s why I recommended that you have a deload every 4-8 weeks.

To read my full article on deloads read the article below.

https://henrypaget.com/2020/06/23/the-benefits-of-deload-weeks-and-how-to-use-them/

4. Not Breathing Correctly

This point ties into the correct form. But the fact is most people aren’t breathing properly to maximise their strength gains.

It’s especially important that you breathe properly when you’re going heavy on squats and deadlifts. The reason for this is simple.

Breathing properly helps you stay tight and rigid through the exercise.

The Valsalva Maneuver: Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?

The Valsalva manuever or also called a brace or a block is very Important for when you lift heavy weights and you’re trying to get stronger.

If you appropriately perform the Valsalva maneuver you’ll be stronger in your exercises, and you’ll also lift the weights more safely.

Although some people say it’s bad to hold your breath when lifting because it will cause a stroke or an aneurism or leads to you fainting.

The fact is, for most people it’s perfectly fine to use the Valsalva manuever but for a very small amount of people it will be unsafe.

If you have a history of having heart problems and high blood pressure or if you get light headed when you perform the Valsalva manuever then maybe you shouldn’t use the Valsalva manuever but for the majority of people this won’t be a problem.

Here’s how to do it in 3 steps. For more in-depth information read a great article from Jonathan Sullivan on startingstrength.com. The full article is linked below.

https://startingstrength.com/article/the_valsalva_and_stroke

1. Expand Your Chest And Fill Your Lungs With Air

You don’t want to maximally fill up your lungs about 80% will do. By doing this you increase your thoracic pressure. Making your torso feel rigid. This essentially traps air in your lungs.

2. Contract Your Abs Hard

By doing this you support your core and increase your intra abdominal pressure this prevents your torso from collapsing forward during the lift. For example a heavy squat or deadlift.

3. Arch Your Lower Back

By arching your back you ensure that your spinal column is in extension.

These 3 actions are called the Valsalva manuever or a block and they’re very important when you lift heavy weights.

If you lift heavy weights without using the Valsalva manuever your body will not be rigid and you’re more likely to round your back and you won’t be as strong as opposed to if you were breathing properly.

This is because the Valsalva manuever helps tighten your body into a firm, rigid, segment that can transfer force in the most efficient way.

5. Lifting Too Much Weight

If you lift so much weight that you neglect proper form you’ll drastically increase the likelihood of injury.

If you’ve seen many epic fails on the internet, of people at the gym you’ll notice a common theme.

All of these fails are because the man/ women is lifting too much weight than he/she can handle.

Make sure that you’re using a weight that you can do with proper form and using a full range of motion in your desired rep range.

Don’t Perform Exercises That Feel Awkward For You – Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?

If an exercise doesn’t feel good for you then you have three options. You can either not do it. Ask a personal trainer for help, or read a book to learn the proper form or even try an easier variation.

For example this happened to me with stiff legged deadlifts. They just don’t feel good for me. So instead I do Romanian deadlifts.

This also applies to whatever your specific circumstances may be.

For Instance, you may have a lower back injury that prevents you from heavy squatting and deadlifting.

You can easily work around these specific circumstances, for example, you could do a row variant instead of deadlifts. And for squats, you could do Bulgarian split squats because they put less stress on your lower back or you could use a machine like the leg press.

The Risk To Reward Ratio Of Weightlifting – Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?

From the statistics on how dangerous weightlifting is (mostly 1 injury per every 1000 hours of lifting) the benefits of building muscle and getting stronger far outweigh the small risk of injury.

Most noteworthy, is that these injuries aren’t life-changing. For the most part, these injuries are just minor aches and pains.

And I recommend for most people that they train 4 hours per week. Because I think the average person looking to get strong and stay healthy, 4 hours of strength training is enough.

And 4 hours per week for a year is 208 hours of weightlifting. So it would take you almost 5 years of lifting to get an injury according to the previously mentioned stats.

And that injury will most likely be minor.

Although by this point after almost 5 years of lifting you could achieve a level of strength and muscle very close to your genetic potential.

And you’d be the healthiest and strongest version of yourself yet.

By this point you’d of experienced some of the many benefits of weightlifting like Increased:

Physical performance.

Insulin sensitivity.

Metabolism.

Muscle mass.

Movement control.

Functional independence.

Cognitive abilities.

Self esteem.

Weightlifting may also improve cardiovascular health by reducing your resting blood pressure and reducing your amount of low-density lipoprotein protein (bad) cholesterol and increasing the amount of your High-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol.

It can also help produce stronger and healthier joints and higher bone density.

Another benefit is that it can increase the duration and quality of your sleep.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15044685/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22777332

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19453205/

The Rewards Of Weightlifting Far Out Weigh The Risks – Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?

From my point of view and why I continue to lift weights is because I believe the rewards far out weigh the risks.

If You Go Through Life Without Weightlifting And Following A Proper Plan You’re Missing Out (Weightlifting Properly Isn’t Dangerous)

These benefits I’ve just mentioned when looked at individually are cool. But when you stack them together you’ll realise that you’ll not only be healthier. You’ll enjoy a better quality of life that will improve every other aspect of it.

The Bottom Line On Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?

Contrary to popular belief weightlifting actually isn’t that dangerous only 1 injury every 1000 hours. If you weight trained 4 hours per week it would take you almost 5 years to sustain an injury and that injury would likely be minor.

As long as you’re lifting weights with proper form and not getting greedy (lifting too much weight) you’re very unlikely to get injured.

One of the main reasons why people get injured lifting weights is because they’re under recovered. Make sure that you’re having rest days and deload weeks to reduce fatigue and prepare you mentally and physically for your training without getting burnt out. Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night for optimal recovery.

Thanks for reading.

Let me know what you think.

If you have any questions, comment below or send me an email at henrypaget@hotmail.co.uk

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