How To Prevent And Recover From Weightlifting Injuries
You just injured yourself.
One of the most demoralizing things that can happen to any lifter, athlete, or exercise enthusiast. No one is immune to injuries.
Just when you thought you were going to make a breakthrough in the gym, you find yourself sidelined due to an injury.
Look, shit happens.
Even if you use perfect form on your lifts and exercises, your body can still break under the duress.
Generally, injuries happen from using weight that’s far too heavy to lift in the first place.
I remember trying to squat a new 1RM. Reality was that I was overestimating my 1RM max by a lot. During the squat, my hips shot back and my lower back did all the lifting.
I felt a soreness in my lower back as soon as I re-racked the bar.
It wasn’t until the next day that I felt the pain.
My lower back was so sore, I had trouble getting out of bed and sitting in the morning.
Turns out I had an irritated or inflamed disc in my lower back.
I went to the movies with my girlfriend and had trouble walking to find our seat. Once the movie was over my lower back was so shot and stiff from sitting in the chair for 2 hours.
I was pretty devastated. I tried benching the next day but only aggravated it even more.
Don’t do what I did following my injury. Instead, follow these tips, and you’ll get back in the gym before you know it.
Rest It Up
Injuries suck, everyone knows that.
But nothing’s worse than rushing back into things when you’re not properly healed.
Aggravating an injury or re-injuring yourself will only sideline you even more, which is exactly what happened to me.
The fact I couldn’t get back in the gym had me feeling down and depressed but taking some time off is exactly what I needed.
The thing is, your body is super smart. It recognizes pain and injuries for a reason. Your body is telling itself “This shit hurts! Come over here and fix it!”
When the body recognizes its own pain, it begins to heal itself automatically.
New blood vessels will grow in order to repair injured tissue. Cells will form new cartilage after a bone breaks. Skin cells multiply exponentially in order to heal a cut.
Your body is capable of the most amazing feats! You have Wolverine’s healing factor! Just a lot slower…
But it’s up to you to let your body do its job, take some time off and rest.
Don’t get back into the gym until you are 100% healed.
Plus, taking all that time off will have you super hyped when you finally get back to the gym!
One way to help increase your ability to heal is getting enough sleep.
Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night.
Our bodies and minds are busy professionals that have lots of work to do during the day, it only makes sense to let both of them rest and heal by getting lots of sleep.
But 8 hours of sleep isn’t enough.
You need QUALITY deep sleep.
How do you attain this you might ask?
Here are a few things you can do in order to get some better bedtime:
- Get more sun during the day
- Avoid all blue light 2-3 hours before bed (tv, computer, phone)
- Don’t nap for more than 1 hour during the daytime
- Avoid sleeping in late
- Avoid alcohol before bed
- Don’t eat a few hours before bed
- Have sex (just don’t injure yourself more)
See A Professional
The internet can only provide so much information.
Self-diagnosis can sometimes be very difficult.
Depending on your injury and the severity, it may be time to go see a professional.
Most health insurances will cover a visit to a specialist, you just have to cover the co-pay.
I recommend seeing a chiropractor for a lot of injuries, especially back. You’d be surprised at what they can achieve and fix in just one simple visit. It also never involves surgery or medications either.
They really bring some knowledge the over physiology of the human body, don’t just assume they’re there to fix your back!
If you believe you have a severe injury, it might be best to check up with your normal physician. They’ll diagnose your injury and find the best options for you to follow from there.
Stretch/Yoga It Out
Yoga is a practice that naturally heals the body.
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class you’ve felt that warm feeling and release of tension in your muscles and all around your body.
It feels fantastic.
Yoga can be great for people who suffer injuries and need a little bit of rehabilitation. The natural movement opens up vertebrae, fixes joint problems, and can help get some nutrient rich blood flow back to an injured area.
Just like if you have lower back pain, yoga can aid in decompressing your spine within a few minutes of simple movement and stretching.
But BE CAREFUL.
Yoga can also aggravate your injury even more. Certain poses may not be compatible with the injury you’ve sustained.
If you have bad or injured shoulders, it’s probably not best to hold the downward dog for 2 minutes straight.
That’s why it’s always important to consult a professional before such exercise.
You can also simply tell your yoga instructor before class that you’ve sustained an injury and ask which poses you should avoid.
Yoga instructors are trained professionals, they’ll know what’s best for you.
Your Mindset – Don’t Get Too Down
The worst thing you can do in a situation where you’re hurt is to beat yourself up about it.
“How did this happen?”
“Why did this happen to me?”
“It’ll take forever to recover from this one!”
“I’m going to lose all my gains.”
These are not acceptable. Successful people don’t dwell on setbacks.
They get back and PROVE they are going to get back out there and crush it. They retain a positive outlook no matter what.
Know for a fact that this is going to make you stronger, not weaker.
A negative mindset will only lead to negative results.
Just take the advice that Kobe Bryant offered Gordon Hayward when he broke his leg.
“It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted.”
Trust yourself and brush this injury off! You can do this!
I believe in you and so should you.
What Are The Most Common Weightlifting Injuries?
Shoulder injuries are very common in people who perform the overhead press and bench press incorrectly.
You can tear a rotator cuff which will put 1-2 months. It’s also very common that lifters suffer from irritation and inflammation that causes pain all around.
Knee injuries and knee pain become common among lifters who use improper form on lifts like the squat.
I used to have mild knee pain from squatting, which I later found out was due to not warming up with light weights. I’d often jump straight into heavier weights which was just asking to get hurt.
Back injuries, specifically lower back problems are the most common form of injuring oneself. In fact, even people who’ve never even lifted weight have had some form of lower back pain.
These injuries often stem from people lifting with their lower back rather than their legs during a deadlift. It’s possible that too much pressure on the back can lead to herniated or even ruptured discs. Lower back injuries are very hard for professionals to detect and become expensive as well.
Avoid these altogether and just focus on good form! You and your body will thank me later.
How To Protect Yourself From Weightlifting Injuries
Certain equipment will prevent you from getting injured again in the gym. It’s always important to use the right tools and adapt your workout routine to be the safest possible.
Here are some equipment I highly recommend using:
Straps: Super cheap and easy to use. Straps allow you to lift heavy weights when you’re grip fails.
It can be hard to deadlift 500 pounds or any heavy weight. But using a pair of straps will prevent the weight from ripping from your hands which can cause some bad lower back injuries due to all the tension in your body.
Belt: A weightlifting belt is one of the simplest tools that helps protect your lower back.
When using a weightlifting belt, be sure to breathe into your stomach pushing against your belt. Your core will be super tight. This will help keep everything high tension and keep your back from rounding, allowing you to lift more with your legs.
Of all the safety equipment out there, the belt and straps are the two most important.
Not only will they protect you from injuries but they’ll allow you to lift more weight.
Tip: Avoid weight lifting gloves. They’re pointless and for people who are afraid to get little calluses on their hands.
The most underrated factor when recovering from an injury… proper nutrition.
Most people use getting injured as an excuse to neglect their diet. I would say getting injured requires maintaining an even better diet than that of when you’re on a workout plan.
Certain foods can help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process if you are injury prone or just got injured.
This is where I recommend consuming a lot of plant based superfoods like ginger, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, garlic, and maca root. You can get the complete list of vegan superfoods on my blog!
I found a great resource from bodybuilding.com, showcasing all the nutrients you should be eating when recovering from an injury.
- Multivitamin: Very important. Helps prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Aids tissue repair.
- Zinc:Important in tissue repair.
- Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids: An important antioxidant which helps tissue repair and growth.
- Manganese: Strengthens wounded tendons and ligaments.
- BCAA’s: Help promote the healing of muscle tissue, bones, and skin.
- EFA’s (essential fatty acids): Speed up recovery and promotes cellular health.
- Vitamin B Complex: Helps reduce injury related stress.
- Glucosamine Sulfate: Helps strengthen and form tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and joint fluid.
- Calcium: Helps repair connective tissue.
- Silica: Important for calcium absorption and connective tissue repair.
How To Prevent An Injury From Happening Again
This is important, because often times when you injure a body part, that same body part can keep re-injuring itself. Take for example a dislocated shoulder.
Once a shoulder has been dislocated once, it becomes much easier for people to have their shoulder pop out time after time.
Re-injuring the same body part can lead to long term health issues that may have you recovering for the rest of your life.
Play it safe and follow these tips:
Warm up – Improper stretching before a workout is one of the leading causes of most weightlifting injuries in the first place. Take your time and get some quality ‘dynamic stretching’ in your warm up.
Pain vs. Injury – There’s a difference between pain, a minor injury, and a major injury. It’s really up to you and your common sense to determine which is which.
Most of the time a major injury will be so significant you won’t be able to avoid the signs or pain. Get home and start rehabilitating right away. If it’s bad, go to urgent care or see a professional
A minor injury can be subtle, but a good sign is a nagging pain that just won’t go away. In fact, exercising or working out may only increase pain levels. This is generally a good idea to stop or slow it down.
Lastly we have normal pain. Everyone deals with aches and pains on a daily basis. Pain can often be as simple as a bruise and is never too serious. Of course pain can impede your workouts, but you should never let it prevent you from continuing unless it’s bad.
Know when to push through pain and injuries. If what you’re doing is really hurting and making your pain threshold skyrocket, give it a break. Maybe work another body part instead or use lighter weights.
Remember, it’s your body. You know what’s best.
Use Heat and Ice – Temperature can be a great way to reduce inflammation and relax away aches and pains.
Depending on your injury, you might want to use one more than the other.
But in some cases, mix and matching both one after the other can have some awesome recovery benefits as well.
Generally, heat is used for aches and pains. Use heat in the case where you want to increase the circulation or blood flow around an injury.
Ice is better for injuries that are swelling up. It reduces the circulation or blood flow or area and allows the swelling to subside.
Use both as need be.
BFR Training – If you’ve never heard of Blood Flow Restriction Training, I highly recommend you give it a try.
It’s very simple. Using ‘bands’ in the same way you’d use a tourniquet, you cut off a certain amount of blood flow to a limb or certain part of the body.
The idea is to cut off enough circulation in order to get a crazy muscle pump but not cut off too much to the point where your arm is tingling or in serious pain.
What’s great about BFR training is that it fatigues the muscles much faster than regular hypertrophy training and you only use very light weight (high reps).
BFR training is science backed and has been known to build crazy amounts of muscle and strength. It’s a great way for those who are still recovering from a current injury to still get a workout in without inducing the stress from heavy weights.