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How to Prevent Training Injuries

Guard Against Injury with These Basic Precautions


Updated February 19, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Rotator Cuff

Rotator Cuff

(c) A. D. A. M

You can't always prevent injuries. They can be caused by a variety of things, including genetic predisposition, overuse/overtraining, incorrect form, contact sports, and even failure to warm up adequately.

Even so, there's a lot you can do to minimize injury where you have control over the circumstances. Here are a few common injury sites, and the techniques and practices that you can use to prevent injury.

Types of Injury

For weight trainers, bodybuilders, and lifters, most injuries are to the soft tissues and the associated joints of the body: muscles, tendons, ligaments and the joints around which they function. Muscle and tendon tears and strains, and ligament sprains, are most common.

Athletes in various sports suffer similar injuries, but broken bones are frequent as well.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff injury is a common weight training injury. The rotator cuff is a complex of associated muscles and tendons that regulate the shoulder girdle and its movement. Injuries can be caused by impacts like falling, lifting, or repetitive arm activities. Tennis serving or baseball throwing are examples of sports activity that could be potential causes. In weight training, bench presses, overhead presses, or just about any exercise that damages the tendon complex can lead to inflammation and thus rotator cuff soreness.

Pain is usually apparent when you raise the arm to the side or overhead, or when you sleep on that shoulder side. Range of motion is inevitably restricted.

Some physical therapists say, "don't lift too heavy" to avoid rotator cuff injury. That's like saying to swimmers, "don't get in the water" — it's useless advice for weight trainers for the most part. The best approach is to do preventative strengthening exercises so that you avoid rotator cuff injuries in the first place. They can take many months to heal.


The hamstrings are the big muscles at the rear of the upper leg. Hamstring tears are extremely common in power sports, in which fast running and acceleration are required. Severe, grade 3 tears can put an athlete like a footballer out of action for months at a time. Hamstring tears are not so common during weight training.

Two of the best exercises for the dynamic strengthening of hamstrings are standing leg curls with catch, glute-ham raises, and good mornings.

Lower Back

Lower-back injuries can be complex and derive from a range of soft tissue or bone-related injuries, from inflamed ligaments to nerve impingements and vertebrae disk injury.

The number one cause of lower-back injuries in weight lifters is poor form and technique, especially in conjunction with unrealistic selection of weight. Unfortunately, due to lack of concentration or chance factors, experienced lifters still suffer back injuries. Proper lifting form and technique is essential.

The all-time, number one rule is to keep that back from arching over when you lift from the ground or below your waist. This means a straight line, or even a small curve, from the cervical spine at the neck to the lumbar spine at the lower back. Don't get the back into an arch like a humpback.


Rupture of the Pectoralis major muscle of the chest in bench pressing is becoming more common. This is a serious and painful injury that may require surgery to repair. In addition, catastrophic injury — and even death — has occurred when bench pressers, unable to maintain the weight, drop the bar and weight on the chest or neck.

In this case, don't lift heavy items without a spotter (a helper behind the bench), and don't lift with the suicide grip (thumbs not locked around the bar).


J Emerg Med. 2010 Feb;38(2):196-200. Rupture of the pectoralis major: a case report and review. Hasegawa K, Schofer JM.

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