Weightlifting is a technical and dynamic sport which entails an athlete moving a loaded barbell from the ground to above their head in a series of fluid motions. It requires a great deal of strength and coordination, but above all, weightlifting requires precise technique. With this many moving pieces, it comes as little surprise that injuries frequently occur and while weightlifting uses almost every muscle in the body, there are three very common areas athletes tend to hurt themselves.
Where weightlifting injuries happen and how to prevent them:
Shoulder injuries often feel like a sharp pinching in the front, or back, of the shoulder, or even a burning sensation through the middle of the delts. Often shoulder injuries will be felt most acutely in overhead movements such as snatching or overhead squats. There are many types of shoulder injuries but for the most part, shoulder dysfunction is the primary culprit and it’s caused by improper coordination of the scapula and the arm. The shoulder will take undue strain in any movement that requires the arm if the arm and the scapula aren’t working together or if the muscles surrounding the scapula aren’t engaging.
How to prevent shoulder injuries:
Preventing this type of strain is all about the things you do before you even pick up a barbell. Warming up is especially important in injury prevention and should happen thoroughly before each workout. A good place to start is with activation drills such as banded pull aparts, or many of the activations listed on the crossover symmetry tool.
Additionally, if you feel any shoulder pain while lifting, it’s important to talk to a professional, such as your coach or a manual therapist, to have your movements assessed. Moving properly will help prevent unnecessary injury.
Knee injuries are one of the most common athletic injuries in general and weightlifting is no exception. All joints take a lot of impacts, but knees specifically take a large amount of repetitive strain as there are very few movements that don’t require the use of the legs. Knee pain can be attributed to many factors such as tight quad muscles, lack of hamstring or glute control, or more serious causes. In particular, patellar tendonitis is very common amongst weightlifters and feels like a sharp pain above or below the kneecap, or possibly a resting ache.
How to prevent knee injuries:
Soft tissue maintenance is incredibly important when it comes to preventing knee issues. Regular soft tissue work such as athletic massages and rolling is the key to maintaining knee health. Additionally, dynamic and stationary stretching is great for ensuring necessary mobility in problem areas such as hips and glutes. Another key thing to keep in mind for preventing knee injuries is maintaining a strength/coordination balance between anterior and posterior muscles of legs.
Lower back pain is such a common issue that we’ve dedicated an entire blog post to it (which you can read here) but to summarize it neatly, lower back pain is very common among weightlifters and can be attributed to a number of things from unengaged glutes to lacking core strength. While often a small and manageable ache, lower back pain is something that should not be left unattended for longer than a week or two. Herniated discs and other serious back problems are rare but do occur so if your pain persists more than a week, seek medical consultation.
How to prevent lower back pain:
Preventing general lower back pain is a multifaceted approach, one that requires core strengthening, hip loosening, and glute activating. Regular hip stretching before and after workouts will help immensely along with glute activations prior to exercise. For more detailed instructions on how to determine the cause of, and prevent, lower back pain, please refer to our dedicated article on the topic.
Ultimately the key to injury prevention is proper movement patterning. This is something that your manual therapists and coaches should be readily able, and willing, to help you with. The professionals you’ve chosen to support you in your process as an athlete should be as invested in your success as you are, so don’t be shy to ask.