Common Weightlifting Injuries & How To Avoid Them


Many frugal weightlifting workouts begin with modest goals and therefore include modest exercises. Participants may not want to enter a Mr. or Ms. Universe contest or appear on the cover of a popular fitness magazine; they just want to look and feel better. Even if the exercises involve a low number of reps and a low amount of weight, an injury is still possible. That’s especially true if weightlifting is almost a completely new endeavor and your muscles aren’t used to lifting anything heavier than a briefcase or small child. Since being injury-free is an important part of any frugal workout, here are some common injuries to be aware of, as well as some prevention tips. 

Lateral Elbow Tendonitis 

“Tennis Elbow” is probably one of the most misleading physiological nicknames in the book because the injury typically has nothing to do with either this sport or this body part. Instead, over-gripping inflames the tendons on the lateral side of the elbow. 

Among new weightlifters, tennis elbow often strikes on the non-dominant side, since these muscles are the most under-developed. If a person reaches or grabs, the dominant side (the right hand for right-handed people) nearly always does the work. To get a feel for how under-developed the other side is, try making a fist with your non-dominant hand and clenching it. If you feel pressure near the elbow, you are probably at risk for elbow tendonitis. Weight-bearing grips, even if it’s only a few pounds, will cause exponentially more strain. 

Since tendonitis is almost always an overuse injury, it’s also rather easy to prevent. Pushups build wrist muscles, so do a number of reps before you move on to curls or lifts. 

Shoulder Separation 

The AC (acromioclavicular) joint connects the collarbone and shoulder blade (clavicle and scapula). When the ligaments connecting this joint tear, the collarbone can actually separate from the shoulder blade. This injury is rare among beginning weightlifters because it’s usually associated with rather extreme trauma, but it does happen and you should take some steps to prevent it. 

These steps include keeping your shoulder tucked in and avoiding weightlifting exercises which require you to extend your arm away from your midline. 

Disc Herniation 

Similarly, some refer to this back injury as a “weightlifting injury.” Many times, weightlifting is little more than the straw that broke the camel’s back. Chronic poor posture forces the spine into an unnatural position. When the person applies physical stress to the back (i.e. lifting something heavy), the disc, which is the soft cushiony material inside the spin, squeezes out and places pressure on the nerve. 

The stress only needs to be something extraordinary and not something “heavy.” Many people who are already at risk sustain hernias by moving household furniture or lifting a moderately-heavy barbell. 

Drink lots of water, as a dried-out spine is more likely to crack. Moreover, there are many lightweight back braces that help improve posture and provide support in those first few weightlifting sessions. Finally, although it sounds trite, lift with your legs and not your back. Engaging your core muscles with each lift will also improve results. 

Knee Injuries 

Lots of athletes sustain knee injuries because it’s a rather delicate joint. The knee is a hinge joint that only flexes and extends. Any excessive lateral movement can cause something like: 

Tendonitis: Knee tendons are designed to provide stability, and that’s it. A lateral movement that engages the outside tendons quickly causes them to become inflamed. Middle-aged athletes are especially susceptible to tendonitis and even tendon tears, which are a little more serious. 

Meniscal Tears: This is the “torn cartilage” injury. Cartilage is great for cushioning the knee when it hinges, but if it flexes in a different direction, the muscles sometimes cannot handle the extra pressure. 

IT Band Syndrome: If the pain is generalized along the upper leg, your injury is most likely IT band syndrome. The Iliotibial band is a bundle of tissue that runs from the thigh to the outside of the knee. Improper form causes it to rub against the knee joint. 

PFPS (patellar overload syndrome, or “runner’s knee”) is also very common among new weightlifters. Again due to poor form, the cartilage rubs against the kneecap. 

Pay close attention to your form while lifting. If the knee is at all unstable, you’re at risk for a knee injury. Stretches will strengthen the tendons and stabilize the joint; a lightweight brace will have the same effect.

Remember that when it comes to weightlifitng, it's all about longevity and health. Don't sacrifice your joints, tendons, and ligaments for the rest of your life for a few extra reps or couple extra pounds of muscle mass. That's a lesson most of us, myself included, has had to learn the hard way.


I hope you enjoyed this article about common weightlifting injuries and how to avoid them while staying on a budget.

Interested in more articles about frugal sports medicine? 

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Stay Frugal & Fit My Friends!

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