Weight Training and Injuries
Prevailing wisdom suggests two things:
First, not training reduces the risk of injury. Second, we should avoid training if injured to allow our tissues to heal.
But how accurate are these beliefs? We certainly adhere to them, but might there be a better way to go about training and injury prevention?
Not Training Reduces Your Risk of Injuries… Or Does It?
It makes sense intuitively. Weight training is a physical stressor, so it naturally increases the risk of injuries down the road. Your muscles, joints, and connective tissues accumulate stress, which can eventually result in aches and injuries.
Strongmen training comes with the highest injury risk, followed by weight training and powerlifting. Bodybuilding offers the lowest risk of injury, which makes sense because the type of training features more high-repetition training and isolation exercises.
Yes, any sort of physical exertion can lead to an injury, but that’s not the whole story. Sure, squatting can lead to a knee injury down the road. But factors like training frequency, technique, exercise variation, intensity, and recovery play a huge role. If you practice proper technique, recover well between workouts, and listen to your body, you probably won’t have to deal with an injury ever. In contrast, you will likely run into injuries far sooner if you don’t recover well, train through pain, and prioritise weight over technique. Context matters.
Training intelligently is important for injury prevention because it strengthens our muscles, makes us more stable, supports our joints, and improves bone mineral density. As a result, we become more physically resilient.
Training While Injured: Good or Bad?
There are two schools of thought, both of which seem logical. The first one is that we should avoid all training when injured because our tissues need time and recovery to heal. The second idea is to stay active, promote blood flow to the affected area, keep our muscles strong, and heal more quickly.
While no two injury cases are the same, and traumas vary significantly, the truth is often somewhere in the middle. Yes, your injured tissues need time to heal - you can’t bypass that. Piling more stress on an already injured tissue is asking for trouble. But, there is truth to the idea that we should stay active while dealing with an injury.
Movement is incredibly beneficial because it promotes blood flow, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to travel to an injured area, accelerating the healing process. Activity also keeps our muscles strong, which makes us stable and more resilient to physical stress.
Plus, training while injured could help from a purely psychological point. Instead of staying at home, not moving, feeling guilty, and focusing on the injury, we can still do something good for ourselves. We can do some training and go home to recover.
None of the above says that you should keep training as you used to before the injury. You need to be careful and not aggravate the injured area. Train other muscle groups and do exercises that don’t put much stress on the injured area. As the injury begins to heal, you can gradually introduce exercises that work the affected area. But always listen to your body. If you only feel a bit of dull pain, proceed with caution. If the pain is sudden and sharp, give the injury more time to heal.