Some of the most common weightlifting injuries are overuse and acute injury. This is commonly seen in the knee, shoulder, and back. Injuries can include back, rotator cuffs, biceps, and patellar strain.
The good news is that you can avoid a lot of weightlifting injuries if you perform each exercise correctly. However, you may not know what you’re doing wrong or where to begin.
Here’s an infographic I created to show some – but not all – of the common weightlifting mistakes you may encounter.
This guide explains 10 of the most common weightlifting mistakes. Learning from these mistakes might help you with preventing weightlifting injuries that can sideline you for weeks, if not months, at a time.
So if you’re ready to learn about common weightlifting mistakes to avoid, this article has it all. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Skipping Your Warm Up
You should never begin your daily workout schedule with cold muscles. This can lead to injury when weightlifting, so some form of warmup should always be performed. A little bit of light yoga or dynamic stretching is essential at the beginning of every workout.
Warmups can increase your range of motion and promote a more permanent change in your muscles.
There are different types of warmups you can perform. For starters, you can take a short, low-intensity jog. Since cardio uses up a lot of energy, you don’t want to burn yourself out with it. You should also perform some jumping jacks, bodyweight squats, lunges, and pushups to get the blood circulating.
Using the treadmill – or my personal favorite – jumping rope for a warmup is an excellent choice. You should begin slowly but gradually increase the intensity until you feel a light sweat coming on.
You also need to properly stretch. A foam roller – or a massage gun – is a great way to prepare your muscles for a weight-training session. You should target specific muscle groups for roughly 20-30 seconds, focusing on the muscles you’re preparing for the actual workout.
2. Poor Weightlifting Form
Your form is essential to preventing injury. Some people “cheat”, relying on other muscles to gain momentum when weightlifting. You need to focus on proper form, utilizing the muscles you’re targeting, and not relying on other muscles to do the heavy lifting (pun intended).
As a general rule, keep your back straight and your abs tight whenever training. This will lend support to your spine. You also want to be able to control the weight; it should not control you. Lastly, if you cannot do the exercise properly without any additional weight, for the love of all that is Holy, do not add extra weight. That is a recipe for disaster (and injury).
3. Lifting Too Slowly (or Quickly)
It may be tempting to complete lifts slowly but lifting weights too slowly does your weightlifting routine a disservice. Lifting weights very slowly traces back to an idea called “time under tension” (or TUT). TUT proponents belief that super slow reps produce more tension on the muscles, thereby allowing for more growth. And more muscle growth equals more strength.
Unfortunately, that is a myth. While there is a time to lift slowly, you should have good training knowledge before doing so. According to trainer Jason Ferruggia,
In the same vein, you shouldn’t always lift too quickly either. While there is a time and place for explosive or speed training, you should strive to find that goldilocks zone where your reps and sets are neither too long or too short.
4. Isolation Exercises Only
If you’re interested in getting bigger biceps, remember to focus on various muscle groups. Just performing bicep curls isn’t enough to see the results you want, making isolation exercises another mistake weightlifters make.
Engage all your muscle groups. If you’re looking to build upper body strength, be sure to have an abs day built in.
Ab strength helps to protect your back, so work in a day of crunches and other ab exercises. Be sure to incorporate leg workouts too, such as squats and lunges.
5. Ignoring Your Body
A common trope is to “power through the pain.” However, this is never advisable and can do more harm than good. If you experience any pain while weight training- or working out in general- stop immediately.
Yes, a little discomfort working out is a good thing and lets you know your muscles are getting a good workout, but any pain that’s out of the ordinary warrants a rest.
Pain can signal any number of things, including a pulled muscle. Here are some signs you may have pulled something, so be on the lookout:
- Tenderness or pain
- Bruising in an area and redness
- Decreased motion
- Muscle spasms
- Swelling in an area/areas
- Muscle weakness
If you sense any of these signs, it’s best to stop what you’re doing and take a break.
6. Weights Are Too Light
Many people gravitate towards weights within their comfort zone. However, relying on weights that are too light won’t provide you with optimal results. While you don’t need to lift weights that are ridiculously heavy, you do need to make steady increments in that direction.
As a general rule, if you can lift a weight 8 or 10 times without muscle fatigue, then the weight you’re using is too light. There is a time and place for light weights but don’t be afraid to push and challenge yourself.
7. Switching to Heavy Weights Too Soon
While you don’t want to use weights that are too light, you also don’t want to rush into lifting heavy weights. If you rush into heavy weights, you run the risk of throwing off your weightlifting routine.
Lifting too heavy too soon may result in injury. You need a strong foundation with weight training before tackling heavy weights.
If you’re unsure if your weights are too heavy, consider the following. Do you struggle to control your weights? Is it hard to maintain good form when using them?
If you find yourself reliant on other muscle groups to lift a certain weight, odds are you’re lifting too heavy and should reduce the amount of weight you’re using.
Overtraining is another common misstep that can lead to injury. It’s not just limited to what you do inside a gym.
Often, weight lifters looking to see a difference will scale back on calories. This is never a good idea as it can affect performance and even lead to conditions such as anemia.
Your body needs energy, especially when working out. A well-balanced diet is key, and reducing calories can lead to serious issues such as problems with your cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems.
Muscle strain and pain are also signs of overtraining. You may also notice injuries from overuse. Another sign of overtraining is fatigue and weight loss, as well as reduced appetite.
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, it’s best to see a physician to ensure there are no underlying conditions at play.
It’s also important to note that overtraining can be counterproductive to your fitness goals. Your performance will plateau and you’re more likely to get sick or injured. Listen to your body (tip #5)!
9. Too Many Reps
For starters, completing too many reps can lead to fatigue and even injury. You may notice repetition injuries or injure another muscle group if your form slips and you rely on other muscles to complete a high-rep workout.
Although you might intend on repetitively working out one muscle group, chances are that you’ll slip and tap into a different muscle group, risking injury.
Depending on your training goals, recommendations differ on the number of reps and sets you should perform. However, a good rule of thumb for strength or size is anywhere from 5-12 reps across 3-6 sets per exercise. Listen to your body, and when you show signs of extreme fatigue, stop.
10. Not Stretching / Ignoring Mobility
Whether you’re in a hurry or simply think it’s unnecessary, failure to stretch or failure to do mobility work is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when weightlifting. Mobility and stretching are crucial for avoiding injuries. And, if seeing results is your goal, being sidelined due to a lack of stretching is one way to derail that progress.
Stretching helps minimize muscle imbalance, prevent injuries from occurring, increase your tolerance to the exercises you’ll be performing, and maximize your overall weightlifting gains.
While stretching is focused on muscles, mobility is focused on your entire range of motion. Think flexibility combined with movement and control of that movement.
Together, they can also help alleviate tight muscles and improve your present range of motion. You’ll improve your flexibility and get the most out of each training session. Also, don’t be afraid to get a massage or otherwise relax to try to boost your recovery.
Here are some sample moves for weight lifting:
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. You need to squat low, keeping your heels flat on the ground. Keep your chest up.
Hips and Groin
Use the same position as you did for deep squats. Take your left hand and put it on top of your left foot, using your left elbow to push your left knee outward.
Rotate your right arm up and back like you’re trying to grab something that’s above and behind you. Then hold this position for five to six deep, conscious breath cycles before switching sides.
Lie with your face down on the floor and put your legs straight back and your arms extended past your head, like Superman. You then want to raise your arms and legs as high as possible while doing so comfortable, hold this position, and then lower yourself back to the floor. Shoot for at least three sets of 10 reps.
Avoid These Common Weightlifting Mistakes
Now that you know about the 10 most common weightlifting mistakes, you can avoid them. Be sure to listen to your body and rest when needed.
Don’t overtrain, and ensure each weightlifting session starts with a warm-up and ends with a proper cool-down. Failure to do so might sideline you, derailing all your progress. Or, better yet, start up a workout routine and incorporate those tips into that routine.
As a reminder, we have everything you need to help with your weightlifting sessions. Be sure to visit our blog, or check our complete lineup of supplements. No matter what your fitness goals are, we’ve got you covered.