There is nothing worse than being at the peak of your training, feeling great, making continuous gains, and then.. injury strikes, taking all the fun out of your workout. Anybody involved in weight training should educate themselves on common injuries and prevention strategies.

Whenever muscles and tendons are overloaded or overstretched, tiny tears can occur in the tissue. The local area becomes inflamed for a short time as the body attempts to repair the damage. Repeated and forceful movements strain the tendons, irritate them and cause local inflammation and thickening. At this stage, the area may feel painful. Normally, the body would repair the damage and the pain would go away. However, without enough rest, more activity causes further damage leading to more inflammation, tendon thickening, scar tissue and pain. This cycle gets progressively worse and can become chronic if proper treatment is not taken. These injuries are classified as repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

RSI’s present an increasingly common challenge to clinicians and although common to all athletes, they are highly prevalent among the bodybuilding community. The intense training that bodybuilders undergo can place tremendous stress on the tissues setting them up for strains. RSI’s can result from repetitive heavy lifting with poor posture or improper ergonomics. These injuries can become quite a burden as many individuals will require time away from the activity to rest and heal the damaged tissue.  Pain is often a symptom of an RSI and therefore it’s important to recognise and appreciate the difference between normal muscles soreness and injury. It’s okay to have muscle soreness after a big workout, it’s part of the recovery phase. However, if the pain does not dramatically decrease within a day or two and it limits your range of motion and function you may be looking at an injury.

RSI’s can be managed successfully by non-surgical methods in most cases with a combination of activity modification, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, therapeutic modalities and specific exercise for flexibility, strength and endurance. Use common sense in this situation – if a certain activity causes an exacerbation of pain, chances are it is causing damage. Let the injured area rest and seek advice on why the injury happened in the first place. If you continue to work out in the same manner you should expect the same results, in this case – injury. Taking a short break from a certain exercise or two will be much less debilitating to your performance than developing a chronic condition. Consulting with an exercise specialist such as a physiotherapist or a chiropractor during the initial onset of symptoms can save you a lot of grief, frustration and loss of strength.


For a successful bodybuilder, prevention of an RSI is key.

Always warm up and stretch prior to any weight training or cardio activity. This is necessary to increase the blood flow and oxygen to the exercising muscles and prevent strains. Remember that 10-20 minutes can be the difference between seeing or losing big gains.  

Muscle balance – think symmetry. It’s not only for looks, it’s important to prevent injury. If the muscles on one side of the joint are strong (ie. chest) and the muscles on the other side are weak (ie. back) it can cause unnecessary stress to the body and lead to poor posture, technique, and RSI’s.

Concentrate on what you’re doing. Unnecessary gym injuries often happen because someone’s mind is not on the exercise. You must be focused on the task at hand and be conscious of your movements. Having good posture and technique greatly reduces the odds of having an injury– mirrors can be your new best friend.

Wear proper footwear.  Our feet have a big job to do in supporting us during our workouts, you should do your best to keep them happy and supportive.

Go at your own pace. Don’t worry what anyone else is doing or how much they are lifting – if you try and lift heavier than your body is ready for you will end up getting hurt.   

Use wraps as necessary. They can provide extra stability to our joints and reduce strain on our muscles and tendons.

Drink and eat properly for your lifestyle. Dehydration can have a dramatic effect on your muscles and their performance so make sure to drink plenty of water during and after a workout.  Food is the fuel for our muscles and body building requires specific nutritional demands. Consult with a nutrition specialist to become informed on how to eat to reduce the risk for injury.

When an athlete is better informed of when treatment is necessary and what is available it is beneficial to their training and performance. Common areas for strains in body builders include the neck, back, shoulder, elbow and knee although they can occur around any joint in the body. A few other examples of common injuries that can be treated conservatively by your therapist include rotator cuff impingement, ACL sprains, meniscal injuries, bursitis, nerve entrapment, pectoral and quadriceps tears and many others. Remember it’s better to consult with your therapist at the early onset of symptoms for optimal healing and recovery.

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