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Weight Training Injuries

by Fred Hahn on April 1, 2010

I saw this article today on weight training injuries. It appears that there is a booming rise in the number of weight room related injures due to the growing popularity of resistance training. Thankfully more people are getting into the weight room these days. Resistance training is without question the single most potent form of exercise for any adult for staying healthy, lean and vital as the years roll on. And it’s exceptionally healthful for kids too.

Information from emergency/hospital data suggests that most of the injuries appear to be caused by free weights dropping on people – children especially. Some appear to be caused by exercise machine use, primarily in women. It’s a short article so take a gander if you’re interested.

To the point – inanimate objects don’t hurt anyone. People’s behavior is what causes harm. Guns don’t kill – people do.

Let’s look at the list of safety suggestions this article (and quite frankly, every article I have ever read on the subject) recommends. It always amuses me to read these recommendations as most of them don’t actually help anyone learn how to stay safe in the weight room. So let’s begin!

Find an instructor who can help you learn how to do the exercises correctly using the proper form.

OK but, how does one know that an instructor knows what he or she is talking about? I know many trainers with multiple certifications who train people at major health clubs who haven’t a clue. Worse, they put their clients in harms way. (This is true even for doctors. For example, there are doctors who recommend that a diabetic eat bread, rice and whole wheat pasta!) I guess you’ll just have to walk around your gym and look for the instructor with the glowing halo.

Take a look-see at this:

squats on a ball

Do any of you think this is smart? What in the world is this trainer doing? What if the ball was to burst? (And indeed they do!) What if the trainee slipped and violently rocked to one side? Do you think the trainer could catch him? What, pray tell, is the purpose of this dangerous act? And by the way, most, if not all professional personal trainer certification organizations endorse this sort of shenanigan. God’s honest!

For kids, a high school coach or athletic trainer can help.

Don’t you bet on that. While most mean well, high school coaches and AT’s (as they are called in the biz) the vast majority I have met have no idea how to implement a safe and effective resistance training program. In fact, AT’s are not strength coaches at all. They are on the field pros who help athletes when injured. It would have been better to suggest a strength and conditioning coach. But they can be a bit wacky too.

For adults, take advantage of the orientation session that most gyms offer when you join or hire a personal trainer until you feel you can perform the moves safety.

Well obviously this person can’t write too well. But that aside, how do you know that the information you are listening to is valid or even dangerous?

Warm up and cool down for each session. The warm-up should include stretching and a short cardiovascular workout to warm the muscles. Stretching is also important during the cool-down.

First of all, stretching has been shown to offer little to no safety benefit. Stretching can also cause harm. If the writer of this article was up on her reading, she’d have learned this.

From “A systematic review into the efficacy of static stretching as part of a warm-up for the prevention of exercise-related injury. Small K, Mc Naughton L, Matthews M. Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Hull, Hull, England.

There is moderate to strong evidence that routine application of static stretching does not reduce overall injury rates.

Warming up is fairly benign, but what warms you up for the warm up? Usually the warm up is designed to mentally prepare an athlete for a forceful and violent event. Weight lifting should not be a forceful and violent affair. And besides, research indicates that the traditional warm up offers little safety benefits. And if you are weight lifting properly (which we will discuss later), the warm up is built right in.

When starting a new workout, use a small amount of weight at first and set a goal for the ACSM recommended minimum of eight to twelve repetitions.

Now here is a perfect example of how to be vague. What is ‘small?’ What means ‘at first?’ The ACSM does not recommend a minimum of 8 to 12 repetitions necessarily.

Use only an amount of weight that you can lift while still maintaining proper form.

And that is…?

Once you build strength, you can progress in both the amount of weight and the number of reps.

You’ll build strength after the first workout. What does this mean exactly?

Don’t continue to lift if you feel pain.

What kind of pain? Joint pain? Muscle pain? There are differences. Pain in the muscles that is caused by deeply fatiguing the muscles is perfectly OK to feel and in fact, desirable.

Wear the appropriate foot wear. Ensure that your shoes have good traction to prevent slipping.

Should we wear cleats? (Just joking.) OK fine.

Remember to breathe. Some people have a tendency to hold their breath while lifting a heavy load. Failure to breathe properly may cause increases in blood pressure that could be harmful. It is recommended to exhale through the mouth as you lift.

Alrighty then! Finally a recommdation worth a darn. But what’s with the exhaling through the mouth tip? Just breathe. It makes no difference how so long as you do.

Get plenty of rest between workouts. It is recommended to give each muscle at least one to two days rest between sessions to allow for recovery, healing, and building.

Also a good recommendation but not for safety reasons per se. Fact is that you should give your body at least 2-3 days of rest in between weight lifting workouts.

But the bottom line on safety is this: Lift and lower an appropriate weight s l o w l y. An appropriate weight is a weight that is light enough for you to perform at least 40 seconds of continuous work through a full range of joint(s) motion and a maximum of 120 seconds before reaching complete muscle fatigue a.k.a muscular failure.

What is slowly? Take about 1-2 seconds to initiate the first inch of movement. In other words, overcome inertia carefully. Don’t heave, yank, jerk or thrust at the start of the set. Pretend you are picking up a newborn infant that doesn’t even belong to you. Then continue to lift until the rep is completed. Reverse carefully and lower in the same fashion. Only speed up, meaning work harder, when you feel you are slowing down due to fatigue. A good basic rule is 5 seconds minimum to lift and lower even more slowly.

Remember – safety first. You are not an Olympic lifter trying to toss as much weight as possible over your head. You are not a power lifter trying to discover your maximum single repetition poundage. You are using weights to dupe the body into thinking you need more lean mass and strength. This can be done without the bravado and ‘pump-and-circumstance’ you see being used in most gyms.

Slow and steady wins the race.

I've been involved in exercise ever since I became a member of The Charles Atlas Club when I was 10 years old. In 1998, I founded and established Serious Strength on the Upper West Side of NYC. My clients include kids, seniors (and everyone in between), top CEOs, celebrities, bestselling authors, journalists and TV personalities.
my book. my Gym.

in Health/Fitness,personal training,strength training · 20 comments


mrfreddy April 1, 2010 at 8:52 AM

“Don’t continue to lift if you feel pain.”

lordy, if I followed that rule I’d never make it past the first rep with you guys hahaha….

mark king April 1, 2010 at 12:06 PM

HI Fred, I borowed some books from my local library on muscle building and your book stood out, it was different, against every traditional ideas I’ve read in the past. I read it three times to understand it completely.
I have realized that over the 30 years I have working out, I have been overtraining. I thought for sure I would have to give up the gravity type equipment (ie. barbells, weight machines) for tension type equipment because being over 40 years now I was feeling sore more than I was feeling well. I now know that if I subsribe to your slow burn method, not only am I forced to use a lower weight but my form has to be perfect. This plus the fact that you write we need at least 7 to 14 days of rest in between an intense workout, has renewed my faith in my training. I always loved to workout, but I think I was loving it too much.
I digress, anyway after renewing your book a couple of times, I decided to buy it , with it I got your book on kids health also, (just go it in the mail today).
Thanks again, I look forward to more of your valuable information.

Fred Hahn April 1, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Hey Mark –

Thanks so much for buying my books. please feel free to email me with any questions. Less can really be more.

That said, you want to work out 2X per week or every 4 to 5 days not once a week or once in 2 weeks. I don’t think my book says that!


mark king April 2, 2010 at 2:21 AM

Sorry Fred, I thought in your book once a week meant once every seven days, and your right, the 7 to 14 day muscle recovery ,that came from a book about H.I.T (high intensity training) I was reading about Arthur Jones, (inventor of the Nautilus systems.) Having said that ,will doing slow burn once every 7 days be less effective?

Fred Hahn April 2, 2010 at 7:22 AM

Fritz – I know. What a vague comment “stop if you feel pain. ”

Q: How do you add an avatar to WP?

Fred Hahn April 2, 2010 at 7:25 AM

Mark –

There are a couple of HIT books that suggest training only once a week. I don’t know where these folks are coming from with this. Drugless body builders train 5 sometimes 6 times a week with great results. Most people do not want to be body builders however. 2 weekly sessions are plenty for the typical adult to build a decent amount of lean tissue and strength.

suzanne April 3, 2010 at 1:54 AM

I’m a little confused. Just to use a couple of examples, in chapter 1 pages 10, 13 and 17 of “The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution” (2003 edition), it states that the workout takes only 30 min./week, and this is repeated throughout the book. Page 126 says that the Slow Burn routine should be performed at least once a week. Yet it also states, “the ideal interval, according to medical research, is about every 5 days for maximum benefit.” Well the number that stuck in my brain on how often to do the workout is 1x/week, so I’ve been doing the workout at that frequency since the beginning of the year. I definitely am getting stronger! But now I wonder if I should be actually doing the workout every 5 days, instead of every 7? Will it make much difference? I’m willing to do it but just want to make sure I’m getting this straight. :^)

Fred Hahn April 3, 2010 at 7:32 AM

Hi Suzanne –

Did you read the entire book? No where does it say that SB is a once a week program. 30 minutes a week doesn’t mean once a week. The total time spent exercising is about 30 minutes. If you do 10 exercises and each takes you 60-90 seconds to complete that’s a grand total of ~15 minutes of actual exercise best done twice weekly or thereabouts. Once a week is ok but not optimal. Sorry I was unclear.

mrfreddy April 3, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Hey Fred, I’m not quite sure how my avatar got there haha…. If I can figure it out I’ll let you know!

mrfreddy April 3, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Ok, apparently I have a account and that’s how my avatar shows up there. Dunno how I got a gravatar account, it seems to have come from either my wordpress or facebook accounts. Anyway, you can go directly to and create your own, you associate your pic with your email addy, and voila! your pic shows up on sites that support gravatar.

Anon. April 14, 2010 at 1:45 AM

Hey Fred, are you familiar with the Max Contraction training protocol designed and promoted by John Little? If you are, then please tell me your opinion about it.

Fred Hahn April 14, 2010 at 7:08 AM

Yes I am. You lift heavy weights in your strongest range. Lifting heavy weights stimulates muscular growth so it works. But you are using very heavy weight loads and I suspect that it might take a toll on your joints. It’s a way around poor cams and barbell weak links in order to load the strongest range sufficiently.

AnonHD3 April 14, 2010 at 9:41 PM

What initially brought me to try Max Contraction was Fred’s quest to always add weight. I interpreted this to mean you only get stronger when adding more weight rather than time, reps, sets, monentum, etc. MaxCon did bring significant and progressive gains in weight, size, and strength. The feeling after a workout was only muscle fatigue without any joint pain or general exhaustion. My problem was/is getting enough weight in position to lift/hold. A great thread at BbyS on Max Pyramid … could be safer with less weight required, but what of Fred’s opinion that heavIER weight is the stimulus rather than inroad fatigue?

Maarianne Dean June 2, 2010 at 10:17 PM

Dear Fred,
I got your book on the recommendation of the Eades. I am normal weight with 26.4% body fat. I want to diminish some bloops and blimps here and ther plus health benefits. I loved my first work out with SB. But I am confused about the amount of weight. I used the weight I could move with great effort and did several reps of each but did not make it through the full range of motion. Example….adduction of thighs, maybe a move of 8 inches out and eight back. Should I adjust weight and if so, how much should I use? I want it to be tough enough, but I also want to do it right. No certified SB trainers in my area. RSVP. Thanks! MD

Fred Hahn June 3, 2010 at 11:56 AM

“…but what of Fred’s opinion that heavIER weight is the stimulus rather than inroad fatigue?”

It is both. Only when you take a set to deep fatigue do you stimulate all of the fibers specifically the FT. But keeping the weight the same at every session after a time could render a lesser effect. I’m not sure there are good studies on this however. In my opinion, it is a good idea to raise the weight even by a small amount at each session.

Fred Hahn June 3, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Hi MD and thanks for purchasing my book. You said:

“I want to diminish some bloops and blimps here and ther plus health benefits.”

That is accomplished best by adhering to a low sugar diet.

“I loved my first work out with SB. But I am confused about the amount of weight. I used the weight I could move with great effort and did several reps of each but did not make it through the full range of motion. Example….adduction of thighs, maybe a move of 8 inches out and eight back. Should I adjust weight and if so, how much should I use? I want it to be tough enough, but I also want to do it right. No certified SB trainers in my area. RSVP. Thanks! MD”

Many machines are poorly designed and in order to do a full range rep the weight has to be made significantly lighter. I would lighten the weight to do at least 3 full range reps and then continue on even when only partials are possible until you can’t even get half way, then stop.

Bryan Rankin June 24, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Last week while I was doing my Chest Press exercise, just as I got about an inch or two from full extension and was about to change direction, I felt my shoulder come out of the socket. I could feel the bone pressing against my rear deltoid. I immediately began dropping the weight (not quite letting it just slam down) and it recovered. This doesn’t seem possible to me but that’s what it felt like. Now I am afraid to continue with the exercise.

Is there something terribly wrong with my form? Do I have some kind of bad muscular imbalance in my shoulder? Should I decrease the weight drastically? Any advice would be much appreciated.

In case it helps, my work out generally looks like this…
Row, 205#, 60sec
Chest Press, 265#, 60sec
Negative Chin, 40 sec (I weigh 230#)
Shoulder Press 130#, 60 sec
Leg Press, 430#, 80sec

Fred Hahn June 24, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Hi Bryan –

Well I’d need to SEE your form to make a judgement. What kind of chest press do you own?

As for muscular imbalances, this concept is largely BS. There are no known “balances” to be able to judge an imbalance.

It is possible to move your shoulders in such a way that form is compromised and thus you could, in theory, dislocate your shoulder.

Are you on statins or any other drug that weakens muscles and connective tissue?

Bryan Rankin July 1, 2010 at 9:11 AM

Clearly my shoulder was not dislocated. That’s just what it felt like. After thinking about it some more, my new, equally uninformed theory is that perhaps a muscle that normally goes under that joint was snapped around to stretch outside of it. Does that make sense?

Searching around the internet a bit, the only thing I was able to identify as ‘wrong’ with my form is that I will push my shoulders forward as I near completion of the rep, instead of keeping them back. I also appear to use a wider grip than most people.

The chest press I am now using is a pretty standard nautilus style machine. It is higher quality than what I’ve used in the past, very little friction. And it seems to have a better cam because I used to always stall out near the top but on this one I do not.

The only drug I take is sugar. And way too much of it. It was getting so out of hand that I started the 6 week cure on Monday.

Thanks for your time, Fred.


Fred Hahn July 1, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Hmn…seems like it might be time to see a shoulder doc. You may have had a tendon move or shift – perhaps the tendon that attaches the long head of the biceps to the shoulder but who knows. I’d get it checked if I were you.

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