More people are weight-lifting to gain muscle than ever before; women in particular are increasing their participation. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, 34.5 million Americans participated in weight training in 2009.

A study that was published in the April issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that from 1990 to 2007, almost one million people visited the emergency room due to weight-lifting injuries. Worse, annual injuries increased more than 48 percent during that period. Incorrect weight training technique often leads to sprains, strains, fractures, and other painful injuries to connective tissue, muscle, and joint capsules.

Weight-Lifting Injury Statistics

  • 82 percent of weight-lifting injuries happened to men.
  • The annual number of injuries increased faster among women than men; 63 percent compared to 46 percent.
  • Women’s injuries were more common in the feet and legs and were more likely to be fractures.
  • Men’s injuries were more common in the trunk and hands and were more likely to be sprains and strains.
  • Most weight-lifting injuries were caused by people dropping weights on themselves, crushing a body part between weights, or hitting themselves with the equipment.
  • 90 percent of weight-lifting injuries occur while a person is using free weights rather than weight-lifting machines.
  • Overexertion, muscle pulls, and loss of balance were responsible for about 14 percent of emergency room visits.
  • Although only two percent of weight-lifting injuries resulted in hospitalization, there were 114 weight-lifting related deaths reported during this period.

Weight-Lifting Injury Prevention

  • Complete a 5 to 10 minute warm-up with cardio and stretching before starting your weight-lifting session.
  • The number one way to prevent a weight lifting injury is to lift with proper technique. When you are learning to lift weights it is advisable to hire a qualified personal trainer to help show you the motion and check your form.
  • Complete a full range of motion in a slow, controlled manner when lifting weights.
  • Start with weights that you can lift comfortably for 12 to 15 repetitions and increase the weight over time. Remember that even if you don’t feel that you have maxed out on weight your body will still be reaping the benefits.
  • Don’t forget to breathe; breathe out as you lift the weight and in as your lower the weight.
  • Aim to work on all the major muscles over the course of a week such as legs, chest, back and shoulders. Be sure to strengthen the opposing muscle in a balanced way such as biceps and triceps.
  • Rest your muscles by breaking up muscle groups into different workouts. For example, working on arms and shoulders on Mondays, legs on Wednesdays and abdominals on Fridays.
  • Don’t push past your limits. Completing one set of repetitions to the point of fatigue is enough to tone and gain muscle strength.
  • If you experience a sharp pain while lifting, stop the exercise and try again with a lighter weight or in a few days.
  • Wear running shoes with good traction to keep you from slipping.

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