Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Is weightlifting causing joints problems?

Intense exercises can result in joint pain if not properly executed. This is also true for moderate forms of exercise. When you’re not careful about your workouts, you can sustain injuries that may lead to surgeries and, eventually, arthritis.

To ensure your joints stay healthy and well protected, it’s essential to be cautious when exercising. You should start on healthy choices for your joints each day and stay away from activities that promote the tear and wear of the joints.

It’s important to know that even experienced weightlifters and bodybuilders also do experience joint pain resulting from injuries and strains they get over the years. In this respect, it’s essential to protect joints in bodybuilding, from the very beginning

You should also note that strength training is one of the best ways to keep your joints strong and healthy if well utilized. Regular exercise is essential for the development of strong muscles, proper lubrication of joints, limiting inflammation, pain, and bone loss as a result of age.

In this article, we’ll look at the dos and don’ts to protect your joints in weightlifting.

The ‘Dos’ to protect joints in weightlifting

1. Always warm-up – first general, than specific

Even if you’re a pro bodybuilder, it’s essential to warm up before engaging in intense weightlifting. Warm-up helps to improve joints mobility by loosening up your muscles and connective tissue. Additionally, it helps you to push more weight when exercising.

Warming up also assists in boosting blood flow to all parts of the body, most importantly, the muscle. This escalates the activation of neurons. For example, a 5-10 minutes easy cardio warm-up will increase your heart rate and blood flow to all parts of your body. Than switch to specific warm-up that emphasizes muscle and joints engaged in your coming routine.

Instead of starting directly on heavy weights, you should consider going for light warm-up exercises such as leg presses, leg extensions, or lighter weights. After a few minutes of light warm-up exercise, your body is now ready for the heavier weights.

2. Get proper rest & recovery

After your intense weightlifting routine, it’s vital to do some cool-down exercises. Cool-down will help your muscles to relax. Besides, it improves your flexibility, which is crucial in limiting the strain on your joints. After your bodybuilding session, you also need to take some time to stretch your muscles.

If you’re in doubt on how to perform cool-down exercises, you can consult your gym instructor or your training coach. Your physiotherapist may also have some tips that may be valuable for your training. When you take enough time to rest, your body can heal and repair the worn-out tissues. During rest, your muscles get stronger, and your joints can relax and rejuvenate.

If you don’t find time to relax your joints, you’re preparing for injuries. As you engage in your bodybuilding activity, it’s essential not to overtrain, since this may result in strains and injuries. In your workout regime, you need to balance both low and high-impact exercises.

3. Hydration

Proper hydrating is crucial in the elimination of toxins and wastes that may promote the development of gout and other painful conditions. Water is also vital for the lubrication of the joints, which limits inflammation and joint pain.

When you sweat, you lose both electrolytes and water. Both elements are necessary for proper muscle contractions. Intense bodybuilding exercises cause losing both. This can cause muscle cramps.

Proper hydration is also necessary for the protection of cartilage. Water helps in the delivery of nutrients to cartilage to assist repairs. If you limit your water intake, your cartilage becomes more prone to wear and tear.

Water is a considerable percentage of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Dehydration is harmful to your joints. Once you are in any bodybuilding workouts, you lose a lot of water.

Never forget to to drink enough water before, during, and after exercise. If you violate this rule, your body is at risk of injury and infections.

Water is vital for the normal functioning of all the body organs. Dehydration throws all these systems off balance.

4. Stretches for bodybuilders

Like any other exercise, you should practice stretches before and after weightlifting. These exercises will help to prevent soreness, injuries, and joint pain after exercising.

After your workout, it’s important to understand the groups of muscles that you were working on. Then stretch those muscles for a few minutes. The best approach would be static stretches for 20-30 seconds as opposed to ballistic stretches that increase the risk of joint injuries.

Stretching after workout also helps to recover faster.

Before starting your sets and reps, a few stretches will help activate your joints, increase blood flow, and also your heart rate.

5. Consider joint supplementation

Another excellent way to protect your joints in bodybuilding is to adopt proper supplementation. Although supplements won’t do magic, they will go a long way to prevent injuries and improve your joint health.

A proper diet is critical for healthy joints. If you’re weightlifter, it’s vital to supplement with fish oil. This oil will help to keep your joints healthy. Nowadays due to our poor diets, most of us are unable to get an adequate supply of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs).

Intense workouts put stress on your joints and may result in inflammation. Fortunately, EFAs can assist you in dealing with joint stress and limiting swelling and inflammation. Thus consuming fish oil is the best option to fill the “EFA gap” and keep your joints protected. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are not only vital for your joints but also brain function.

Alternatively, you can opt for glucosamine supplements to help in protecting your joints. Although studies have offered varying results on the efficiency of glucosamine in protecting joints, many users have testified of the effectiveness of these supplements for joint health.

Typically glucosamine is taken alongside MSM and Chondroitin, which also offer joint-supporting properties. Glucosamine produces glycoproteins (glycosaminoglycans), which play critical roles in joint health. They are the building blocks of cartilage, tendons, and synovial fluids in the joints.

6. Wear the appropriate shoes

Before you embark on any exercise regime, it’s vital to grab the right training gear. Most importantly, you need the right shoes. The ideal footwear will ensure you have the proper stability. Besides acting as cushions.

The choice of your footwear will depend on your gait and foot shape. Pick shoes that will provide adequate cushioning and support for your bodybuilding exercises.

You should not shy away from spending a few dollars to buy your training shoes in a specialty store. The staff in these stores have specialized knowledge on the best shoes for different sports. They may even have you try the shoe to gauge your stride and gait.

Before purchasing your bodybuilding shoes, it would be a good idea to visit an orthopedist or a podiatrist to find out if you have high, average, or low arches. The doctor may recommend supports or inserts that will guarantee better cushioning and support.

7. Use a brace

Although we have little evidence that braces may prevent joint injuries, they can assist in reducing the inflammation and pain that arises from existing damage.

In the market, you’ll find athletic braces for any joint in your body. Most braces in the market today are for knees, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and ankles.

Compressive sleeves and braces offer some support to the joints besides keeping the joints warm and minimizing swelling.

Neoprene straps allow you to keep warm around the joint during training. It is worth considering in the winter, or if the gym is chilly.

The ‘Don’ts’ to protect joints in weighlifting

8. If It Hurts, stop. Find alternative exercise

If executing the exercise hurts, you should not proceed. You don’t have to stop your workout and go home. Instead you can always find other exercise to replace it or change the muscle group and rest the injured one.

If you have difficulties doing compound exercises like bench press, you can replace it with some isolated ones like dumbbell flies or cable cross over and see if it generates pain. You are still training your chest, however you save your shoulder. Alternatively, you can change the angle you’re working at.

9. Avoid excess weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways of improving joint health and limiting injuries. Keeping perfect weight will minimize small cracks that break down cartilage.

Weight loss has shown impressive results in reducing arthritis in both men and women. Weight loss can also help stop osteoarthritis.

Excess weight puts extra stress on your joints and may result in increased wear and tear. Maintaining an ideal weight is the best way to prevent the development of arthritis later in life. It also helps to prevent joint injuries.

A healthy diet and exercise are valuable tools that will help you maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet should comprise whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. You should keep away from processed foods and saturated fats.

10. Don’t neglect the input of a trainer/instructor

If you’re new to lifting weights, you need to work under a trainer/instructor. It’s crucial to learn the right techniques of each lift yet before progressing with heavier weights.

This will limit injuries to your joints. Take as much time as you need to learn the best techniques for all bodybuilding exercises. Spend more time to learning compound lifts like bench press, deadlift, and squats.

Compound exercises use more muscles and joints. Any mistake in the lifting techniques may result in excess pressure on one joint. This can lead to injuries or progressive damage that may get worse with time.

11. Use NSAIDs and other pain medications exceptionally

Bodybuilders and weightlifters tend to use over-the-counter analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs before workouts to work against joint pain and tendinitis.

You should avoid this practice since ‘hiding’ pain may result in further damage without your knowledge.

Additionally, the frequent use of these medications may have severe effects on your liver, kidneys, and gut.

Bottom line

Although all tips above may not rid you of joint pain, they will go a long way in minimizing injuries and improving your joint health.

  • If you want to protect your joints in bodybuilding, it’s essential to:
  • watch your diet
  • follow the instructions of your trainers
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • use the right training gear
  • warm-up at least 5-10 minutes before starting on the heavier weight.

Any time you experience some pain in your joints, you should stop and opt for a different type of exercise. If the joint pain becomes severe, consider visiting your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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