Weight Training, Knee Injuries, and How to Avoid Them

Weight training is an effective way to strengthen your body to avoid injuries and pains arising from a sedentary lifestyle. However, weight training exercises put a lot of extra pressure on your knees, putting you at risk of knee injuries. While lifting weights, your knees support not just your body weight, but the weighted equipment that you are lifting as well. As a result, you may end up doing things during your workout that exacerbate the risk of knee injuries instead of preventing them.

Common knee injuries caused by weight training

Knee ligaments, the strong bands of flexible tissue that connect the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone), are usually affected in knee injuries related to weight training. These tears can be partial or full tears.

Some of the common knee ligament injuries caused by weight training are:

1. Torn ACL: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located directly behind the kneecap and prevents the over-rotation of the knee. An ACL tear can occur during weight training due to improper position or posture that overstress the knee joint while added weights are being used. A sudden twisting of the knee joint can push the knee out of its normal range of motion causing the tear.

2. Torn PCL: The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located behind the ACL and crosses it in an “X” shape. A common cause of PCL injuries is falling hard on the kneecaps due to a loss of balance. To avoid this, it is important that you move slowly to lifting heavier weights and allowing your body to strengthen enough to avoid losing balance while weight training.

3. Torn MCL: The medial collateral ligament (MCL) runs along the inner part of the knee and prevents the knees from bending in the wrong direction. MCL injuries occur when the bodyweight is shifted awkwardly during weight training.

4. Torn LCL: The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) runs along the outer part of the knee and prevents excessive outward movement of the knee. LCL tears can develop due to falling on one’s knees during a weight training exercise.

How to avoid knee injuries during weight training?

The following tips can be followed to avoid injuries arising from your weight training routine:

1. Use correct alignment during exercises: When you start training with weights by in a group, it becomes difficult for the class trainer to supervise your posture and basic form during exercise motions. This problem is equally prevalent when you are exercising by yourself. Without a personal trainer to correct you, you may be doing the fundamentals wrong for a long time. Repeatedly doing simple moves like lunges and squats with incorrect alignment can create muscle imbalance and increase the risk of a knee injury.

A trainer can spot incorrect positions and form and guide you to avoid injuries. You can also use a mirror while mastering basic moves before moving on to advanced positions and heavier weights to prevent accidental pain and injuries.

2. Strengthen all major muscle groups in the lower body: The knee is susceptible to overuse injuries due to imbalances in lower body muscle groups such as glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Most people who sit at work for long durations have weak gluteal muscles. Weakness in the hamstring muscles, a common occurrence, leads to increased strain on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Instead of loading on the weights during squats and lunges, it is important to work on strength training your gluteal and hamstring muscles to avoid straining the connective ligaments in your knees. Strong hamstrings and quadriceps help hold the kneecaps in place to avoid injury. Incorporate these strengthening exercises into your workout plan before doing any heavy lifting on a regular basis.

3. Work on mobility and stability: If you have started weight training recently then it is important to dedicate time to improve your mobility and stability as well. Exercises that employ resistance to increase body strength can put an extra strain on knees if body balance is not improved.

Everyone has their dominant sides, and as a result the left or the right side of the body has better balance. Improve your balance with single-leg exercises to dynamically perform high impact exercises without causing injuries. Working on gluteal activation to increase mobility in your hips and strengthen them will increase agility and power in your lower body.

4. Focus on your core: If your abdominal muscles are weak, your back muscles can shorten and tighten up. This puts your pelvis on an exaggerated tilt, tightening your hip muscles, and putting an excessive strain on your knees. A stable core is necessary in order to perform weight training exercises without injuring your knees.

5. Stretch your muscles: In order to work the muscle groups in your lower body, you must ensure that they are not so tight and stiff that you cannot activate them. Performing stretching exercises after or before your workout is an effective way to activate your glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Active and strong lower body muscles go a long way in preventing knee pain from weight training.

Your knees play a major role in supporting your body and maintaining balance during any of your weight training exercises. With a weak muscle group to support them, they are easily susceptible to injuries. If you have injured yourself during your weight training program, our experts at the Sagar Bone & Joint Insitute can help restore your knee function with advanced pain management and customized rehabilitation techniques. Contact us directly or book an appointment to speak to our specialists.

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