Generally speaking, working out is good for your health. But as a physical therapist who works with sports-related injuries, Chad Beauchamp, DPT sees the other side of things: the consequences of what happens when workouts don’t go as planned, and lead to pain and injuries. The most common cause of the lifting injuries he sees? Going too hard when weight training.
Dr. Beauchamp says that a lot of people who attempt super-challenging exercises for “the cool factor” wind up in his office. “People do exercises that just look cool, and these exercises in the right conditions are really good for a high-level individual,” he says. “But what irritates me is that people don’t have the foundational skills to do these moves in perfect form.” In order to avoid hurting yourself, he stresses the importance of progressing your workouts instead of going from zero to 100 in your moves.
By over-doing really intense moves—especially with weights—you’re prone to all sorts of injuries. The two that Dr. Beauchamp most frequently sees from poor lifting practices are rotator cuff and lower back injuries. “If someone is just starting out [with weight training] and they haven’t done much with overhead exercises, then they throw a dumbbell overhead and walk with it, it’s an extreme amount of stress and strain on the rotator cuff,” he says. “I see a ton of rotator cuff tears from weight-bearing exercises on the shoulder and also thrust maneuvers. I also see a lot of low back injuries from lifting heavy weights or doing high reps of an exercise.”
These lower back injuries, he says, tend to happen when someone’s core and hips aren’t strong enough to support the weight they’re lifting. “Our core and our hips are the foundation to doing anything above and below [them],” he says. “If you’re not able to generate enough power from the hips or core, and you lift something heavy, your body will try to produce that power somewhere else—whether it’s in the shoulder, knees, or back—and then it breaks down.”
Your best bet when weight training? Start slow, work your way up, and don’t forget to strengthen your hips and core. “It’s important to work on baseline strength training and only doing exercises at that level,” says Dr. Beauchamp. From there, you’ll eventually be able to progress to those Instagram-worthy weightlifting maneuvers—without the injuries.
To start working on your all-important core muscles, try this 6-move ab-focused workout: