7 things you’re doing at the gym that could cause muscle and joint injuries

While there are few things more exhilarating than reaching a new personal best at the gym, it’s just as easy to go too far and hurt yourself in the process. This can set your fitness routine back considerably, and can result in a long and painful recovery. The most common gym injuries include strained backs due to heavy lifting, a strained shoulder or rotator cuff injury from moving too fast, ACL injuries from rapid jumping, and runner’s knee from taking long strides that put the pressure on the cartilage around the area. Dr Chirag Borana, an orthopaedic surgeon who practises at Mumbai-based Apollo Spectra Hospital, points out that he regularly gets cases of gym injuries to spine, neck and knees. “Usually ligaments and other soft tissues in and around the joints gets torn and can cause short term as well as long term effects like arthritis. Pay attention to sudden onset pain during a workout session and also aggravation of long-standing pains post doing particular exercises,” he says. We spoke to experts to find out how you might be leaving yourself susceptible to a muscle or joint injury, and what you should be doing instead.

1. You’re skipping the warm up and the cool down

A good warm up loosens your joints and improves the blood flow to your muscles, thereby reducing chances of injuries through wear and tear during the workout. Cooling down brings your heart back to normal rate. “We all know this, yet tend to ignore it, especially when short on time. This is the most common cause of injuries,” says celebrity Pilates instructor Namrata Purohit, whose client list includes Janhvi Kapoor, Malaika Arora, Jacqueline Fernandez, Shraddha Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Her advice to all her clients: Even a five-seven minute warm up/ cool down can help, so skipping it is non-negotiable.

2. You are not stretching right

Stretching is an important part of any fitness regimen. A lot of people skip stretching altogether, while some may not be doing it right, warns Purohit. She explains, “For example, bouncing during a stretch can lead to muscle strains. Ease into the stretch instead and go as far as your flexibility allows, only gently pushing yourself a little further. Make it a regular part of your routine.”

3. You’re lifting weights that are too heavy

When done right, weight training can help you get leaner, increase your stamina and improve bone density. However, if you’re not careful while choosing or lifting weights, it can hurt your back and joints, particularly affecting the knees, ankles and back. “It is good to be ambitious and also push oneself but if you are unsure or tired it is better to go lighter on a day than going heavy that can lead to muscle tears or bad form which could put pressure on your joints.”

4. You’re not focusing on form

Bad form is one of the biggest culprits for causing muscle and joint pain, and in severe cases injuries too, points out Purohit. Besides compromising the efficiency of your workout and its results, poor form puts your body at risk as you end up putting pressure on the wrong muscles. “Mild ache is common because of lifting weights, but if proper technique is not used it can cause injury and severe pain,” cautions Dr Borana.

He says that a classic example is flaring your elbows as you perform a chest or bench press incorrectly, which ends up using your shoulders or triceps, making you prone to stiff muscles at best, and a slip disc at worst. Lifting weights with locked knees is another no-no as it tightens the hamstring muscles leading to poor balance. Further, jogging on your heels can put stress on the knees, but the same can be averted if you land on the balls of your feet.

5. You’re wearing the wrong shoes

If you’re planning to workout, your gym shoes must be upto scratch, especially because each sport or exercise requires specifications. Look to the support, compatibility with your foot shape, cushioning and elevation between and the forefoot and heel before purchasing a new pair. “For example, trainers designed for running provide a lot of cushioning which holds the ankles in good stead,” she says.

6. You are not resting enough

According to Purohit, rest is one of the most important parts of your training regime. “It is during the rest phase that your muscles build, and your body can see positive changes. Don’t skip this phase of training, resting doesn’t mean you’re being lazy, it means you’re being smart. It helps prevent injuries, especially due to overuse. I cannot emphasise the importance of rest enough,” she adds.

7. You’re overdoing it

When it comes to fitness, the rule of being slow and steady works. “If you have taken a break or are starting fresh, let your body adapt and ease into training. Trying to do too much all at once could lead to injury and pain,” cautions Purohit. “Working out too much, or when you’re fatigued, tired and dehydrated is one of the primary causes of long-term injuries,” says Dr Shailendra Chaubey, medical director of Vedary. “It gets worse when despite soreness and pain you continue to work out without taking proper rest or following healing protocols like, stretches and physiotherapy,” he adds.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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