Can Lifting Heavy Weights Damage Joints?

man with dumbbell weight training equipment  gym
Man lifting weights at gym (Image: LUNAMARINA/iStock/Getty Images)

Doing any type of resistance training on a regular basis can actually be beneficial to people suffering from chronic joint pain, according to "Arthritis Today." However, using improper form, lifting too often or lifting weights that are too heavy can lead to joint problems. To avoid joint pain and damage caused by weightlifting, it’s important to follow a basic set of guidelines before starting a resistance training regimen.

Pre-Workout Stretch

Stretching before a workout is important for weightlifters. Stretching for five to 10 minutes just before hitting the gym helps to prepare your muscles and joints for the upcoming stress. Static stretching works best, meaning you hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds rather than bouncing back and forth, which can be harmful to your muscles, tendons and joints.

Remember to Warm Up

Immediately after a good stretch, spend an additional five minutes to warm up your muscles by walking briskly, jogging or lifting light weights. This helps to get the blood flowing throughout the body by increasing your heart rate and breathing rate. Massaging the joints that frequently experience pain when you work out, such as the knees or shoulders, also can be beneficial.

Avoid Heavy Weight

During your weightlifting routine, avoid weights that are too heavy, especially if you have experienced joint pain in the past. Weight that is too heavy would include any weightlifting exercise you cannot do more than 10 repetitions. You can build strength and muscle size by using lighter weight and doing 10 to 15 repetitions per set. While bodybuilders often use heavy weight/low reps to build muscle, they are professionals, so the average person should avoid this type of training.

Cooldown

After a workout, it’s important to repeat your pre-workout routine – stretching and jogging – to help your body start the recovery process. Recovering from a resistance training workout takes one to two days, so get plenty of rest and do not lift the following day, or you risk damaging joints and limiting your muscle gains. By staying well-rested, warming-up properly, lifting lighter weight and cooling down post-workout, you will greatly decrease your risk of joint damage.

Joint Damage

The most common types of joint-related damage incurred by bodybuilders and other athletes include arthritis, bursitis and tendinitis. Your doctor can diagnose the exact source of your joint pain and give you a more detailed treatment regimen.

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