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Risk Vs Reward

Are You Setting Yourself Up For Injury?

Posted by heyhay5212 - May 6th, 2015

Let’s start off by stating that injuries suck.  No one is ever happy or relieved that they strained a muscle or sprained a ligament.  The silver lining of injuries is that they are usually preventable, especially in a strength training setting.  A weight room or gym is a fairly controlled setting compared to sports.  You as the weight lifter decide almost everything; the resistance, the exercises, the time of day, the program, and the equipment.  Stack the deck in your favor so you can prevent injuries inside the weight room so you can keep making progress towards your goals.   Use the following checklists to figure out what exercises are right for you and if you are setting yourself up for injuries.

Start With Reliable Sources

Like many people, I grew up playing numerous teams sports.  When I got into high school my coaches started incorporating strength training into our conditioning programs.  Those weight room sessions after practice were my first exposure to strength training.  The things I did in that weight room was my foundation for strength training throughout high school and the beginning of college.  I imagine many people have a similar story to mine; strength training advice comes from coaches, teammates, the biggest guy in the gym, friends, older siblings, etc.  When starting strength training for the first time it’s good to use role models to help guide your training but there comes a time when one needs to start using critical thinking to decide what would be best for your own goals.  It is easy to keep doing the same things you have done for years because the power of habit is incredible.  

When deciding who to take exercise advice from, think about the following:

What are my goals?
Defining your own goals is often overlooked or just done passively without much thought or regard.  Writing down goals will help you focus your energies and help you figure out what resources to use.  Break down goals into specific categories such as performance measures, power, injury status, strength, speed, muscle gain, body composition, aesthetics, endurance, etc.  After you have defined your goals, prioritize your goals.  Label the most important goal as an “A” goal.  There are usually only 1-2 “A” goals per year so make them good!  “A” goals are usually long term goals (6 months to 1 year and more) and typically revolve around a specific time of year or competition.  The next level of goals is “B” goals.  A person usually has 2-4 “B” goals a year and the “B” goals support the “A” goals.  “B” goals are 3-4 months in length and are usually the length of a macrocycle in a training plan.  The last level of goals is “C” goals.  “C” goals are relatively short term, lasting 2 weeks to 2 months.  “C” goals are smaller goals that can be accomplished within a macrocycle.  There can be a relatively unlimited number of “C” goals but 3-6 “C” goals is typical.  

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Does the person or resource I am taking exercise advice from have similar goals to my own or have a strong knowledge on how to attain my goals?

Using someone who has personally accomplished some of the same fitness goals as your own or has helped other people accomplish their goals will be helpful.  

Does this person have my best interest in mind?
Asking yourself “Why does this person want to help me?” will help you decide if your resource is trustworthy.

Will this person be there to help me if things do not go as planned?  

Getting constructive feedback is very valuable if your goals change or your progress gets derailed.  Some of the best people to have on your side are people that will help you when your progress is hindered rather than saying, “You didn’t get the results you wanted because you didn’t work hard enough.”

Does this person have credible qualifications to give exercise advice?

The fitness industry has so many different certifications and the number grows every year.  Many certifications are simply “pay and print” where you pay a fee to become certified with minimal training and experience.  Be sure to look into any credentials a person holds to see what is required to obtain the credential and to keep it valid.

Does this person use a combination of experience and strong scientific research to determine what exercises to recommend?

To me, real life experience and strong scientific research hold equal weight.  Real life experience teaches me more than videos and books combined.  Also, strong scientific research needs to come from trusted and pertinent peer reviewed journals, college courses, and textbooks; not magazine articles.  Magazine articles may cite scientific research but it is your job to check out the research to see if the science is pertinent to you.  Check to see if the population used in the research study is large, similar to you, and unbiased.  Also be sure to see if the scientific research had any bias because of financial interests in the outcomes.

After you have decided what resources to use, now it’s time to figure out if the exercises and workouts are doing you justice.

High Risk & Low Risk Positions

“Mechanism of injury” is a medical term for how the patient became injured.  Different mechanisms of injury are researched to determine what causes an injury.  Most injuries are determined by distribution of forces and dangerous positions.

Distribution of Forces

Forces are all around us.  The body has to overcome and distribute many forces whether you’re walking, running, jumping, or lifting weights.  In general, less stress will be placed on one specific structure when a force can be dissipated over a longer period of time and over a larger area.  So how does this apply to strength training?  Distributing forces through muscles is less risky than distributing forces through bones and joints.  Muscles can adapt and change more easily than ligaments, bones, and cartilage because of the intricate blood supply to muscles.  In general, avoiding extreme ranges of motion at any single joint will help distribute forces into multiple areas of the body which will save any single joint from taking the brunt of any exercise.  

Dangerous Positions

There are positions with the body that have a high likelihood of injury.  The following list describes dangerous positions at each joint that can be encountered while strength training.  Obviously accidents occur that are beyond your control, but do not willfully place your body in these positions.  These positions should generally be avoided:


  1. Abduction and weighted/forced external rotation
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  2. Internal rotation with horizontal adduction
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  1. Flexion while holding a load, as with a row or deadlift
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  2. Hyperextension while squatting or lifting something from the floor

  3. Rotation with flexion while standing


  1. Hyperextension while pressing, as with a bench press


  1. Hip internal rotation while squatting so knees “buckle inward”

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  1. Excessive anterior translation of femur over tibiaImage title
  2. Flexion with hip internal rotation
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  3. Flexion with hip external rotation

  4. Hyperextension
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  1. Plantar flexion with inversion


If you regularly encounter any of these positions, modify your form and exercises to improve your form and technique.  Pain in the joints during or after an exercise is NOT okay.  Most of the aforementioned positions are the result of poor technique.  Learn the proper exercise form and execute it on every repetition.  It only takes one bad repetition to sustain an injury.  Take control of your injury potential so you can keep progressing towards your goals!

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posted by heyhay5212
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Owner of Onyx Athletic Performance
Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

BS in Athletic Training, Minor in Nutrition, University of Utah

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Injuries suck alright - you're right about them being a learning process though. Bad form = injuries, and injuries = learning not to make that same mistake again. What sucks more is getting injured, but not knowing how you did it! Then you don't learn much haha :)

Great article @heyhay5212!!

FaithBramlett  Edit  Delete  Close

Well put Scott. Very true! Bad form could lead to an injury. And repeating the mistake will too lol. Gotta live and learn! 

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Thanks Heyhay5212!  You know I always got more good stuff coming soon!


Injury is my middle name. I am very prone to injury. It's more of a predisposition than anything. Since I've encountered so many injuries though, it allows me to better help my clients with their own. Injuries are not fun!

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

hit me up tomorrow and I will connect you guys!


great article @heyhay5212, I think a lot of people get injured when they try to progress too fast.  That is why I slowed down my training frequency with trying to hit 550lbs on my deadlift.  I could feel my body breaking down.  Better safe than sorry.  A torn tendon isn't a fun situation!

heyhay5212  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you @scott_herman. Progressing too quickly is also a major source of injuries. Keep chipping away at that deadlift! I'm excited to see your 550lb video. 


Really nice article Haley. You see these dangerous positions all the time. And you see the corresponding injuries far too often as well.

heyhay5212  Edit  Delete  Close

Thank you! Hearing about so many injuries and even seeing some happen right in front of me has really made me passionate about preventing injuries, especially in the weight room.