3 Major Risk Factors For Injury (NOT TECHNIQUE)

One of the major failings of the fitness industry is how we have gone about teaching the “WHY” behind why injuries will occur in the gym setting.

This is understandable as there are a variety of factors that go into injury risk so it’s extremely easy for confusion to occur in this area.

However, time and time again, whenever someone get’s injured there’s only ever one given answer…technique.

Hurt your back? Bad deadlift technique. Strained a shoulder? Bad overhead technique. Knees Hurt? Work on your squat form. While I’m not saying this couldn’t be the case…technique ends up being a scape goat for so many underlying issues…

Yeah that guy who just hurt his back could have garbage form…but should we also ignore that he’s sleeping 3 hours a night. Should we ignore that he’s stressed out about potentially losing a job when he’s already behind on bills. What about his great idea to suddenly switch up his training from easy sets of eight to max effort triples?

Here’s some risk factors to pay attention to that DO influence injury risk, that don’t just boil down to…do you even lift bro?

1. Sudden Changes in Training Load/Volume/Style

The most common way I see lifters injure themselves isn’t through technique error. It’s making sudden and drastic changes to their day to day programming.

A good program will gradually work you into harder and harder efforts overtime. This may be through increased intensity or through increased work volume.

What you won’t see in a good program is suddenly switching from sets 3 of 10 at RPE 6 to 3 sets of 1 @ RPE 9. These types of sudden drastic changes leave your body no time to adapt to the new stressor and you’re instead leaving yourself to be susceptible to sudden injury, or at the least…be very very sore.

Your body can adapt to a plethora of different styles of training, however it needs to be given an adequate amount of time to adapt to new stimuli. Gradual change over time should be built into your programming to minimize your overall injury risk, especially when switching from one training style to another (I.e. You’re about to change from strength to hypertrophy, powerlifting to weightlifting, etc.)

2. Improper Sleep

A disturbing amount of lifters like to brag about their lack of sleep online and how they are still on #thegrind.

This isn’t impressive it’s just down right stupid when it comes to training.

Outside of eating to properly fuel your body, sleep is your recovery tool. It’s not all the foam rollers, and theraguns, and lacrosse balls. It’s not your weekly massage or chiropractor appointments. It’s just sleep.

Disregarding all the mental health problems that come along with sleep debt, if you aren’t getting proper rest, your body isn’t recovering to the best of it’s ability.

Keep this going for long enough and your body will stop adapting to your gym training, and just end up getting hurt by it.

I understand that for some people out there a less than optimal sleep schedule is the only way they can make ends meet…I’m not talking about those situations.

Answer to yourself right now if you are honestly doing everything you possibly could be to maximize the amount of quality of sleep you are getting each night? If your answer is no, starting putting actionable steps together to make it happen.

3. Life Stress 

Most gym rats understand the basic concept of balancing training stress.

Training in the gym is essentially damaging your body “just enough” that it’s forced to adapt to this stimulus and as a result grow bigger and stronger.

What most lifters won’t account for, however, is all of the stress that happens to them outside of the gym.

Do you work a physically demanding job? Life stress. Worried about your future outlook with bills/making ends meet? Life stress. Having some current relationship troubles? Life stress.

All of your life stress accumulated with whatever training stress you are adding week to week go into one big bucket of stress. If you are not properly managing this stress through both mental and physical recovery you will be more prone to injury in the gym.

Much like sleep this is something that you want to be doing everything you possibly can be to minimize the stress in your life. You’re probably never going to be perfect in this area and that’s fine. The best starting point is to think about what variables you CAN actually control to minimize your stress and worry about those, while leaving all other factors that you can’t control outside of your concern.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.