When we mention the word Powerlifting a lot of people like to conjure up images of athletes lifting heavy weights and pushing themselves to the limit and constantly dealing with injuries or pain. When we talk about Powerlifting competitions some people may believe that pushing those maximal loads at competitions would be a common cause for injury or pain. However, it is much less likely that an athlete will get injured at a competition in comparison to during everyday training. Most injuries occur during training due to training too heavy, too frequently, with too little recovery or with bad technique. Powerlifting in comparison to many other physically demanding sports has a lower rate of injury.
Contributing Factors To Powerlifting Injuries or Pain
- Not Training With An Adequate Periodised Program
Training without a proper program will not only cause us to not effectively progress our strength. Additionally training at maximal loads too often in the gym without giving our bodies the proper time to recover will cause trainees to be more susceptible to injury.
- Bad Technique
Bad technique may be due to various different factors, it is important that we utilise and progress athletes so they can perform optimally with good technique to reduce risks of injuries. Some common causes for bad technique include:
Lacking the necessary mobility in certain joints will affect the way we perform certain exercises. This will cause other muscles or joints to pick up the slack and compensate for the joint or muscle that is limited which will cause us to use muscles that are not prepared to take on the load of the movement. Over time this will lead the trainee to become more susceptible to injuries.
Fatigue plays a major role in technique breakdown. If a muscle is fatigued it will be the same as having limited mobility and the load must then be shifted over to other muscles to compensate and complete the lift. Additionally fatigue can cause an individual to stress a certain muscle beyond its limit which can easily lead to injury. Managing fatigue is an important factor in long-term success in the sport.
It is also quite common for a lifter to have the ability to perform particular lifts and get to certain ranges of motions but have developed bad habits over the course of their training career which hinder their ability to perform optimally. If not addressed these issues can, over time, develop into further issues and eventually may lead to injury or stagnation.
- Pushing Through Pain
No pain no gain right? Some people believe that pushing through pain and being hurt is a natural part of Powerlifting and choose to ignore their bodies when they are in pain and try to push through it which may lead to further pain or injury.
Powerlifting Injury Prevention Strategies
- Follow A Periodized Program
Following a periodised program involves strategically planning out phases in which the lifter will work at high intensities and weights and phases in which the lifter will work at lower intensities. There may also be phases where the trainee focusses on weaknesses and other aspects which will contribute to the long-term success of the athlete. This will not aid in managing fatigue but may also keep training novel or the athlete.
- Improve Mobility and Movement Capability
Addressing limitations such as mobility issues will allow an athlete to move more efficiently and effectively while preventing injury. Training at a fuller range of motion will not only allow an athlete to better target and develop the correct muscles but will also ensure that the athlete is using the correct muscles to perform the lift, decreasing the chance of injury due to over/incorrect use.
- Fix Incorrect Movement Patterns
It is important to continually evaluate ourselves to ensure we are performing movements optimally. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and try to recognise parts of a lift that we may have issues with and what we can do to address them.
After figuring out what the issue is and taking steps to rectify the issue it is usually a good idea to spend some time lifting at some lower training percentages and building back up to where we currently are.
- Develop An Injury Management Plan
When an injury occurs it is important to identify why the injury occured (fatigue, bad technique, etc.) and which joints or muscles were affected.
It is also essential we recognise what we can do to address and prevent the same injury in the future, this may mean we need to focus on mobility or strengthening certain stabilizing muscles in the affected area.
It is also essential that after an injury we manage training effectively and slowly progress back into regular training without causing further injury. It may be a good idea to work with a physiotherapist or trainer to ensure we aren’t overdoing it and to help identify areas to focus on developing during the recovery period.