Updated: Jan 15, 2022
Most of us enjoy lifting weights in the gym. For most of us, it's something that we look forward to doing every day.
It takes a lot of time and hard work to reach your goals in weightlifting, and even more time to continue training if we want to maintain our gains that we work so hard for.
This means that many of us are going to end up training for the rest of our lives. Well, at least for as long as we're able to.
You see, while lifting weights and training hard does bring about some great results and is a fun way to spend our time, it does come with a hidden cost. It's not all that friendly on our bones and joints.
You see, especially if you're accustomed to lifting heavy pretty often, years and years of placing large amounts of stress on the body can eventually lead to overworked joints and damage.
And the joints are very important parts of the body too. In order for us to live active lifestyles and even get around properly, they need to be healthy.
That's why in this post, we'll be going over the 7 best tips to keep in mind during lifting that'll help you protect your joints and keep them functioning for longer.
How to Protect Your Joints When Lifting Weights
Do a Proper Warmup
One of the most important things you need to remember to do before practically any workout session is to ensure that you're getting a proper warmup in.
Doing a proper warmup is going to help you increase your body temperature, including the temperature of your joints.
A good warmup is going to help dilate (widen or expand) our blood vessels and allow for increased blood flow to our muscles and joints, which means more oxygen and increased functionality.
You'll increase the flexibility of your muscles and joints, reduce stiffness and reduce the chances of you ending up in a disadvantaged position under heavy weight.
If you were to try and lift heavy without having the proper flexibility to perform an exercise, you'd drastically increase your chances of facing an injury.
For example, trying to barbell back squat under heavy loads without having the proper ankle mobility to get your knees out in front of your toes is going to cause you to place huge and unnecessary amounts of stress on the knee joint, and likely develop injuries over time.
As a bonus, warming up prior to your workout is going to help increase your flexibility, which can help you to achieve a greater range of motions and build more muscle over time.
Muscle growth is directly correlated with range of motion. At least up to a point. This means usually, achieving a greater range of motion is going to lead to more muscle growth.
This study conducted by Brad Schoenfeld concluded that: "When assessing the current body of literature, it can be inferred that performing RT through a full ROM confers beneficial effects on hypertrophy of the lower body musculature versus training with a partial ROM."
So always ensure that you do a proper warmup as it's going to help keep you safe and training as efficiently as possible.
Drinking water and keeping yourself hydrated is going to help you flush toxins out of your body and fight inflammation of the joints, which is actually pretty common among weightlifter who constantly challenge their bodies hard.
Our joints also have cartilage that are made up of 60% water. this cartilage helps to reduce friction between the bones in our joints and acts as a shock absorber.
Properly staying hydrated can help you increase the lubrication of your joints, and maintain their shock absorbing or cushioning abilities.
Plus, you need to be drinking water so that you can stay energized and performing as best as you possibly can.
If you do this you're not going to feel as fatigued in the gym and you'll decrease the risk of form breakdown, which can quickly lead to too much stress on the joints and serious injury under heavy loads.
So make sure you're drinking your water! It's a very simple fix for most people, but can do wonders for your joints and the overall quality of your life.
Lift With Correct Form and Technique
It's no secret that you should always try to lift with the correct form before progressing onto heavier loads on an exercise. That you should always take the time to learn how to do an exercise properly before using a load that's remotely heavy.
However, many, many people do the complete opposite of this (especially beginners). Many people are quick to jump onto heavy loads and try to perform an exercise for the second or third time ever, without having properly learned how to do it.
This can lead to people being stuck in very disadvantageous positions, carrying very heavy loads.
We'll use the barbell squat for example again. Many people don't take the time to learn how to properly squat, and quickly move on and try to lift heavy weight.
However, if performed incorrectly and not aligning your body correcting, a barbell back squat can become very, very dangerous for the knees, ankles and spine.
You might've seen videos of people completely blowing their knees out trying to squat too heavy. Or their backs give out and they end up crushing themselves under the weight.
There's no doubt that an injury like that due to not taking the time to learn proper form or trying to lift too heavy is going to have a lasting impact on their joint health, for years and years to come.
Always take the time to learn proper form and lift with the right technique. If you don't the only things you'll be developing are your ego and some serious joint pain for yourself to suffer through in the future.
Don't Just Train With Barbells
This might come as a surprise for some people, but just training with barbells all the time is actually not the best way to go about building muscle and maintaining a functional body.
You see, for a very long time most of us believed that training with barbells all the time was going to lead to the most strength gain and the most muscle growth.
Probably because we saw all the old school bodybuilders and lifters such as Arnold Schwarzenegger training with barbells and dumbbells all the time.
However, the truth is, constantly training with barbells is going to take a serious toll on your joints as time goes on.
Lifting with a barbell causes your joints to stay in a fixed position. For example, during a barbell bench press you're only able to press the bar up and down.
This position is going to be unnatural and unfriendly on the joints (wrists, elbows and shoulders) for most people.
Now compare this to chest/bench pressing with dumbbells or on a converging chest press machine. With dumbbells, you're able to manipulate and move the weight however you would like to get to a more optimal movement pattern and path.
With a converging chest press machine, it's going to be designed to help you move in a way that reflects your biomechanics well, and is friendlier on the joints (if the designers know what they're doing of course!).
Instead of simply always lifting with barbells that cause you to lift in unnatural positions where you pace too much stress on your joints, look to switch things up a little and incorporate more dumbbell/machine work into your program!
And the same goes for a smith machine. In fact, that's going to be even worse than a barbell.
Learn more: is the smith machine really that bad?
Yes, you can still build muscle if you were to use barbells the majority of the time. We can confirm this by just taking a look a the old school bodybuilders once again.
However, what we can also see is that many of them ended up with joint injuries and disabilities long before many other people do. Many of them ended up confined to wheelchairs or crutches and unable to get around properly.
Yes, they took their bodies to the extreme very often. But constantly training with barbells (possibly due to weight machines being less accessible) would have had an impact and influence on that as well.
Stay on Top of Your Diet
Just because you're exercising doesn't mean that you don't have to watch what you're eating.
Lifting weights regularly and intensely can lead to inflammation in our joints.
And eating the right food choices can actually help us reduce our inflammation and reduce pain or discomfort.
On the contrast, there are actually some foods that can cause inflammation or amplify it. These foods include: (according to Harvard Health)
Refined carbs such as white bread and pastry
French fries and other fried food
Red meat (burgers, hot dogs, etc.)
The foods that you SHOULD be looking to consume more of include:
Fruits such as strawberries and oranges
Green vegetables such as lettuce
Nuts such as almonds
Fatty fish such as tuna or salmon
You want to reduce inflammation as much as possible. And keeping on top of your diet and watching what you put into your body is a great way to do this.
Learn more about creating your own workout meal plan by reading our blog post here!
Take Your Rest Days
It's also vitally important that you take your rest days and allow your body to recover from all the hard work that you're putting it through.
When we lift weights, our body suffers microtears and damage to the muscles, bones and joints. This damage needs to be repaired in order for our body to grow stronger and slowly adapt to the stress we put it through over time.
However, if you don't take your rest days seriously and aren't really giving your body a chance to recover, you're going to develop injuries and possibly find yourself suffering from chronic pain.
You'll have yourself heading into new workout sessions still feeling sore and not fully recovered, which is going to further increase the damage done to your body.
Eventually, this is going to add up and you'll get hurt.
Taking your rest days properly is also going to help you train more efficiently and lift with better form, which is going to once again help you reduce the chances of injury by accidentally placing too much stress on the bones and joints.
Plus, you'll be able to train harder and make more gains, whether you're looking to build muscle, get stronger or both!
Don't Train Through Pain or Discomfort
This should be another clear and obvious one, but we see so many people squatting, deadlifting and bench pressing even though their bodies are practically screaming at them to stop.
It's important to stop what you're doing and reassess the situation if you ever feel pain when you're lifting weights.
We're not just talking about the pain that comes from working hard either. We're not talking about your bicep that starts to feel sore, or your quads that burn during a squat set.
We're talking about actual pain that's going to lead to injuries if you're not careful.
We can't describe this feeling to you. No one can. You'll gradually learn the difference between pain from working hard and pain from injury as you get more and more experienced.
If you do know the difference, great. Never train through it if you find that you're feeling pain from a developing injury.
However if you don't yet know the difference between these types of pain, then simply play it safe. If something hurts really bad, and you're sure that it's in the joints and not your muscles (although you can still feel pain and get injured in your muscles), then stop.
Safety always comes first, and there are no exceptions to this in weightlifting.
Your joint health is extremely important for you to preserve if you plan on walking and getting around in your everyday life properly for as long as possible. We imagine you do.
That's why it's so vital that you take the time to understand these 7 key tips on how to preserve your joint health and keep them functioning as efficiently as possible.
Remember, all your hard work is going to go to waste if you're not able to train properly due to joint/bone injuries. Always, always take the time to do things safely.
We hope you were abel to learn something from this article and enjoyed reading through it! If you did remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and help more achieve their own goals in fitness!
If you would like some help with your own fitness journey, and would like to remove some of the guesswork for yourself, upgrade your account to Gympulsive Pro to gain full access to the site and access to all of our workout programs for a boost in your gains!