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Weightlifting sports such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, and Olympic lifting are characterized by heavy loads, repetitive motions, and relatively frequent high-intensity training sessions. Common chronic injuries include rotator cuff and kneecap tendinopathies as well as stress fractures to the vertebrae and upper extremities (that is, forearm splints). Nerve injuries are also common. Bodybuilding differs somewhat from powerlifting and Olympic lifting in that the weight loads are more moderate and the volume somewhat higher. This study attempted to determine the types and frequency of injuries among elite and competitive bodybuilders.
Research conducted at the University of Cologne in Germany sought to find out if competitive and elite bodybuilders experienced injuries more frequently than other lifters, such as powerlifters. Seventy-one competitive bodybuilders were interviewed, and each completed an injury-history questionnaire.
The results showed that the lumbar spine (39%), the upper extremity including the shoulder (37%) and elbow (34%), and the knee (31%) are the most frequently injured body parts. There were approximately 0.24 injuries per 1,000 hours of bodybuilding. Older athletes showed higher injury rates (under 40 versus over 40 years). The following variables had no effect on injury rates: use of supporting devices, weight loads (more or less than 70% 1RM), duration of workouts, warming up, or experience competing at a local or national/international level.
Although reports of pain felt during training were common among elite and competitive bodybuilders (approximately 45%), injuries that necessitated discontinuation of training were much less frequent than those in powerlifting, strongman, and Olympic lifting. This decreased rate of injury is believed to be due to relatively lower weight loads used during training.
To prevent injuries during training, there are simple steps you can take before doing exercises known to cause injuries. For example, warm up with a few light sets of triceps pushdowns before doing heavy skull crushers. Also, perform the most demanding and/or heavy exercises early in the workout to reduce the impact of fatigue on control of the weight.