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Research on What Causes Frequent Injuries?

TC Luoma often makes jokes in articles about how bodybuilders and power lifters get injured so easily, one example of a comment he made is that they have to warm up by curling kittens before they can throw a large cat.

I’m wondering is there is any research on what causes this capacity to easily get pulls and injuries, is there anything that can reverse it?

TC Luoma isn’t speaking from a research base. Lifting has the lowest injury rate of almost any competitive activity.

This question is a bit too broad but an interesting discussion. Did you have any injuries in mind you’d like to talk about?

Something to be aware of is that the vast majority of injury epidemiology studies cover “real sports,” particularly team sports and distance running. After that, individual sports like swimming and track and field. Lifting and lifting-related sports are really at the bottom of the research bucket, although this is increasing now

Injuries rates are relatively low in lifting sports. Other sports, contact or no contact, have higher rates of injury. So the capacity doesn’t exist unless we are going with injury is frequent in all sports.

Technique is usually the first thing that comes up. It’s multi faceted and isn’t as simple as it may seem. e.g. consistency of technique is area say you’ve been doing mostly half reps on bench. If u keep the weight/volume and suddenly go full ROM even if it’s just by accident on one rep ur risk goes up.

IMO managing total workload is more important than technique to stay within your tissues tolerance. You can deadlift with perfect form but if u overdo the total workload you’re at greater risk of injury. This goes hand in hand with managing recovery. If u get 1 hr of sleep than how much workload you can recover from drops making it easier to exceed.

Depending on your needs warm up / movement prep may be useful. If you can’t perform a lift without compensating at every joint awkwardly because of movement deficits it’s probably worth fixing because for every rep you are placing extra strain on ur tissues.

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Sounds like he is saying bodybuilders get injured doing non-bodybuilding activities rather than lifting which sounds like ribbing but, TBH, wouldn’t surprise me. That said, without a linked article, who knows what was actually written and in what context.

@tuttle It’s a joke, no need to freak.

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Definitely concur. Pretty much every lifting injury, even the “acute” ones, are still overuse injuries. Acute injuries like disc herniation, pec tendon tears and rotator cuff tendon tears generally all result from repeated overload of the relevant tissue without adequate recovery. Muscle strains and ruptures can often be attributed to failure to develop sufficient strength and size in the relevant muscles. Other common complaints like elbow and knee pain are pretty much all overuse injuries.

The common theme here is lifters who “suddenly” get injured probably had the injury a long time coming, or did something stupid that lead to them getting injured like an obviously-too-heavy attempt

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Ahh classic acute overuse lol

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There’s actually some talk supporting this, particularly from tendon-rehab researchers like Keith Barr. He says that heavy training breaks collagen cross links but increases its collagen content, making a thicker tendon that is more compliant. When people who’ve only done heavy training try to participate in elastic activities, this means their muscle either has to work doubly-hard, leading to a strain, or the ill-prepared tendon cops the brunt and ends up pathological.

Plus, activities like sprinting are super technical, so there’s that consideration too.


I know TC Luoma was joking, but its a joke he’s been making for decades because its true. I haven’t been able to seriously weightlift for a couple of years now. I had lifted for 15 years prior to that point and was ready to go for my pro card in natural bodybuilding, but I get hurt just walking now. That’s usually a calf pull, but it could be quad to hammy issues too.

Are you serious when you say you get hurt just from walking, or is that an exaggeration?

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If there is any truth to it, it is with bodybuilders on PEDs (putting on muscle at a rate too fast for their joints, ligaments tendons, etc. to keep up with/support) not with naturals.

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What causes injuries is excess force. Some people can take more than others for genetic reasons. The amount you can withstand goes down with age and tissue damage. Train in the manner Arthur Jones prescribed and your risk of injury will be very low.

You are incapable of guaranteeing that

I didn’t guarantee you won’t get injured; I said your risk will be low.

I think what my esteemed colleaguebrah @j4gga2 meant that force is not quite the whole picture so controlling that alone is insufficient to put you in the low risk category.

FWIW it’s my understanding force plays a role but exceeding individual tissue tolerance is more accumulated trauma than acute forces.

Some tissues in the body are capable of high forces acutely and chronically. The forces involved in running are immense for example 3-4x BW IIRC x many strides. More than most people lift. Accumulated trauma of high forces + other exacerbating factors = high rate of injury in runners.

j4gga2 I’m serious.

And for the HIT guy, I basically trained like Yates for most of my training.

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Recently found out that peak reaction forces for highly-competitive fast bowlers and triple jumpers are in the order of 8-12 x bodyweight, applied over fractions of a second (less than 0.2s). I genuinely find it amazing that the bones, tendons and ligaments are capable of adapting to such tremendous loads and don’t just snap immediately.

For pretty much every injury you see in lifting, I agree.

If you’re getting hurt when you walk, chances are there’s something funny with how you’re walking and/or you’ve pushed your body’s recovery capacity way past what it can manage. Thus, I would strongly recommend finding a physiotherapist, chiropractor or exercise physiologist who works with athletes. You could also try a sports med doc, but they’ll probably just refer you to a physio. You could also try an osteopath, but I haven’t come across many you know how to manage athletes. The most important thing is that whichever clinician you choose, they should evaluate you’re training loads and training history, on top of all their standard diagnostic screens.

Usually, the answer for muscle strains is often getting stronger (exception being sprinters), but it’s pretty obvious that you’ll probably need a very different strategy

^ @huslinbriks what I said was you cannot guarantee his injury risk would be low with HIT. The only way to train with a minimum injury risk is to not train at all, and then you’re probably still at risk of getting injured as soon as you participate in something active :man_shrugging:.

Saying that HIT reduces injury risk is pretending that the whole body is capable of repairing in the span of a single microcycle, since (as we’ve established) most lifting injuries can be considered over/misuse injuries. You have no way of guaranteeing that a LOWER overall volume of work at a higher intensity is creating less strain on inert soft tissues, and therefore you cannot guarantee that HIT reduces injury risk.

I say all of this as someone who prefers training with 1-2 sets to failure +/- rest pause etc.

Case in point

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As the Jonesian philosophy minimizes both force (slow cadence) and volume, it’s only logical to conclude that it minimizes injury risk compared to other lifting protocols that use heavier weight, faster movements, and higher volumes. If HIT hurts you, anything else will hurt you faster and worse.

Counter point: inert tissues have a low force tolerance when loaded at a slower rate

I’m not saying HIT is bad, I’m saying that we can’t say what types of reasonable training methods will and will not reduce injury risk

Why not? It is bad. It’s actually stupid in most ways. Dorian Yates didn’t manage to avoid injury using it.

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Dorian Yates is only one guy. I might be wrong here but I believe John Meadows, for example, trains in a similar fashion and isn’t anywhere near as fucked up.

My whole point has been that pain and injury are too multi-factorial to conclude that any single training method/program will significantly increase or decrease risk of injury