Tips for preventing workout-related injuries

In my roles as a regular exerciser and fitness professional, I’ve seen many workout-related injuries.

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Both my own (Achilles tendonitis and Intercostal muscle strain; thankfully, not at the same time…) and those of my clients and group fitness participants (knees and shoulders tend to top the list…). 

The thing is, most people who exercise regularly will experience a workout-related injury at some point or other.

Many occur as a consequence of over-use; repeatedly doing the same form of exercise for too many days, weeks and months in a row. Others are due to hasty progression; adding too much weight too soon and compromising form in the process.

Because my preference is always to work on ‘prehab’ rather than ‘rehab’ ;), I give you;

Tips for preventing workout-related injuries

  • tailor your warmup to fit the workout. Every workout requires a warmup. Five to seven minutes spent preparing the body for the workout to come. In addition to slowly elevating your heart rate, body temperature and general circulation, the warmup will also stimulate the release of synovial fluid in the joints; fluid which helps to improve range of motion. Ideally, warmup movements will mimic the exercises to be performed in the workout itself. For example, a kettlebell workout warmup might include body weight lunges, lateral lunges and squats to help open up the hips before the swinging starts.
  • build a solid foundation. You can’t run before you learn to walk and expect to do it injury-free. Learning proper exercise form, without the addition of weights or external resistance, is essential for preventing workout-related injuries. Paying attention to which muscles are working during a particular exercise will help you build the mind-body awareness crucial to gaining strength and remaining capable of working out for many years to come. If you don’t know where to start, hire a personal trainer (or check out my at-home, beginner workout)
  • err on the side of ‘too easy’. There’s far too much emphasis placed on ‘hard’, ‘balls to the wall’ style workouts. If you’re new to exercise in general, or to a specific form of movement, scale back. Forget the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ and bypass the workouts labelled ‘killer’ and ‘insane’. Remind yourself that you’re in it for the long haul and being side-lined by an injury induced by an ‘extreme’ workout will only undermine your health and fitness goals.
  • pay attention to your body. Pain is the body’s way of telling you that you’ve injured yourself or are about to. Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. Know the difference between muscular fatigue and muscular pain. The former is a signal to scale back, the latter a big red stop sign. Recognize that ability and performance vary from workout to workout and that not every gym session will be full of personal bests. Challenge yourself on days when you’re feeling strong and energetic, pull back on days when you’re not. Reducing your squat load or cutting a workout short are not signs of failure, but an indication that you care about your body enough to protect it from injury.
Struggling with a workout-related injury despite following the above tips? Check out the following posts!
Share your workout-related injury below; misery loves company 😉




  1. Great advice! I especially like the first one. And need to think about that. At the gym, I have been running on the treadmill for about 10 minutes and then stretching .,.. before Body Pump, and before Flow Yoga and Body Flow. Perhaps I need to rethink that warmup for the Body Pump and do some squats and lunges, too.

    • I think that I’ll put together a ‘warm up’ post. I know that with many of my clients, we do hang out on the treadmill before heading to a warmup set of weights. It’s easier for me to check in with them that way. But when I’m working out myself, I always start with range of motion movements…

  2. SMART advise for sure – injuries suck but ARE preventable and able to be worked through!
    Kat recently posted…Mondays Motivation #8 + a Change to MondaysMy Profile

    • Thanks Kat! I find the psychological aspect of an injury to be almost worse than the physical. So much so, that I go to extreme lengths (now) to prevent

  3. Great tips especially build a solid foundation! Nothing can be built on quicksand. Paying attention to your body is so vital when training. Mind/body connection! Thanks for sharing. Best Regards,Wendy
    Wendy Bottrell recently posted…Tips for Athletes with Gluten IntoleranceMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Wendy. I truly believe that many people are in such a rush to make ‘progress’ in the gym, that they forget about really nailing foundational movements.

  4. Such great reminders. I am guilty as charged for sometimes skipping a dynamic warmup before my workout. When I’m time-pressed it’s so easy to want to blow it off….and so dangerous.

  5. YES! YES! YES!!! You said it all!!! And so yes to paying attention to the bod.. a;ways so you understand the difference betw muscular fatigue & injury.
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & ExpoWest 2014; Happy Bday Time Again!My Profile

  6. Always pay attention to how your body is feeling. Am taking a break today because I feel muscular fatigue. I need to do better on the warming up before the workout! 🙂

  7. After being a runner for over 40 years (and a triathlete for over 30) without too many injuries they are cropping up more frequently now due to age and cumulative wear and tear. Sometimes this is what causes injuries and not just what you stated.

    • Cheryl, absolutely, long term exercise can contribute to more frequency injuries. I tend to think of that as a long term repetitive strain type of trigger. Of course, no reason not to exercise when you’re young just because it may make you more susceptible to injuries later… 🙂

  8. You tips are quite informative for avoiding workout injury. I believe every person body has its own limitation. It is important to give your body proper rest and try to make workout as a part of your daily routine.

  9. Wish I’d read this sooner. Too late for me as currently nursing an Intercostal Strain injury after being over-zealous with side sit-ups and other oblique exercises (hence how I came across your site as that post of yours on the same injury you suffered does rank highly).
    My question though is do you warm up cold muscles or warm them up with some gentle cardio (such as walking on the treadmill) first? Seems to be mixed opinion on that one.

    • Davina,
      I presume that you’re asking whether I warm up before I do the stretch and strength exercises that my chiropractor recommended? And yes, I do. I always recommend a warm up before any type of exercise at all. It can be as simple as a walk around the block, an easy 5-7 minutes on the cardio machine of your choice, or some slow whole body movements like squats, lunges, plank walk outs and arm circles. Always best to get the blood flowing to those muscles before working them!

      Sorry you’re suffering from IS. How long ago did the injury occur?

      • Hi Tamara, sorry, my earlier question didn’t make a huge amount of sense, yes, that’s what I meant and thanks for your reply.
        I did the IS injury just a few days ago. Can’t believe how suddenly immobile it’s rendered me and sleeping is really not easy. Epsom salt baths in the morning do help a little to loosen up and get blood flowing. I’ve not had an exercise related injury before and didn’t think I’d overdone it but it just goes to show that as we get older (I’m approaching the big 5-0) you can’t take your body for granted. Also, looking back, the warmup and stretching in the class didn’t include any abs or oblique warmup movements and your point above is very valid about mimicing what you’re going to be exercising.
        Hopefully won’t be too long before I can get back to it.

  10. You tips are quite informative for avoiding workout injury. I believe every person body has its own limitation. It is important to give your body proper rest and try to make workout as a part of your daily routine.


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