Weightlifting can be extremely dangerous if you do not have the proper training. This is especially true for powerlifters, who often focus on maximizing weight and decreasing repetitions. Moreover, multi-joint exercises that involve both the lower body and upper body can be particularly dangerous, as these exercises require proper technique around all joints and a high level of expertise.
Most of what you will learn about proper technique and injury prevention will be learned through training with an instructor or group, as well as thorugh your own personal experience. This is a gradual process that will allow you to adjust your technique as you become more proficient with the exercises. However, there are some things that both beginners and advanced weightlifters can do in order to prevent injury, and some of these are quick and simple tasks that are really easy to do.
External Support via Bracing
Have you ever noticed that powerlifters often wear a type of sleeve around their knees? In some cases, if a powerlifter has had a previous leg injury, you may even see a full on brace, but for the most part, knee compression sleeves tend to be a little more popular in the sport. There are a couple reasons why.
Perhaps the most obvious reason to wear a knee sleeve when lifting weights is to provided more stability to the knee joints. The highest level of stability comes from lockable hinged knee braces, but these are usually reserved for those recovering form surgery, and they aren’t very practical in the gym. On the other hand, knee compression sleeves are much more simple, cheap, and easy to slip on, but the support is usually quite minimal.
More recently, some stronger knee supports for weightlifters have hit the market with good reviews. These supports are different from other more common knee compression sleeves in two ways. First, they come in a plus sizes, which is necessary in order to accommodate the large legs of weightlifters. One of the most common sizes is a whopping XXXL, which up until recently has been largely unavailable. Second, they are usually made with slightly thicker and definitely stronger material, which is necessary in order to bear the load of heavy weights (and body!), as well as to provide even better pound-for-pound support than their traditional counterparts.
Stretching is widely known as a way to decrease musculoskeltal injuries such as strains, but this is eaasier said than done for weighlifters, especially those pushing themsleves to the limit in terms of maximum weight. Actvities like yoga can be great to improve general flexibility, but too much flexibility can lead to excessive joint laxity, which may predispose different parts of the body to a higher risk of injury.
Generally speaking, there is no clearly defined way for weightlifters to stretch, as this will vary by program, goals, size, and each individual’s body. However, it appears that dynamic stretching may be best for weightlifters, at least before a lifting session, as this will help with flexibility without causing a reduction in peak power output, and it conveniently contributes to your warmup as well. After the workout, static stretching may be prefered to stay loose for the next session. Foam rollers are also a great recovery tool, making sure you’re prepared for your next workout.
If you have injury prevention in mind while lifting, you are already on the right track to achieving your lifting goals without sacrificing your health. Braces can seem like a hassle, but there are now some great braces out there for powerlifters that are quick and easy, and most importantly, highly effective. Stretching can help as well, but given the optimal stretching routine will vary by individual, we recommend exploring this avenue in a group setting with your powerlifting peers.