August 19


Common gym injuries – strains, sprains, bumps and bruises

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Gyms seem like relatively safe places. We frequent them often and walk out the front door without any major complaints. Well, other than the normal aching and DOMS brought on by a particularly tough workout. However, in some respects, the gym can be a dangerous, accident-prone place where you might pick up an injury. People go there to push their bodies, sometimes to the extreme. And sometimes, our bodies just say "enough is enough."

The most common gym injuries aren't serious, but they do keep us from going about our day-to-day activities as normal. The overwhelming majority of cases are the result of poor technique.


Most gyms have an induction policy in place. These generally show members how to correctly use the equipment. Consequently, the hope is to avoid injury while working out.

Besides dropping weights on your foot or falling off the treadmill, the majority of gym injuries are a direct result of bad technique. Furthermore, it is the continual repetition of this bad habit that leads to problems.

Please note - this piece has been designed to offer advice only. If you are in any doubt at all regarding your health, you should seek immediate professional medical advice.

Injuries in the gym

The first (often overlooked) rule for any gym user is to wear the correct footwear and clothing. It may seem simple but this can help prevent an injury.

Think of the type of workout you are going to be doing and choose your shoes appropriately.

For example, those plimsolls might look great but are they going to support your feet for 45 minutes on the treadmill? Are the soles grippy enough to take part in that high-impact group fitness class you want to do?

Similarly, are those soft super-comfortable trainers going to allow you to squat heavy and keep your feet planted firmly on the floor?

As you might expect, cuts, strains and sprains frequently occur among gym users. These are the most common forms of injury, and in these situations, a good first aid kit is always necessary.

Muscle strains are a common gym injury

A muscle strain, also referred to as a muscle tear, is a common gym injury. This can range from a very minor over-stretching of the muscle, all the way up to a partial or complete tear of the muscle. Minor strains generally lead to slight swelling in the area and minor discomfort.

You can prevent muscle strains by doing a warm-up set of each exercise. These activities help prepare the muscle fibres and the surrounding connective tissues.

Again, technique plays a key role when lifting weights. Putting your muscles under high stress in awkward angles increases the chances of an injury. Therefore, lifting only what you are capable of, and progressing slowly is sensible advice.


Inflammatory conditions are also brought on by repetitive strain and can cause conditions such as tendonitis - the inflammation of a tendon.

preventing inflammation

Exercising too freequently, that is going too hard too often, will lead to problems.

The most common areas affected by tendonitis are the elbows and the knees. Bursitis is another condition injury picked up by gym enthusiasts. It's an inflammation of a fluid-filled sac that lies between tendons, ligaments and bones. They can occur basically anywhere that a soft tissue might rub against bone.

But, possibly surprisingly, finger injuries are the most common weight-training injury reported to hospitals. These usually occur when a user is lifting the weights on or off the stands. Additionally, cable stacks, selector pins and pulley systems all provide plenty of 'pinch points' that can easily snag an unsuspecting finger.

Common exercise mistakes that can lead to injuries while using the gym

Injuries can occur when you least expect them. However, there are many common mistakes gym users make when exercising. Fixing these can dramatically reduce your chances of injury:

Unbalanced strength training programs

Most people focus only on certain muscles, like the abdominal or biceps. The temptation is to prioritise those muscles that you can see in the mirror. Bear in mind that it's important to work your whole body to achieve balance.

Poor technique will eventually lead to injury

Using incorrect form can lead to injury. Learning how to perform each exercise safely and effectively will greatly reduce your risk of injury.

If you're not sure, ask a good PT or gym instructor who'll be able to help.

Inconsistent progression

Exercising too frequently, that is - going too hard too often, will lead to problems. Similarly, increasing training intensity too quickly is a mistake many beginners make.

Consistency and gradual progression are important for avoiding injury as well as for making improvements in your fitness level.

Changes in your gym routine

Overuse injuries or unbalanced approaches can be common. Some gym users find a routine that works and then stick with it week after week, sometimes for years without any changes.

Too many sessions of the same workout over and over can lead to boredom, injury or burnout. Furthermore, you will find the effectiveness of the workout diminish the longer you keep them. Switch things up now and then, but not too often either.

Skipping the warm-up

Taking about 5-10 minutes to gradually increase your body temperature and heart rate has been shown to decrease the risk of injury.

First aid kits for dealing with gym injuries

A gym should always keep a well-stocked first aid kit. While they obviously can't prevent a gym injury, they certainly help in dealing with the consequences.

Ideally, gyms would have more than one kit, just in case a specific item or the initial kit is misplaced. It is essential that all members of staff, everyone from a fitness trainer to an office manager, along with all gym users are aware of the exact storage position of the kit in the gym. They should be clearly signposted and kept in an easily-accessible area. Next time you're training, have a look and see if you can find where the first aid is.

All kits should contain the basics. Items such as plasters, cohesive bandages, sterile dressings and cleansing wipes. Additionally, it's important to include products such as instant ice packs, zinc oxide tape, a resuscitation face shield, eyewash pods and gloves.

Make sure your gym is (first aid) kitted out and you'll be good to go.

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs.

He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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