Age-related muscle deterioration affects almost everyone, to one degree or another. Many people lose about 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade after they reach age 30. By the time these individuals reach late-middle age, this incremental loss often begins taking a significant toll.
Less muscle mass usually means less stamina. As a result, previous physical activities become chores, or may even be impossible to perform. Less strength also usually means weight gain, partially because inactivity breeds further inactivity and partly because fat cells sometimes replace the muscle cells. Finally, a high body fat percentage can take a toll on outlook and confidence levels, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to look one’s best.
To reduce or eliminate this loss, many middle-age people turn to strength training. Like any other exercise program, there is an inherent risk of a rather serious injury. About the only way to see meaningful progress in a strength training regimen is to push the body as far as it will go, and it’s very easy to push things just a little too hard. Don’t miss this quick injury guide:
Throwing punches at a heavy bag or a human dummy may not be the best way to build muscle strength, but it is an excellent way to mix up a workout and remain engaged in your fitness plan. Plus, there is something visceral about hitting something that cannot hit back.
Bennett’s Fracture, which is an injury to the metacarpal (thumb) bone where it joins with the carpal (wrist) bone, is very common in boxers, football players, and soccer goalkeepers. Fractures of this nature always require surgical correction. Although the bone will heal naturally, it may not heal properly if a doctor does not set the bone.
Most all weightlifting involves gripping a bar. This procedure may sound simple, but it’s also one of the most frequent injury causes among weightlifters, especially if they add too much weight too quickly. Some common injuries include:
- Tennis Elbow: Yes, even though weightlifters do not play tennis and may not use their elbows at all, they can still develop lateral elbow tendonitis. Although pain presents in the elbow, improper gripping actually causes this injury.
- Skier’s Thumb: So named because it often affects skiers who hold onto their poles when they fall, a sprained thumb affects the ulnar collateral ligament, which is near the thumb’s base.
To treat muscle or ligament injuries like these, use a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If possible, the compression should include a brace to further encourage recovery of an injured thumb joint.
Exercises that place the arms above the head create a risk for SLAP tears, which are shoulder injuries not unlike rotator cuff injuries. Both sudden trauma and chronic overuse can cause a superior labrum anterior and posterior tear, so veteran and new weightlifters are equally at risk.
To prevent these injuries, warm up the entire upper back before lifting, especially the shoulder blades. Then, during reps, keep the shoulder in the correct position (away from the ears and in a downward position). If you experience pain, swelling, and lost range of motion, you probably have a SLAP tear. Rest, ice, compression and elevation usually work for these injuries as well.
Knee injuries, like patellofemoral pain syndrome, are usually associated with runners. But they occur in strength training settings as well. If the patient has underdeveloped leg and hip muscles, the knee bears too much stress during kickboxing, weightlifting, and other such activities, causing injury. PFPS, in which the kneecap (patella) rubs against the thigh bone (femur), is the most common type of fitness knee injury.
Once again, the rest, ice, compression, and elevation approach usually corrects PFPS and other muscle or ligament injuries in the knee. Regular stretching and light running should help prevent the injury.
It’s important to lift weights in middle age, but it’s also important to be smart about injury risks.