It’s ironic: Strength training can help prevent numerous muscle and joint injuries, yet many people still get hurt in the gym. The good news is that old injuries can be protected and new ones prevented by just slightly altering the way you work out. Here’s a joint-by-joint look at some of the most common areas that cause us pain — and how to tweak your routine to end up stronger than ever.
Problem Area: Shoulders
Because of its structure, your shoulder joint is one of the most vulnerable areas on your body, and up to a third of weightlifting injuries occur here.
“You can exert relatively large forces on the shoulder because of the lever arm, so you need to [strengthen the] rotator cuff muscles that hold the shoulder in place,” says Dr. Ronald Karzel, an orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Santa Clarita, California. “Women are also a bit more flexible and tend to have looser shoulder joints, so heavier lifting can put them at greater risk.”