exercises that can cause injury

Any type of physical activity or exercise comes with the risk of injury. Anything from walking to more grueling and demanding fitness plans, such as high-intensity training programs, can have potential risks based on your age, conditioning level, gender, and several other factors.

Staying active is crucial to your health, so it’s important to learn how to prevent injuries. Don’t let the fear of getting hurt keep you from staying healthy with exercise.

UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, was featured in an article in the July 2013 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine on exercises that are often done incorrectly, causing injuries. Some of the exercises discussed in the article included:

Box Jumps

Jumping is a high-impact activity that can put a lot of stress and strain on the body, especially the knees. Box jumps have become increasingly popular in high-intensity training programs. This involves jumping from the ground up to a platform and then back down to the floor. The challenging nature of this exercise and repeating it can cause your form to weaken and put your knees at higher risk of injury.

When exercises involve jumping, it is important to use proper form to support your joints. When landing, remember to stay loose and keep your knees bent to absorb the impact of your jump.

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Bending Sideways Holding Weights

This popular abdominal exercise involves bending at the waist and leaning to the side (without leaning forward or backward) while holding a weight to work the core. Selecting the appropriate weight and maintaining proper form during this exercise can be difficult.

When you use weights that are too heavy, you are putting your back at a high risk of hyperextension. To prevent back injuries and pain increase weight gradually. When you first try the exercise, underestimate the amount of weight and build over time. Keep your core tight and lower yourself slowly to maintain proper form.

Bench Presses

This classic exercise is part of many workout routines. A bench press involves lying on your back on a bench and lifting a weighted bar. The key to safely executing a bench press depends on proper hand positioning. If your hands are too far apart, you increase your risk of a rotator cuff injury because your shoulders are intensely worked as opposed to the weight being distributed across multiple muscle groups. The recommended positioning is to hold the bar with your hands at shoulder width. This can help evenly exert the shoulders, arms, and chest, and allow for a more effective and safe workout.

In addition to these three exercises, there are many other common moves that must be done properly in order to prevent injury:


Squats are another staple exercise. They can be done with your body weight or additional weight. This exercise involves engaging your lower body while bending the knees and lowering your full body toward the ground.

The position of your knees plays a big role in proper squat form and presents a risk of injury if done incorrectly. When you bend so that your knees extend past your toes, you risk hurting your knees and back. Keep your knees in line with your toes, and if you’re using a squat bar, keep your hands shoulder width apart.

Bicep Curls

Bicep curls are one of the most popular exercises to work your arms. If done correctly, they can be helpful in building your biceps and triceps. If done incorrectly, you risk injury to your rotator cuff, as well as other shoulder and arm muscles.

Poor posture both in bicep curls and other areas of our lives can lead to improper execution of this exercise. Many people tend to hunch, bringing the shoulders forward, which actually strains your muscles as you lift. Focus on curling one arm at a time, and pay attention to the position of your shoulders.

Overhead Press

The overhead press involves isolating your arms to raise them from shoulder height above the head. This exercise is conducted with weights but may result in back pain if not done correctly.

UPMC Sports Medicine recommends this move if you can successfully execute it without feeling any shoulder, back, or arm pain. If you are pain-free, focus on keeping your shoulders from rising and slowly executing the press. If you do experience pain, take the exercise out of your routine and try other moves, such as pushups, instead.

To learn more about sports medicine and workout injuries, visit UPMC Sports Medicine or call 1-855-93-SPORTS (77678) to speak with an expert.

About Sports Medicine

Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.