Weight Lifting and Resistance Training

By: Katelyn Harmon LPTA
Foot, Ankle & Running Center
Orthopaedic Rehab Specialists

It was once viewed that weight lifting and resistance training were deemed unsafe and injury-inducing. However, more and more research has suggested those views are inaccurate…if done safely and correctly. In fact, recent studies have concluded that safe weight lifting can actually aid athletes (and non-athletes) with injury prevention and can assist with performance of sports and/or daily activities. The key is to train safely and consistently.

There are steps that should be taken in order to maximize the results from weight lifting as well as to optimize safety: 

  • Make sure you always lift with another well-informed, trained individual. This could be a weight lifting coach, instructor, personal trainer, etc. They will be able to give you feedback to perform correctly, as well as be able to help safely dispose of the weights if a lift is too heavy or performed incorrectly.
  • Warm up before any exercise/lifting session. An active warm up will allow the blood to flow through the muscles and system, which will prepare the body for extreme, high intensity tasks, and will restore flexibility to enable full joint range of motion.
  • Start off with lighter resistance (or minimal resistance) to work on form. An example of this would be using a PVC pipe to practice lifting technique. You should always work on technique first to make sure you have the correct movement patterns before adding resistance. It could be hazardous to increase resistance too early without having the proper technique, as the “muscle memory” will not be present to perform in the intended positions (motor control learning). Core stabilization techniques and exercises are extremely beneficial with preventing excessive movement with lifting. Abdominal bracing and/or use of a lightweight lifting belt can assist and cue the body to stabilize first before, during, and after movement.

It is important to note that, when isolating specific muscle groups, to make sure to complete at a slow, controlled pace throughout the entire movement, in order to get the most out of the resistance training. This will recruit the most muscle fibers and reduce compensation of other muscles. This includes even the return to neutral position, as the muscle fibers are still actively firing, just in a different direction/position.

It is natural for micro tears to occur in the muscles during strength training, as the resistance literally breaks down fibers of the muscles being used. This is known as the overload principle, which focuses on consistent and increasing loading/resistance of muscles. In order for the muscle fibers to break down, the load must exceed the amount the muscle usually handles. However, with proper recovery, nutrition, and consistent training (3-4 times a week), the muscles should grow back stronger, with increased fiber growth. This will be different for every person, based on a number of factors including health, age, fitness level, body type, and other factors. The resistance should not go past the point of complete fatigue of the system.

Additional steps to ensure safe lifting and high intensity training are:

  • Make sure to rest properly between strength training days (at least 24-48 hours)
  • Supplement a workout with a recovery meal/drink within the next 30 minutes after an intense workout. Studies are showing more frequently that an active recovery, or light exercise, is proving to become more beneficial than passive recovery, or complete rest. Active recovery allows for lactic acid, which is a buildup waste from muscle use, to be adequately removed from the system. It also restores blood flow and circulation throughout the whole system to promote optimal healing.
  • Resistance training can help build up strength to enable daily tasks such as lifting a heavy box from the floor, all the way to a skilled athlete making a cut and battling off a defender. As muscle fibers increase in and surrounding the joint structures, increased stability occurs which will ultimately aid in preventing injuries such as ligament sprains and tears. However, as emphasized earlier, it is only effective when done in a safe, smart, and controlled manner. Special consideration, planning, and care must be present in order to get the most benefit from strength training.

Katelyn is a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant at our West Clinic in Jackson and can be reached at: katelynpta@orsmi.com


Kisner, C., & Colby, L. (2012). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.

Starrett, K. (2012). Becoming a Supple leopard: movement, mobility, and maintenance of the human animal. Auberry, CA: Victory