Are There Disadvantages of Weight Training? What to Know

Sep 11, 2023

Man lifting up dumbbells.

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Weight training offers many benefits. It helps you build muscle, relieve stress and keep your mind and body healthy. If you’re dedicated enough to your nutrition, you could even sport the fabled six-pack on the beach this summer. However, there are some disadvantages to lifting weights that you should be aware of.

As with any other physical activity, proper techniques and planning are essential to obtaining the desired results. Otherwise, things could go terribly awry — it’s rare, but it happens. Here’s what you should know about the disadvantages of weight training and what you can do to minimize the risks.

1. Acute Injuries

Hitting the gym isn’t inherently dangerous, but the injury statistics bear a grim warning. Between 1990 and 2007, American hospitals treated nearly one million injuries related to weight training. The incidents increased almost 50% over the 18-year study period. What lurks behind these fitness foibles? 

The biggest disadvantage of weight training is that anyone can do it. The gym’s accessibility should be a huge benefit, but people vary widely in their fitness expertise and don’t always get their information from reliable sources. Beginners usually don’t realize the mistakes they’re making until it’s too late, which results in a sudden and often severe injury. This vicious cycle is one of the main cons of weightlifting that turns skeptics away.

As a result, far too many gym-goers use improper, even downright dangerous techniques they see online or witness other people doing. For example, it’s not uncommon for folks doing Romanian deadlifts to strain their lower back and cause chronic back pain, which is one of the leading causes of disability.

Back strains are statistically the most common weight-training injuries, but there are many others. Shoulders, knees and elbows are also injury-prone areas because of the pressure they have to endure. These disadvantages of lifting heavy weights often scare people away from certain exercises. 

Compound movements like the “snatch” exercise pictured above put your lower back, shoulders and knees in vulnerable positions, which can lead to a devastating injury without proper form.
Compound movements like the “snatch” exercise pictured above put your lower back, shoulders and knees in vulnerable positions, which can lead to a devastating injury without proper form.

What’s your best bet for avoiding injury? Hire a personal trainer — even if only for a session or two. You might even get this service for free. Many fitness facilities include a free hour or two of learning proper weight-lifting techniques as part of their membership package. Please take advantage of this amenity if offered. 

You might also consider sticking with strength training machines instead of heading right to the free weights — especially if you’re a novice. The fixed nature of these devices holds your body in precise alignment, reducing injury risk. You won’t work as many complementary and opposing muscle groups, but you’ll prevent unnecessary strain. 

Another pro-tip: go light. Far too many injuries occur when people bite off more than they can chew — a classic example involves getting pinned under a bench press bar. It also helps to have a spotter, even if they aren’t a professional trainer. They can help you with those heavy lifts and critique your form. Plus, working out with a buddy motivates you to stick with the program. 

2. Overtraining

Most people understand the “weekend warrior” syndrome: you remain relatively sedentary all week, then hit the gym hard on the weekends. Come Monday, you hobble back into the office with every part of your body screaming — if you aren’t laid up in Urgent Care. 

Overtraining is the second major disadvantage of weight training that occurs when you work out at too high an intensity level for too long without a break while ignoring the subtle signs that you should slow down. Ironically, training too hard or too frequently can derail your progress because it can result in injuries or performance plateaus. 

How can you recognize when you’ve pushed past your limits? Look for the following signs:

  • Persistent soreness: While many people experience delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), you shouldn’t feel sore all the time. If your muscles continuously ache throughout your training or randomly experience spasms during the day, you need to take things down a notch.
  • “Heavy” muscles: No, we’re not referring to your bulk. Rather, this heaviness is a subjective feeling — you might find it tough to do basic physical activities throughout the day, such as walking up a flight of stairs, sitting on the toilet or doing household chores.
  • Increase in tension, anger or confusion: One of the overlooked cons of weight training is how physical exercise can negatively impact your mental state. Overtraining can increase the stress hormone cortisol, which aggravates your mood and makes you anxious.
  • Inability to relax and poor quality sleep: Going too hard also keeps your central nervous system in a constant “high alert” state. As a result, you may feel perpetually restless and find it impossible to stay asleep even though you’re exhausted. 

There is a common misconception among fitness beginners that you need to train two or three hours a day. This idea could not be further from the truth. As a general rule, most of your workouts should take no longer than one hour to maximize the benefits. After one hour, the benefits plateau. After two hours, you’re doing more harm than good. 

Aside from the aforementioned disadvantages of strength training too much, longer workouts can also make you plumb sick of training and more likely to quit your program. You must train in moderation for the good of your physical and mental state.

3. Joint Damage

Joint damage is one of the other main cons of weight lifting, which is ironic because exercising can also ease your pain if you have arthritis. It builds the muscle around your joints so that your cartilage doesn’t have to do all the work. Whether you benefit from healthier joints depends on your form and the resistance level you select. 

You can avoid or minimize joint pain by following these tips: 

  • Warm-up: Your warm-up is the place for dynamic stretching. Moves like lunges and squats without weights prepare your lower body, while tai chi twists and shoulder rolls prepare your upper body for action. 
  • Stay light: Treat weight training like the tortoise and the hare. You’re in this for the long haul. Therefore, stay on the lighter side with your weight selection, gradually increasing as it feels safe. You’ll never become one of the hulking behemoths you admire if you spend half your time on the disabled list. 
  • Cool down: You should stretch — and rest. Generally, it takes 24 to 48 hours for your muscles to recover from a strength-training workout. Taking adequate time allows your body to repair the microscopic tears that lead to strength gains. 
  • Listen to your body: Every day in the gym is different. Minor changes in hormonal or hydration levels can impact performance. You could even have a mild infection without knowing it — you may only feel more tired than usual. Honor your body’s cues and take it easy when need be.
  • Seek physical therapy: If your joint problems are ongoing, consider visiting a physical therapist. Massage therapy or chiropractic therapy could be the solution you’re looking for.
  • Wear supportive equipment: You can wear a weight lifting belt along with sleeves or wraps on your elbows, knees and wrists to increase stability and safety during heavy lifts.

Here you can see a powerlifter wearing a belt and knee wraps while performing a heavy squat. These accessories are absolute must-haves if you want to reach maximum strength levels with minimum injury risk.
Here you can see a powerlifter wearing a belt and knee wraps while performing a heavy squat. These accessories are absolute must-haves if you want to reach maximum strength levels with minimum injury risk.

Joint pain is also among the most common disadvantages of weight training because of improper diet. You need to eat a healthy dose of anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, berries, oatmeal and dark leafy vegetables. You could also take a collagen protein supplement to improve your skin and joint elasticity. 

4. Arterial Tears

Arterial tears are probably the scariest disadvantage of lifting heavy weights. Although it happens rarely, there is a small chance that aorta and carotid artery injuries occur from lifting too much or lifting too heavy. Occasionally, other blood vessels like the celiac artery also incur damage. 

If the thought of tearing open a major blood vessel inside your body scares you, it should. For example, aortic dissection can prove fatal. One study of recreational weightlifters with such injuries reported a 32.2% mortality rate, although surgical intervention saved lives over 80% of the time. Still — this possibility serves as another dire warning to start slow and avoid lifting more than you can comfortably handle.

If you want to avoid rupturing a blood vessel at all costs but don’t want to give up strength training, then avoid the heaviest exercises such as the bench press, deadlift and squat. Most arterial tears occur in a powerlifting setting when performing these three compound movements. Stick to machines, cables and lighter free weights.

5. Tight Muscles 

Everyone’s flexibility range differs. However, one disadvantage of weight training sometimes appears on the yoga mat. You could find yourself limited compared to your previous stretching ability. Although you can gradually improve your flexibility over time, there will always be some genetic limitations due to your specific body type and other factors such as your age, height and injury history.

Yoga is especially beneficial for your core and spinal column. Doing poses like the bridge pose pictured above can lead to improved form and less discomfort in all of your weight training exercises.
Yoga is especially beneficial for your core and spinal column. Doing poses like the bridge pose pictured above can lead to improved form and less discomfort in all of your weight training exercises.

Fortunately, this disadvantage of weight training is easier to address than the other items on this list. You will see noticeable benefits to your tight muscles by performing at least 5-10 minutes of flexibility training after exercising. You can do this simple routine at the gym or at home with some resistance bands whenever you get the chance.

Additionally, you might want to devote your rest day to yoga practice to balance strength with elasticity. Strength training can still be the foundation of your exercise routine, but it’s always a good idea to mix in other workout styles so you don’t have any major weaknesses.

Avoid the Disadvantages of Weight Training 

Strength training is one of the best physical activities you can do. It tones your body while benefiting your mental health. It can even help you meet friends and make meaningful business connections in the gym. 

However, you have to recognize the risks. Now that you know the disadvantages of weight training, you can take effective measures to make your next sweat session safer and more productive.

Originally written 2/5/2023 — Updated 9/15/23


Author

Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.