Consequences of Lifting Too Heavily

Weightlifters and bodybuilders use a technique known as progressive overload to increase muscle size and power by increasing the amount of weight they lift on a regular basis. Caution must be used when increasing weight amounts, however, as attempting to lift weights that are too heavy can result in muscle injuries and other health problems. This is especially important if you are trying to lift weights in excess of half of your body weight, as life-threatening complications can occur.

Muscle Injury

Lifting weights that are too heavy can result in injury to your muscles and connective tissue. Microscopic tears and other damage occur in your muscles and tendons even when you lift within your normal weight range; this is a normal part of muscle development. The new muscle tissue that grows to heal the tears makes the muscle more dense and powerful. If you try to lift weights that are too heavy, the damage done to the muscles is more severe and takes longer to heal. Tendinitis, pulled muscles and other muscle injuries can also occur.

Spinal Injury

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Though the arms suffer the most obvious strains while lifting, a significant amount of stress is put on the back as well. Attempting to lift a weight that is too heavy increases this stress, sometimes beyond what the muscles of the back can bear. If this occurs, pinched nerves, herniated disks and other spinal injuries can occur. If back problems are already present, heavy lifting can make them worse.

Hiatal Hernias

Weightlifters wear weight belts to provide additional support along the bottom of the abdominal cavity as a means to prevent hernias. The pressure within the abdominal cavity while lifting increases with the amount of weight that you lift; attempting to lift weights that are too heavy can cause ruptures or tears in the abdominal cavity. Depending on the severity of the injury, these ruptures may not be able to heal on their own and may require surgery.

Other Injuries

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Heavy lifting increases the rate at which your muscles suffer from exhaustion and you become fatigued. As this occurs, your lifting form may suffer, making you more likely to lose your balance or let the weights slip. Injuries to the fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders can occur, as can injuries to the hips, knees and ankles if you are lifting standing up. If you drop the weight you are lifting, more severe injuries can occur as well.

Cardiovascular Problems

A study by John Elefteriades and his colleagues that was published in the journal "Cardiology" in 2006 found that heavy lifting can result in enlargement and even tearing of the aorta, the primary artery connected to the heart. Just under one-third of the cases where a tear occurred resulted in death. Elefteriades' research found that heavy lifting creates a significant increase in blood pressure, and that in some cases this increase can be enough to damage the aorta of individuals who have an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm to cause it to rupture.