Powerlifter Survey Part 2: training volume, injury, and fear

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all photo credits: Harnek Rai

The three questions below seem simple enough, but a substantial portion of lifters voiced concern about injury and their ability to participate in the sport long term, so I’ve presented the responses here as submitted. Every powerlifter eventually acquires a war story or two about injuries and they are a common concern, regardless of age, really. There is an ongoing perception that injuries acquired add up to increased disability as one ages, but the responses below indicate that this is more of a fear than a reality; all of the respondents had gone through injuries and continued to train. Yet a debilitating injury remains one of the most often-cited fears among powerlifters.

My hope in presenting them here is that those going through an injury can see how normal they are, that they are not alone, and perhaps that those who fear injuries can see that career-ending injury is a common concern (for all ages, in fact) and more a fear than a reality; people seem to have learned to work around and through even some fairly serious setbacks.

The other oft-cited fear is of losing strength and a closing window on performance, yet most respondents indicated that their training intensity and volume have both continued to increase or at least remain the same. This appears to indicate that the idea of a limited time frame in which to achieve meaningful results is also more perception and fear than reality.

I’ve edited occasionally for a spelling mistake, but for the most part, these are the voices of the women who responded, women whose lives are shaped by iron.

In case you missed the others, here are all the posts in this series:

  1. Part 1: Female Masters Powerlifting Survey Results (the quantitative portion)
  2. Powerlifter Survey Part 2: training volume, injury, and fear
  3. Powerlifter survey part 3: Age is just a number
  4. Powerlifter survey part 4: experiences & body image
  5. Powerlifter survey part 5: I have no more words
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credit: Harnek Rai

What about powerlifting scares you or causes you stress?

Squats the beggars

Injury management causes me stress.

That I won’t be able to continue as I age. I regret I found the sport so late.

i worry about my time window.   I feel some stress to “”get everything done”” before I am no longer able to lift/compete at this level due to my age.
I also worry about my uterus falling out sometimes…hahaha

Long term injuries – career ending injuries.

I have ruptured discs in my low back – I probably don’t grind out some lifts for fear of aggravating these again.

Right now, anything putting pressure on spine, so that means now I cannot do squats or deadlifts, so it is bench only.

The only thought that scares me would be an injury that I was told to stop powerlifting forever.

Potential for injury and what I would do if I couldn’t lift anymore

It causes me stress because my husband is incredibly threatened by it.  He is always putting it down.  Pisses me off!

Not one damn thing…… that is the beauty of it….. you get it or you don’t, and if you don’t your team is there to pick you up dust you off and you move forward…. I do not worry about weight, I weigh in at what I weigh in at, I lift what I lift and all my stress melts away….

Not improving as fast as I’d like. That the window for a particular level of achievement is starting to close

That I will not be able to lift as much as I age or lose weight

Fear of failing a lift and getting hurt in front of people, especially at a competition and disappointing people who came to see me

Am I setting myself up for a future hip replacement?

The idea that I have a closing window in which to see what I can really do. I also am scared of lifting really heavy alone (my squat form especially breaks down when I get nervous) and am working on overcoming that fear and finding confidence in my squatting abilities.

12764721_10205616176228915_250284190121735727_ocredit: Harnek Rai

Has your training volume changed in the last three years? Why do you think that is?

Yes. Lighter weight and more volume due to switching coaches and asking for longevity over winning

Yes, much higher.  New trainer changed things up significantly in the last year.  He has different feelings about how often women can train volume compared to men.  It’s made a big difference.

Can only say that over the last 2 years it’s definitely doubled.

Hasn’t changed much.

Volume has dropped significantly.  We used to train 4 days per week but in the past couple of years, there has been a significant restructuring involving fewer days and less volume as my recovery becomes more of a challenge.

Yes have to take longer rest periods in between sets and less sets and reps.

Able to do more. Stronger overall.

In the short time that I have been lifting, my endurance and overall strength has improved so I can do more sets at higher volumes than I could previously.

Yes; mainly due to programming and diet.

Volume has stayed relatively the same. I am lifting more (therefore intensity at the given volume has increased) in training but that has yet to consistently materialize on the platform. i.e) Nationals in 2015 was my best contest since Provincials in 2012 … since then, Worlds and Commonwealths have produced sub-par performances.
Why has volume stayed the same – because my ability to recover has stayed the same (thankfully).

Not really.  Only when I am injured.

It changes after every competition.

Increases as my maximum lifts increase.

Yes.  More educated. Taking it more seriously.

Yes – it has gone up.  New coach with different approach.

No.  The approach of my training has served me well and continues to bring about gains, so I have not made any changes to my programming.

Yes, increased from 3-4 days — tried to increase more but kept getting injured.  I run on my days off from lifting — have been a runner for 25 years (much longer than lifting) and still find it very relaxing.

Not really

Yes–I wanted to lift heavier weights and get in the the gym more often.

Yes, off and on. When I don’t have a particular contest in the near future, I train less, and closer to a contest I have started using a higher volume, more days program. I can’t keep up to 5-6 days in the gym all year long. I also train and compete in Scottish Highland Games so in the spring to summer that is a couple of days per week. Life is busy and my energy isn’t always the same anymore. I am a busy person working full time, and being involved in 3 sports at the National level.

It’s natural your training volume changes. Depends on your goals at the time.

Went from free-weight dumbbell lifting to powerlifting

A change of coaches was a huge factor, and the coaching style of my trainer.

Yes. Getting stronger and change in training cycles.

Yes, because I worked very hard to understand the best volume  for me in order to be able to recover appropriately.

My training volume cycles throughout the year depending on prep for meets/how my body is feeling etc.  I also compete in strongman so if prepping for a meet some of my main lifts for PL get dropped in favor of strongman events.

Yes, but only started a powerlifting program 1 year ago.

Not really.  Only when I am injured.

Probably about the same depending on how long off season is and how many meets I do a year

Not enough information on me to know. We’re still trying to figure out what works best for me.

Since I’m fairly new to the sport my training volume is always changing.

Yes, I was previously not strength training

It’s gone up and down and back up because of recovery from injuries.

It has gotten heavier as I have gotten stronger

it’s increased significantly, as I really benefit from higher volume AND higher intensity.

Yes, because too frequent/ too much volume deadlifts was causing injury. Increased reps in bench and squats to increase strength

Started training 2 years ago

gone up dramatically as my abilities have

N/A or simple no: 10 people

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credit: Harnek Rai

Have you had injuries in the last three years? What sort and how quickly did they heal? Is this different from any injuries you might have had more than five years ago in terms of speed of healing and severity?

“Shoulder – apparent “”age related”” but is affected by heavier bar on squats and bench grinds. So I don’t do that anymore.

Bakers cyst in knee took 3 months for it to go away. I’ve never had that before so don’t know what it’s history is but I’ve been told it will come back when it decides to.

Injured my left shoulder and it will never recover as I now have arthritis and bursitis in that joint.  Fun.  Overall, though, my arthritis is not nearly as much of a problem as it was ten years ago and I rarely have symptoms unless the weather is particularly damp/cold.

I used to tweak my lower back every now and then and while I still do that, recovery is much faster because my core is stronger and I manage my business better in terms of mobility to deal with aches and pains.

Torn quad. More than 3 months to heal. Longer to heal than in the past

It is hard to compare injuries. The only real powerlifting injury I had was recently I tore a hamstring. I was happy with the progress of the healing after I received treatment.  I have a couple of fairly major health issues that have affected my powerlifting but were not caused by powerlifting. One issue was a nerve root inflammation of my c-7( I have 4 herniated neck discs) It rendered my tricep useless for a very long time and It took me a year to recover my bench press. That was approx. 3 years ago. I had issues of c-6 nerve root in my mid 30s when I was a runner my bicep gave up. Otherwise I haven’t had any major weakness in my arms.

Currently dealing with a hip issue that has been ongoing.  Several months ago I had a back problem that restricted training for several weeks.  Prior to this, I haven’t had many injuries.

Always have injuries, knee is always sore but warm it up well and wear knee sleeves same with shoulders .and i have spondylolithsis (spelling) so my lower back is always sore,so have to visit’s chiro when its realy bad but usually self help…stretching ice etc. no difference in healing Except its slower if i dont go in the gym

L5 on going issues at times
Hamstring isolated incident.
Definitely I recover just must be patient.

Shoulder impingement, muscle spasms in back.  With chiro and physio they healed within a month.  I dealt with both issues quickly and improved my lifting form which helped speed the healing process and will hopefully prevent recurrence.

Nothing serious; muscle spasms, knots, sprains…healing is relatively quick, and don’t impact my training much.

I never used to get injured – this despite being an athlete all my life.

I had an ankle injury (basketball) – during my earlier powerlifting training/competing and that took a good 12-14 months to not feel the effects of that injury.

A knee injury in the fall of 2013 kept me out of the squatting game for over 8 months!!! Missed Nats that year when I though I would be healed for that.

Now not a single training session goes by where something feels “”injured”” or “”off””. This is the new normal.

My back is always sore.

My elbows need tlc and my old shoulder injuries are always talking to me…

Shoulder injury 2 years ago took 6 months to heal.  Hip/back/ glute injury Feb 2015, still dealing with it. Everything takes longer to heal the older I get

Tennis elbow healed quickly with Physio- No other injuries

Takes two weeks to heal.

Yes – sprains and muscle pulls.  Heal very slowly.  More slowly than before I lifted – of course I didn’t get hurt much sitting on the couch.

Minor strain – hamstring
Minor strain – lower back
Swelling in palm
All healed without a month, continued lifting during those times (modifying with lighter weights or skipping certain exercises that aggravated injury).

shoulder tendonitis, wrist tendonitis — both took forever to heal.  Started trying to do some Olympic lifts — worked up to them for over a year but still got injured….now back to just the basic powerlifting.  Never been injured before but I think the older I get the harder it is not to get injured.  My job is pretty intense as well and I think the stress of 60-70 hour work weeks, kids and everything else contributes to the likelihood of injury.

Broken foot – healed faster than prior

My nagging injury is a shoulder issue and yes, I feel it is not healing the same (as quickly) as I used to. I didn’t think it was much when it happened (which was not in the gym by the way), but just it is not healing up. Guess that is old age huh?!

I would say the use of foam rolling, the Stick, and other home treatment tools have helped prevent injury and heal the odd issues.

Depends on what you consider is an injury… Its the nature of powerlifting to be muscle fatigued and sore and mobility has some restriction… key is how to manage using recovery tools.  Muscle soreness is not an “”injury””… an injury is a debilitating injury ie. muscle torn from bone, or broken femur… which fortunately I’ve not experienced.

back injury; 6 months intensive treatment and rehab

Torn gluteus med
L3/4 nerve impingement
Partial right labrum hip tear
Takes up to 3 months to get back on track.

Yes, due to an autoimmune disorder I am always injured.  Mine are connected tissue injuries, tendinitis, tendinosis, tears, etc. Unable to answer the question about difference from more than five years ago, because I wasn’t lifting then.  My injuries are due to the fact that I choose to lift heavy while having an autoimmune disorder.

Lower back injury deadlifting. Took about four months to heal.

one back injury 18 months ago…occurred pulling a deadlift.  Training volume went down but i continued in the gym doing what i could until i could ramp back up again.
I used to have more frequent knee/hip injuries when I was running.
I can generally tell when my body is not right so i will use my allied health team to alleviate the problem before it becomes an injury

Shoulder injury 2 years ago took 6 months to heal.  Hip/back/ glute injury Feb 2015, still dealing with it. Everything takes longer to heal the older I get

Yes – shoulder and knee (nothing that needed surgery). Physical therapy and rest can usually fix most of my problems. It’s harder for me to take the time to rest and recover. I get antsy and crabby.

Torn labrum in hip which is what brought me to this gym and then started PL. No injuries from lifting.

I’ve had lower back strains and I have a glute issue right now.  I wasn’t training in this sport 5 years ago so I can’t answer this fairly.  I do feel stronger and healthier now then I did 5 years ago.

Currently nursing a lumbar injury due to an incorrect deadlift

Knee injury-6 months to heal
Idk if it’s any different.
Adductor pull-6 months to heal.  Probably took a little longer because I didn’t rest it completely in the beginning like I should have.
Back injury-this a recurring problem that has happened since I was 20 yrs old.  I have much less issues and heal much more quickly since I started lifting.

Left hip labrum repair, full recovery and healing was on schedule if not ahead. Shoulder injury, not sure what but two cortisone injections

Well, I have dropped stuff on my foot, heavy stuff a weight bar once, 5 years ago I would have had sore swollen knees from running, so there is no fair comparison…. I will say my knees hurt less when I run, but I no longer run as long as far…….

Yes, I broke my thumb and wrecked the tendons in my wrist in a fall. Put me out of lifting action for about 5 months.

Yes, fractured spine and slipped discs, healing slowly, partly congenital

Yes, hamstring strain during deadlift last summer took 4 months to heal because it kept getting re-injured when I tried to increase weight.
Four ribs were also twisted that needed physical therapy to fix.
I was not lifting five year ago, so nothing to compare.”
Can’t squat anymore. Hip injury, arthritis. Every small pain takes forever to heal. Cannot do heavy deadlifts without a recovery period of 8-10 days.

strained adductor, shoulder impingement, elbow tendonitis
Healed relatively quickly. I seem to take a little longer to heal than I used to, but it’s still fairly manageable.

Nos: 3

12778924_10205616182589074_1728523752427210883_ocredit: Harnek Rai

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