How to Prevent a Hernia in Weightlifting
Did you know that almost two percent of the world’s population will suffer from a hernia? And these are just the reported cases.
Hernias are one of the most common injuries in fitness. While some forms of hernia are caused by genetics or surgery, the most common form – inguinal hernias – is largely preventable. 
Let’s take a closer look at what a hernia is, causes of a hernia, and how to prevent a hernia without sacrificing your workout routine and results.
What is a Hernia?
Your abdominal muscles act as both a layer of protection and a wall of support for your internal organs. A hernia occurs when a part of your intestine pushes through the abdominal muscle wall. The most common areas on the body where a hernia is likely to occur is the groin and lower abdomen.
Depending on your weight and where it occurs, the hernia may or may not be visible as a lump on the skin.
Aside from the obvious bulge that forms as a result of a hernia, symptoms include the following:
- Burning and aching at the site of the bulge
- Pain or discomfort when bending over, coughing, or lifting
- Heavy weighted sensation in your groin
- Weakness or pressure in your groin
How to Prevent a Hernia?
Prevention is the best medicine. Here’s how to prevent a hernia without negatively impacting your workout routine:
1. Strengthen Your Core
The first thing you can do to prevent a hernia in weightlifting is strengthen your core.
Remember that one half of the equation for developing a hernia is weak abdominal muscles. The thing is that you can’t just focus on the front abdominal wall as this can cause overcompensation issues. Instead, you’ll want to focus on your core as a whole unit.
Check out our sliding disc core workout to get you started. It includes both the acute variables and detailed instructions on how to perform each exercise.
2. Be Mindful of Certain Exercises
Not all exercises are created equal. Some exercises will naturally put more pressure on the abdominal wall. Even if you are actively strengthening your core musculature, this will still increase the risk of developing a hernia.
For example, squats and deadlifts place an excessive amount of pressure on the abdominal wall even with light weight. Be mindful of how each exercise can impact your kinetic chain with an emphasis on the hips, groin, and abdominals.
Here are some common exercises that can place an excessive amount of pressure on those areas of the body:
- Weight-based abdominal exercises such as cable crunches and Russian twists
- High-intensity exercises such as burpees and box jumps
- Jumping exercises such as jump squats and jumping lunges
3. Start Light Before Going Heavy
Continuing with the point above, once you identify the exercises in your workouts that are going to put the most pressure on your abdominal wall, get into the habit of starting with light weight.
Using heavy weight in a safe manner is great but we highly recommend that you build up to it. Start with a few lightweight warm-up sets, gradually increasing the weight as you decrease the number of repetitions.
4. Master Your Form with the Big Three
We can’t emphasize proper form and execution enough. If you’re new to fitness, hire a trainer for at least a month and go over the fundamentals of weightlifting with an emphasis on the big three: squat, deadlift, and bench press.
Even if you’ve been lifting for years, it’s important to do a semi-annual form checkup. Put your ego aside and ask a trainer or a well-trained friend to watch your form during exercises to ensure you’re still performing the exercise correctly.
Here’s why this is important: Maybe you skip a few days of stretching and develop tight muscles without even realizing it. This progressive muscle tightness can lead to muscle overcompensation – again, without you realizing it.
If this occurs, muscles can grow weak. If this includes your abs, you will increase your risk for developing a hernia while being completely oblivious to it.
It only takes a few minutes, but we recommend having a trainer watch your form for the following exercises:
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
Concerned about your deadlift? Here are the top 10 deadlifting mistakes that you need to correct.
5. Eat Your Vegetables
Constipation and trying to force bowel movements can also increase your risk for developing a hernia.
To alleviate constipation, include plenty of fiber-rich foods. This fiber-focused diet can support healthy bowel movements, decreasing the risk for excessive abdominal pressure and the development of a hernia.
Consider including more of the following foods into your diet:
- Psyllium husk
- Dark leafy greens
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Do You Follow a Hernia-Prevention Workout?
What do you do to lower your risk for hernia during a workout? Do you stretch or perform a specific core workout? Let us know on our Facebook!
- Dabbas N, Adams K, Pearson K, Royle G. Frequency of abdominal wall hernias: is classical teaching out of date?. JRSM Short Rep. 2011;2(1):5. Published 2011 Jan 19. doi:10.1258/shorts.2010.010071.
- Zendejas B, Hernandez-Irizarry R, Ramirez T, Lohse CM, Grossardt BR, Farley DR. Relationship between body mass index and the incidence of inguinal hernia repairs: a population-based study in Olmsted County, MN. Hernia. 2014;18(2):283‐288. doi:10.1007/s10029-013-1185-5.