What should I do if I feel pain when I do a resistance training exercise?

Many people believe in "No pain, No gain!" rule of thumb, especially when it comes to resistance training.  However, resistance training was not really designed to be painful.  
Resistance Exercise should be:
  • Uncomfortable
  • You should feel fatigue after your set
  • You should feel a stretch on the negative
Pain is your body's way of communicating that something is wrong.  You should listen.  If an exercise is more than uncomfortable and venturing into the area of pain, it is important to stop.  You may just need to change your form, focus, or your variables (sets, reps, weight, rest & tempo).  Pain is a sign of something wrong and when you don't listen, injury is sure to follow.  If you cannot spot the reason the pain is starting, feel free to ask a professional to check your form and variables to see specifically what the issues are.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
When it comes to resistance training, the old adage “No pain, no gain!” definitely does not apply. If you feel pain when you do a resistance training exercise, here’s what I suggest you try:
  • See if moving through a smaller range of motion eliminates the pain.
  • Modify your body position as this will place stress on your joints and muscles differently, hopefully eliminating the pain.
  • Decrease the amount of weight or intensity of the exercise, this will place less physical strain on your muscles and joints.
If none of the above suggestions works at eliminating the pain, then that probably isn’t the best exercise for you to be doing and you should stop doing it! There are hundreds of exercises out there, many of which are available on Sharecare or through a qualified coach, that will allow you to improve your health and fitness without feeling pain or getting hurt. If the pain persists and bothers you not only during exercise, but all the time, then you must go to your physician or other qualified medical professional to rule out any serious injuries, allowing you to continue to exercise and stay on track toward achieving your fitness goals.    
If you feel pain during a resistance training exercise, you must first determine if it is the normal discomfort and fatigue that is experienced with resistance training, or if it is your body letting you know that it does not like whatever movement it is that you are performing.  Contrary to popular belief, resistance training should never cause pain, so if you are experiencing pain during a particular exercise, try modifying your position, decreasing the range of motion, or decreasing the intensity or weight being lifted until pain is no longer felt.  If modifyng your position and decreasing the range of motion and/or amount of weight of the exercise does not eliminate the pain, then stop doing the exercise!  There are endless exercise variations that you can do that will allow you to get a great workout, without putting unncessary strain on your body.  If changing the exercise altogether does not eliminate the pain, then it you should seek the proper attention and guidance of a qualified medical professional to rule out any minor or serious injuries. 
Beth Oliver

You should immediately stop any exercise if you feel sharp pain in the muscles or joints. (You should also stop if you feel dizzy or light headed.) If you are feeling somewhat fatigued muscularly, but you are still breathing easily and your technique is good, try to get in a few more repetitions, even if you decrease the workload.

Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
It depends on the type of pain you are experiencing. If it is muscle fatigue then thats one thing, if its sharp pain, limiting your motion or causing dysfunction you should discuss with a qualified health practitioner about your training program. Many times experiencing pain with resistance training is either due to a muscle imbalance of either anterior/posterior or rotational stability, or its due to some type of restriction or instability in the joint that you are working with.
If you feel any pain during exercising, stop and consult your doctor.

Continue Learning about Resistance Training

Resistance Is Far From Futile...It's the Best
Resistance Is Far From Futile...It's the Best
Jeri Ryan, as the Seven of Nine Borg in Star Trek: Voyager, claimed resistance was futile. Turned out not to be the case. In space, and right here on ...
Read More
What is resistance training?
Joe Costa - Elite TrainerJoe Costa - Elite Trainer
Resistance training is just what the name implies, working your body against resistance. There are s...
More Answers
Can my child benefit from resistance training?
Dr. Mike Clark, DPTDr. Mike Clark, DPT
Research shows that resistance training is safe, effective, and necessary for kids. Resistance train...
More Answers
What are the benefits of training with partial reps?
Int'l Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)Int'l Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)
Strength training with partial reps is a great way to boost strength during certain portions of the ...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.