How To Prevent Getting A Hernia When Lifting Weights

In this blog post you’re going to learn about the different types of hernias. Plus get some simple action steps that you can can start taking now to help avoid getting a hernia when working out and lifting weights.

First off, a hernia is when some organ material (i.e. a portion of the intestine) protrudes through a weakness in abdominal lining. This weakness is often caused by genetics.

A Congenital Hernia is present at birth, even though it may not be diagnosed for weeks, months or even years later.

Another type of hernia is an Acquired Hernia which develops when the muscles or connective tissue in your abdomen lining are weakened or damaged over the course of your lifetime. Even in hernias that develop much later in life, they may actually be a result of a genetic weakness that was present from birth.

Having a hernia isn’t necessarily dangerous in and of itself. But they will not heal or simply go away on their own. For this reason if you suspect that you may have a hernia, than you need to get it checked out by your doctor to determine the severity of the hernia and whether or not it needs to be fixed.

The only way to repair a hernia is through surgery. Sometimes doctors can repair the abdominal lining by overlapping the existing tissue to fix the hole. Other times they may need to use a mesh material to patch the hole.

hernia


Different Types of Hernias.

There are different types of hernias depending on what area of the abdominal lining the intestines break through. The most common type is the Inguinal Hernia or groin hernia because the groin is the weakest part of the abdominal wall. Inguinal hernias account for about 80% of all hernias and they happen mostly in men.

Femoral Hernias are rare and tend to occur more in women due to structural differences. Pregnancy related stress and/or obesity can promote weakness in the femoral canal can sometimes result in this type of hernia. They follow the tract below the inguinal ligament through the femoral canal along the pathway where the blood vessels pass from the abdomen to thigh.

Abdominal Hernias occur when a portion of the intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall. Abdominal hernias may occur in different areas of the abdomen, and depending on where, they may be given different names.

different-hernias


Steps You Can Take To Prevent Getting A Hernia…

As was previously mentioned, most hernias are caused by genetics, usually some structural weakness in the facia lining of the abdominal wall that’s beyond our control. But regardless of genetics there are still some simple preventative measures that you can take to help prevent getting a hernia.


Workout & Lift Weights.

A lot of bodybuilders and weight lifters are afraid of getting a hernia when lifting weights. Which is understandable, but the good news is that when done properly a regular weight lifting routine can actually help prevent hernias from occurring in the first place.

Strength training builds up the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues. Bodybuilders and weight lifters will have a stronger abdominal wall lining compared to sedentary individuals, and thus are less likely to tear that lining when lifting.

A lot of times acquired hernias happen to people who are out of shape and then all of a sudden perform some type of heavy lifting such as; moving furniture, pushing a stuck car, or doing heavy manual labor that their body is not accustomed to performing.

Now even though working out and keeping active can help prevent a hernia, you still need to be smart about it. A lot of the general workout tips for injury prevention will also apply to hernia prevention.

Start Each Workout With A Good Warm Up – I’ve posted a video outlining a complete warm up routine that you can follow before each weight training workout here.

Progress Slow & Steady – Lift within your means and when you increase the weights you are lifting, do so in small increments. You’ll make better progress and reduce your risk of injury by making frequent small increments in weight, rather than trying to make too big of a jump and lifting too much too soon.

Don’t Do Forced Reps – This one will probably hit a nerve with some “hardcore” lifters, but there really isn’t any need to push yourself beyond failure and strain yourself with forced reps. A forced rep is when a lifter reaches failure in a set and then gets his spotter to assist him with performing several additional reps beyond failure. If you want to push yourself safely, simply rack the weight when you reach failure, take a rest break, and then perform an additional set. Doing another set is better than forced reps because the total volume of work performed by your muscles is actually more, and your risk of injury is greatly reduced.

Breathe Into Your Belly – The best way to breathe when lifting weights is abdominal breathing. When you breathe in your should feel your stomach expand, and when you breathe out your stomach should contract. Practice this when you are in the gym. As you lower the weight, breathe in and expand your belly. Then when you lift the weight, blow your air out and let your belly contract. This style of breathing is not only safer, but it will make you feel stronger as well because it helps to stabilize your torso when lifting.


Maintain a Healthy Body Weight.

Another big risk factor for hernias is being overweight. Carrying a lot of extra weight around the stomach will stretch and weaken the abdominal lining and increase your risk of having a hernia. This is another plus for bodybuilders and athletes because they are more likely to be leaner and maintain a healthy body weight compared to sedentary individuals.


Avoid Smoking.

I’m pretty sure everyone who is reading this article right now knows that smoking is unhealthy. So I’m not going to bore you with an anti-smoking pitch. But you probably didn’t know that smoking can increase your risk of getting a hernia. Smoking loads your body with dangerous toxins that adversely effect the body’s ability to produce enzymes which promote cell creation and growth. This can weaken the abdominal lining. In addition to that, heavy coughing (which is common among smokers) can cause the weakened abdominal lining to tear and cause a hernia.


Move Your Bowels.

If you are constipated and have to strain in order to have a bowel movement this is putting a lot of pressure on the muscles and connective tissue in your abdomen. This could result in tearing the abdominal lining. To help keep yourself regular make sure to eat a healthy diet that is high in natural unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

You should also drink lots of water (about 1 gallon per day for bodybuilders and athletes). In addition to keeping you hydrated, water flushes toxins out of your body and it also flushes the bowels so that it’s easier to have a poop. Ideally you should have a poop at least once or twice per day. If you are not doing a #2 everyday, than you are constipated and should change your dietary habits and check with your doctor.


Conclusion…

The bottom line, you don’t need to worry about your bodybuilding workouts causing a hernia, because when following a healthy bodybuilding lifestyle of proper diet and exercise can actually help prevent you from getting a hernia in the first place.

However, if you do suspect that you may have a hernia (any strange lumps or bumps protruding from your abdominal or groin) than you should get them checked out by your doctor as soon as possible, even if there is no pain or discomfort. You are much better off getting a hernia fixed sooner when it’s still small, rather than waiting and risk having the abdominal lining tear even more and creating a bigger hernia.

Remember, hernias will NOT heal and go away on their own. The only way to treat them is through surgery, and if you take action soon enough it’s very often only a small day surgery procedure with a relatively short recovery time.

If you have any additional questions or feedback about hernias or any of the content covered here, please feel free to post your comments below.

About The Author

leehayward

Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

47 Comments

  • HARI

    Reply Reply

    Does wearing tighter brefs or gym supporter can prevent one from getting testicular hernia ?

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  • Yes, there are support briefs that you can get to help with this. Just google search “Hernia Support Briefs” for more information.

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  • ved

    Reply Reply

    Last day I jumped suddenly very fast and now my groin is hurting but after one day only 50℅ pain left
    Is that can be a hernia problem?

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  • ved:
    Last day I jumped suddenly very fast and now my groin is hurting but after one day only 50℅ pain left
    Is that can be a hernia problem?

    Most likely you just pulled a muscle and it should heal up on it’s own. With a hernia you’ll feel a lump where the actual intestine is pushed through the facia lining. But keep an eye on it.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Ryan

    Reply Reply

    Just had my unmbilcal herina repair done and advised not to lift anything (normal) for around 4 weeks been weight training for years but have never come across herina issus with people I train with or around so can’t really get any good advice so anyone here with constructive advise then please respond, just want to no how much time is adequate for the mesh to fully Inbed and so I can start lifting again

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  • ajay singh

    Reply Reply

    I had kidney stone laproscopy surgery at left vu junction and as m a bodybuilder, during workout or lifting heavy weight causes me a pain at that surgery part suggest me that should I continue my workout or whether to leave

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  • Jennifer

    Reply Reply

    I dont have anything genetic & never really considered chics getting this until now. Im fat & very out of shape, so basiclly I do core & use situps with 15lbs dumbell I hold with both hands in front of me when I do it. Usually my shoulders fatigue & give out/failure before it feels like my abs give out. I can never get my abs to burning point. I rest my arms then try another set again. I try to push 50 reps but usually my arms fatigue around 20-30. Then i rest & take it lighter with only 6lbs dumbell so I can keep going with the abs. I still cant push them to failure because my arms keep dieing. Am I safe from hernia doing this routine? I dont do it everyday, muscles are too sore. Im considering eating more lean meats than veggies, mostly I eat veggies low calories, low sugar, salt seems to be unavoidable since its in absolutle everything best I can do there is just not go past the daily limitaion with salt intake. So what do you think Lee?

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  • Jennifer,

    It’s very unlikely you’ll experience a hernia from those workouts. Most bodybuilders and powerlifters who get hernias are pushing themselves with extremely heavy weights.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • dada

    Reply Reply

    I got my inguinal hernia operated (open-surgery) 2 years back. Is there any exercise to get my abdomen area strong. Since operation I do stretching exercises at home.Thanks.

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  • greg

    Reply Reply

    I just had inguinal hernia surgery. Would wearing an inguinal truss during workouts (NOT a weight lifting belt) help me ensure that the hernia does not recur.

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  • John A. Sacco

    Reply Reply

    I started in Jan 16 lifting 2 twenty pound weights . The doctor thinks that is how I got the abdominal hernia as it was the only thing new that I did . Had surgery December 1st and wanted to know when I can get back to lifting the light weight again . I am 68 . The doctor said probably middle of January but suggested that I consider walking only and forget about the weights . Anyone have any comments about that.

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  • Otto C Ladensack

    Reply Reply

    I’m waiting to get surgery for an epigastric hernia. Do you think it’s okay to do my arm day workout?

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    • If you have been working out on a regular basis up until now, then you are probably ok to continue doing light workouts. But it would be best to double check with your doctor first to see what exercises you can and cannot do.

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      • Otto

        Reply Reply

        leehayward,

        Thanks Lee.

        I spoke to a surgeon. I’m getting it fixed on 2/3. In my case he said I can even lift heavy but wouldn’t recommend it if I were going to wait a while. Afterward I have to stop for 8 weeks ☹️

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  • Kim S

    Reply Reply

    greg,

    I had a hernia surgery almost 2 years ago. Repair plus mesh. For the first 8 weeks I didn’t do any heavy lifting at all, week 9 I started some light excercise with bodyweight and excercise bands only. From week 13 I introduced light weights, but from the day I got surgery until I started lifting heavy I am pretty sure it went 16-17 weeks. And even then I was cautious. Slow, steady progression. My doctor advised me to wait at least 12 weeks before lifting heavy to avoid a relapse, I decided to give it some more weeks to heal.

    And be very precise with your breathing technique, DO NOT forget to breathe as this will build pressure in your abdomen.

    As of today, almost 2 years later, there is still no sign of a relapse.

    Just my story, hope someone can benefit from it.

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  • Otto

    Reply Reply

    Kim S,

    Thanks Greg. I guess I’ll have to be careful.

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  • Erica

    Reply Reply

    Can you get an abdominal hernia by doing rusIan twists with 10lb weights? I feel my right side of my abdomen around my belly buton to feel harder and a slight bigger rounding then my left and I pushed down on it and it seems went away for the moment, and then I felt again weeks later. Could that be a hernia? I’m terrified of operations using mesh, I hope this isn’t a hernia.

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    • You may have just strained a muscle in your mid-section, or it could be the start of a hernia, or something else entirely. The only way to know is to get it checked out. Any time you experience weird pains or bulges in your mid-section, then you should get it checked out by your doctor. Don’t just ignore it and “hope it goes away” on its own.

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    • Otto

      Reply Reply

      Erica,

      That sounds just like a hernia. It doesn’t necessarily take much force to cause a hernia because a weakness may have already existed at its location.

      I would see a doctor and find out all of my options and probabilities. Depending on your age and routine a surgery may or may not be indicated.

      I came home from the hospital today. In my case it was good that they went in. They found another hernia starting and a tear beginning on my small intestines. I also had jumbled up innards that were held out of place by adhesions from increasing scar tissue. My complications were largely caused by the way my body reacted to having my entire colon removed in 2005.

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  • kyle

    Reply Reply

    can a belt help prevent a hernia just been diagnosed with an unbilical hernia (im a amatuer strongman) not used a belt cause it doesnt feel comfortable

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    • Wearing a belt will help support your core and may help prevent future hernia’s. But as far as the hernia you have now, that needs to be fixed surgically.

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      • Otto L.

        Reply Reply

        …especially if you’re going to keep lifting. My surgeon found another spot getting ready to break and was able to put preventive mesh in place while he was already there.

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  • Shivam

    Reply Reply

    I’m a 20 yr old guy and 5″8 tall. My weight is 46kg. I’m starting to excercise only on body weight. Do i need to wear supporter while excercising on body weight , no extra weight.

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  • Maria Morrison

    Reply Reply

    Ryan,

    Did u ever get back to weight lifting? If so have u had any more trouble or reaccurence of a hernia?

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  • before and after operation hernia sex if sex will do is any problems

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    • That’s something you’re going to have to discuss with your doctor. I have no way of knowing how a hernia operation will affect your sex life, but I would assume that you’d have to take it easy while you are recovering.

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  • Johnny

    Reply Reply

    what if I am experiencing or suspecting hernia, what do I do to prevent it

    Lee

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    • If you already have a hernia, then you need to visit your doctor. Hernias will NOT heal and go away on their own. The only way to treat them is through surgery, and if you take action soon enough it’s usually only a small day surgery procedure with a relatively short recovery time.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Mrsam

    Reply Reply

    After intestine surgery I had hernia and my doctor says 6 month later going to surgery with mesh and now I want do exercise bodybuilding can do ?

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  • Waleed

    Reply Reply

    I feel pain while weight lifting after two and a half years of hernia surgery. Why is it so? Is it hernia again? Or should I used to it and continue lifting weights? As it’s my work.

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    • If you are feeling pain, then you need to go get checked out by your doctor to see what’s causing the pain. I’d recommend you do this as soon as possible and to not workout until you get the ok from your doctor.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Sattam

    Reply Reply

    Hi, thanks for the article. I had hernia as a 10 year old kid some 16 years back. I was asked not to lift heavy weights then. Would it be safe to lift weights for fitness training purpose now?

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    • I’d recommend checking with your doctor first. But chances are you will be ok to lift moderate weights to help improve your health and fitness. Obviously big heavy moves like squats and deadlifts may not be ideal, but you can still workout and keep in shape.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

      • Sattam Ghosh

        Reply Reply

        Thank you.

        leehayward,

        Thank you.

        leehayward:
        I’d recommend checking with your doctor first. But chances are you will be ok to lift moderate weights to help improve your health and fitness. Obviously big heavy moves like squats and deadlifts may not be ideal, but you can still workout and keep in shape.

          (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Cisco

    Reply Reply

    Lee
    I’ve been a subscriber for some time now and appreciate your work. Thanks.
    That said, I just had surgery cott appendicitis, and they saw I had an abdominal hernia which they repaired in the same surgery. I was hitting the gym semi aggressively for years, 5 times a week. I’m 44 now and wondered if you think a weight lifting belt may help prevent reinjure? Any other suggestions?
    Thanks
    Cisco

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Wearing a belt as you work up to heavy weights in big compound lifts may help reduce your risk of getting another hernia. I have a blog post about lifting belts at: http://leehayward.com/blog/when-should-you-use-a-weight-lifting-belt
      But the main thing that will help avoid a hernia is to lift within your means and stop your sets just short of failure. You don’t have to push and strain yourself to the limit in order to make progress. You can still train in a progressive overload fashion by stopping your sets 1-2 reps shy of failure. By doing this you’ll reduce your risk of injury as well as risk of hernia.

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      • Cisco

        Reply Reply

        leehayward,

        Thank you Lee! I appreciate the info, as usual. Ive actually used your videos to get me back into working out several years ago and haven’t looked back… this is a mental setback as I’m really nervous to ease back into it. I likely will wait 2 more weeks and then begin again. I just feel a bit defeated with all those gains physically and mentally I’ve been making progress with over the past year feel like they’re slipping away… I’m sure it’s a lot more mental than anything, but that’s a big part of maintaining things: the mental game. Anyway, I once again appreciate your response and your continued work keeping us going out here! Thanks

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  • Manish ahuja

    Reply Reply

    Hi leehay
    I have inguinalhernial on both side so should i continue my gyming work out or drop it…..
    I dont want to go for surgery….
    Plzz reply asap……

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  • Nikhil

    Reply Reply

    Lite pain in testicle cause herina

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  • Salami Ashimi

    Reply Reply

    Good day
    Have done the surgery of hernia before and I gym at times I feel pains there so should I stop or make it light or very light. Thank you

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Salami Ashimi,

    You can still workout, but train lighter and don’t push yourself to exhaustion when lifting. Purposely stop your sets before failure and take it easy.

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  • douglas

    Reply Reply

    i have just got a groin hernia on the right side and it’s really pissing me off. i started doing keep fit just under 3 years ago and got more serious about weight training in the fall and winter last year. i am 55. i have just spent another $350 on stuff in the last month before this happened, a few 30 and 40 lb mini bars. i use my shed and our bedroom as my gyms and i have various benches, a cable machine (i was working around 55lb on that) plus a couple of sandbags and loads of dumbells. i have been rowing and kayaking in the spring and summer, not such a problem i think as they are sitting down and i started bodyweight walking in the spring, plus i occasionally do some yoga or general body conditioning exercises. i have overnight gone to the level of where i thought i would be at 75, limiting myself to 10kgs max weight (22lb) i am so pissed off. i particularly liked doing lunges and sandbags. my Doc said i don’t need an op and i can carry out my normal life and exercises, he’s a nice fellow but a native of provincial Japan where i live (another headache sometimes, not a very interesting place). next month i have to paint the house again. aaagh. i must keep exercising, if i don’t i may end up with something serious like a paralyzing stroke or heart attack but anyway i have been enjoying it and progressing nicely. now i am back to FAGGOT LEVEL. sorry for the long post, just had to vent.

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    • Sorry to hear that you got a hernia, that does sucks, but hopefully with smart training you can work around it.

      all the best,
      Lee

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  • Bhargav

    Reply Reply

    Erica,

    Hi Erica ,
    The easiest way to check is go for groin Sonography (USG).

    I had been operated 3 days ago.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Lucas

    Reply Reply

    Hernia pain has caused me a lot of pain. After trying several options I started using PeaPlex from RS4supplements.com?. I am using it for quite a while now and it has given me a lot of relieve.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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