Does Weight Training Increase Risk of Hernia?

October 27th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

Hernias are very common in men. While bodybuilders are told how to lift with proper form and breathing, sometimes that is lost when we lift too heavy a weight to show off in the gym.

Hernia studies:

A recent study published in Surgery Volume 141, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 262-266 was done between 2002 and 2004 on over 1200 people. They were divided into a control or case group on whether they had inguinal hernia. Inguinal hernia is a hernia located in the abdomen, the most common surgical performed hernia. Each person was asked to fill out a standard questionnaire. The results of the study showed that chronic obstructive airway disease was a risk factor for direct hernia(one type of inguinal hernia). Family history was a independent predictor for inguinal hernia. Total activity index and family history of hernia, were significantly related to both direct and indirect hernias( two types of inguinal hernias). Family history was the most important cause, not activity index, of inguinal hernia. Those with a positive family history, were 8 more times likely to have one. Total activity index could include a lot of things in a lifestyle, besides weight training. I'm sure most of the people in the study were not weight training.

This study and many others, point to genetics as the most overwhelming risk factor for hernias. Many males will eventually develop the hernia anyways, given enough time. However, I would not brush off the risk with weight training completely. If weight training is not performed correctly you can increase your risk of Hernia. A study published in (European Journal of Epidemiology Volume 8, Number 2 / March, 1992 pg. 277-282) and many other studies, have shown that strenuous exertion jobs or lifestyles increase risk. I believe this increased risk is mainly due to improper form. When your lifting boxes or furniture for a living, your going to wind up having to contort your body in unusual ways to lift it. This will cause a strain on your abdomen and cause a hernia. Lifting barbells and dumbells in contrast, is very easy to pick up and do with proper form. It is important you breath in on the negative portion of the rep and out on the positive. You should lift with your target muscles and not use bad form or cheat to lift a heavy weight. Leave your ego at the door, as cheating to lift a weight will cause strain on your abdomen, which could cause a hernia. When doing squats and deadlifts, also make sure you lift the weight with your legs and not with your abdomen.

  1. anonymouse on March 26th, 2009

    What if you have a strong, built abdominal wall? Surely then you won’t be able to get a hernia.

  2. John on July 22nd, 2010

    Based on what I’ve been told, having a strong abdominal wall is no guarantee that you will not develop a hernia. A weakness in the abdominal wall cann occur at any time regardless of the overall strength of the abdomin. I would advise proper lifting and breathing during exercise at all times.

  3. markiem on August 17th, 2010

    I’ve been regularly lifting for 22 years, and at age 44 still sport a six pack. In other words, I believe I have a strong, built abdominal wall. Nevertheless, about a month ago, I developed in inguinal hernia. I’m very careful about form, preferring higher reps with lighter weights. I do not believe my hernia was caused by muscular factors. Having said that, I continue to do abdominal exercises (ensuring no herniation in the process) to try to strengthen the area and to minimize chance of progression. Mostly likely, this will have to be surgically repaired.

  4. hernia on September 6th, 2010

    Can you tell me more about endoscopic hernia operations?