Weightlifting & Abdominal Pain

Updated April 17, 2017

Strain and injury can be unpleasant side effects of strenuous exercise. In serious cases, such injuries may require medical treatment including hospitalisation and surgery. If proper safety measures aren't taken when lifting weights, weightlifting can result in several conditions that cause abdominal pain, ranging from minor strain, to, in extreme cases, life-threatening muscle damage.

Abdominal Strain

Weightlifting can cause abdominal strain, which may manifest in muscle inflammation, or, in more serious cases, a torn/ruptured muscle. According to athletic health information website, Sports Injury Clinic, abdominal strain may result from weightlifting activities that involve quick, whole-body movements and sudden changes in direction. The rectus abdominis muscle is the stomach muscle most commonly involved in abdominal muscle strain, though other muscles in the stomach area, including the internal and external oblique muscles, may also sustain abdominal strains, according to Sports Injury Clinic. Symptoms of abdominal strain include abdominal pain, which increases when muscles are contracted, as in a stomach crunch or situp, whereas a sharp pain in the abdominal muscles may indicate a rupture, says Sports Injury Clinic.


According to a 1993 study published in the "Annals of Emergency Medicine," severe exertion, including weightlifting, can cause rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition which may lead to kidney failure. Rhabdomyolysis is defined by Medline Plus as: "the breakdown of muscle fibers resulting in the release of muscle fiber contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream." Abdominal pain after very strenuous exercise may indicate rhabdomyolysis, according to trade publication, Military Medicine, although the most tell-tale symptom of this condition is dark, cola-coloured urine, says Medline.


Lifting a heavy weight may cause a hernia, which occurs when part of an internal organ bulges through a weak area of abdominal muscle, according to Medline. Persons born with weak abdominal muscles are especially susceptible to this type of injury, which, left untreated, can cause abdominal pain and other health problems, says Medline.


Treatment for abdominal pain caused by weightlifting depends on the type and severity of the injury. For abdominal strain, a combination of rest, heat applications, and anti-inflammatory medicines, including ibuprofen, are sufficient treatments in most cases, according to Sports Injury Clinic. In patients with rhabdomyolysis, aggressive and early application of fluids, and sometimes kidney dialysis, is necessary to prevent organ damage, according to Medline. Hernia treatment, says Medline, usually involves a minor surgery to repair the opening in the abdominal wall.


Prevention of weightlifting-induced abdominal muscle strain and hernias involves taking great care and using a proper technique when lifting anything heavy. According to, weightlifters should never attempt to lift more weight than they know they can handle and should stop exercising if they feel pain. Lifting with a straight back is also important for avoiding weightlifting injuries, says According to Mayo Clinic, to prevent a hernia, heavy weights should always be lifted carefully and from the knees, never the waist. To prevent rhabdomyolysis, drink plenty of fluids after strenuous exercise, advises Medline.

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About the Author

Shannon George, former editor-in-chief of the trade magazine "Prime," holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University. Her health interests include vegetarian nutrition, weight training, yoga and training for foot races.