Weight Lifting with RA

Hi all,

still new to this but thought I would ask for anyone else’s experience with weight lifting and RA

Last year I was in incredible shape due to training & diet that involved a lot of weight lifting and I loved it.

having a very active job on my feet for 12 hours a day, when I returned to work after the first lockdown, this mixed with my training was when I began having issues.

since struggling with extreme pain mainly in my hands and wrists (however I also have in my elbows, knees and ankles) I have avoided heavy weights and have only done short, light exercises at home.

has anyone here been into heavy weight training or is there any information about doing this with RA?

all info is much appreciated xx


  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 29,246

    Never tried it but you can bet some people have! I think your exercises with lighter weights is probably more sensible but understand the 'kick' people get out of exercise.

    Not being able to do something we enjoy like running is a fairly regular issue for people who come in here.

    I hope someone will pop in who knows the answer.

  • TraceyS
    TraceyS Member Posts: 9
    edited 25. Mar 2021, 22:35

    Hi, I have hip osteoarthritis not RA but I am a weightlifter. Trained in gyms for years without a hitch then 6 years ago started getting issues with my hips. 2 years later diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia and moderate OA. Continued to weight train which I was told would help ease arthritis symptoms and stopped all impact exercise. It's worked up to a point. While my flexibility and mobility has remained good I noticed I was getting injured more frequently. My last gym training injury was in Oct 2019 after 3 sets of heavy hip thrusts. My right hip buckled and I was left limping and in considerable pain when loading weight through my right hip. At that point I realised the heavy weight lifting was perhaps not doing me any good. My physio confirmed this. While strength training is fabulous, going too heavy can overload arthritic joints and cause really bad injuries. My latest x-ray showed severe (bone on bone) OA in my right hip. My surgeon suggested THR but I was and still am determined to keep going for now down the non surgical route. To get back exercising again my surgeon did steroid injection and joint aspiration (to reduce inflammation and remove excess fluid). I've spent the last year finding a new way forward with lifting with the help of physio. Much lighter weights (bodyweight and bands to start) and lots of mobility and stretching. Pressure point massage to relax tight muscles has helped too - as my arthritis has progressed I've noticed my muscles getting very tight. As someone who has weightlifed happily for years it's been a blow but I am enjoying the challenge of getting my fitness back. Don't lose hope. There is a way forward. I just think those of us with arthritis need to be mindful of the load we are putting through our joints when lifting. I hope this helps.

  • Shortstuff
    Shortstuff Member Posts: 16

    Hi in my training with my personal trainer I was doing weight training,CrossFit etc but then my knee gave away at work I work in a gym cleaning went to hospital they telled me I’ve got A meniscus tear in my left knee and arthritis

  • Shortstuff
    Shortstuff Member Posts: 16

    I’ve got osteoarthritis so have you got any tips what I can do to get back into training I was going to leave fitness all together but then I’m thinking I need to get back the challenge

  • Mini
    Mini Member Posts: 33

    I found walking the swimming pool helped 2 get back 2 training mixing it up. walking sideways bringing arms up at sides from waist 2 boob height in pool then one length walk one length then walk backwards one length waving arms up and down in water 2 relax muscles then walk forward lifting one knee at a time to chest tapping with your other hand plus aqua class and light gym work & Lucy Wyndham workouts online she does weekly challenges plus she also has chair exercise workouts , I found after my operations if lifting to heavy weights like I use to it made my muscles tight & sore so I dropped it all down a notch I also have osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis .

    Im on wait list for a spinal fusion operation I have both knees replaced but my left one has corrosion and bone is crumbling on inside of knee having it replaced for 3rd time and cones put in to support my knee trying to cope with this pain is like being on a rollercoaster 🎢 Theres a 15 month wait for my operations I would say not to leave the fitness altogether just go gentle as exercise is good for making bones stronger and muscles plus helps so much with balance 🌻

  • Sr123__
    Sr123__ Member Posts: 3


    I was at the Gym everyday and jogging 5 miles daily.

    This has all gone over the past 2 years.

    I tried everything in the Gym but suffered flare ups with what ever I tried.

    I now try to walk daily but in constant pain.

    I can no longer work and feel like I am hitting my head against a brick wall.

    RA is cruel.

  • Louisa77
    Louisa77 Administrator Posts: 242


    It is tough when you've enjoyed a certain activity and then you can't do it or struggle to do it due to the pain.

    It's trial and error on trying new activities, maybe swimming as this isn't weight bearing it is supposed to be a less invasive exercise. Walking is good as it also gets you out and about which is good for your mental health too.

    You might have seen this already but we have some ideas and suggestions here Exercising with arthritis | Top tips, specific exercises (versusarthritis.org).

    Nuffield Health have launched a Joint Pain Wellbeing Programme | Nuffield Health to support people with MSK conditions get back into exercise, take a look.

    All the best, hope you find something


    Need more help? Call our Helpline on 0800 5200 520 Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm

  • Emgrif
    Emgrif Member Posts: 2

    I walk twice a day with the dogs and swim every day. If I’m struggling it’s more of a gentle swim. I feel awful if I miss it. I drag myself to the pool and always feel it eases my pain. I’ve been doing Low Intensity Weight Training with an instructor 3 times a week which I m hoping is building strength. However I have to be really careful as I did too much one week and it triggered a big flare up which I hadn’t experienced in a while. It’s such a fine balancing act to not trigger a response and fatigue but if I get the balance right I swear I feel better. I’ve always walked every day but I started with swimming and built up the distance then incorporated the weight training. Working out well currently but I know it’s a bit of a knife edge. If you can do one thing I’d recommend swimming. Even if you float or walk. It’s very therapeutic

  • Poppyjane
    Poppyjane Moderator Posts: 721

    Hello @Emgrif welcome to the online community

    Thank you for your positive message of support as your first post. Swimming and walking are two very popular forms of exercise for those of us who are living with arthritis everyday. Exercise, when we can find the form which suits us and our condition the best, is the best way to keep our muscles and joints as flexible and mobile as possible. As well as being therapeutic and potentially sociable, although as you say it is a balancing act between enough to make a difference and too much to cause a flare.

    We look forward to hearing from you again soon

    Best wishes


    If it would be helpful to talk to someone ring the Helpline 0800 5200 520

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