Weight Training Injuries

April 1, 2010

I saw this article today on weight training injuries. It appears that there is a booming rise in the number of weight room related injures due to the growing popularity of resistance training. Thankfully more people are getting into the weight room these days. Resistance training is without question the single most potent form of exercise for any adult for staying healthy, lean and vital as the years roll on. And it’s exceptionally healthful for kids too.

Information from emergency/hospital data suggests that most of the injuries appear to be caused by free weights dropping on people – children especially. Some appear to be caused by exercise machine use, primarily in women. It’s a short article so take a gander if you’re interested.

To the point – inanimate objects don’t hurt anyone. People’s behavior is what causes harm. Guns don’t kill – people do.

Let’s look at the list of safety suggestions this article (and quite frankly, every article I have ever read on the subject) recommends. It always amuses me to read these recommendations as most of them don’t actually help anyone learn how to stay safe in the weight room. So let’s begin!

Find an instructor who can help you learn how to do the exercises correctly using the proper form.

OK but, how does one know that an instructor knows what he or she is talking about? I know many trainers with multiple certifications who train people at major health clubs who haven’t a clue. Worse, they put their clients in harms way. (This is true even for doctors. For example, there are doctors who recommend that a diabetic eat bread, rice and whole wheat pasta!) I guess you’ll just have to walk around your gym and look for the instructor with the glowing halo.

Take a look-see at this:

squats on a ball

Do any of you think this is smart? What in the world is this trainer doing? What if the ball was to burst? (And indeed they do!) What if the trainee slipped and violently rocked to one side? Do you think the trainer could catch him? What, pray tell, is the purpose of this dangerous act? And by the way, most, if not all professional personal trainer certification organizations endorse this sort of shenanigan. God’s honest!

For kids, a high school coach or athletic trainer can help.

Don’t you bet on that. While most mean well, high school coaches and AT’s (as they are called in the biz) the vast majority I have met have no idea how to implement a safe and effective resistance training program. In fact, AT’s are not strength coaches at all. They are on the field pros who help athletes when injured. It would have been better to suggest a strength and conditioning coach. But they can be a bit wacky too.

For adults, take advantage of the orientation session that most gyms offer when you join or hire a personal trainer until you feel you can perform the moves safety.

Well obviously this person can’t write too well. But that aside, how do you know that the information you are listening to is valid or even dangerous?

Warm up and cool down for each session. The warm-up should include stretching and a short cardiovascular workout to warm the muscles. Stretching is also important during the cool-down.

First of all, stretching has been shown to offer little to no safety benefit. Stretching can also cause harm. If the writer of this article was up on her reading, she’d have learned this.

From “A systematic review into the efficacy of static stretching as part of a warm-up for the prevention of exercise-related injury. Small K, Mc Naughton L, Matthews M. Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Hull, Hull, England.

There is moderate to strong evidence that routine application of static stretching does not reduce overall injury rates.

Warming up is fairly benign, but what warms you up for the warm up? Usually the warm up is designed to mentally prepare an athlete for a forceful and violent event. Weight lifting should not be a forceful and violent affair. And besides, research indicates that the traditional warm up offers little safety benefits. And if you are weight lifting properly (which we will discuss later), the warm up is built right in.

When starting a new workout, use a small amount of weight at first and set a goal for the ACSM recommended minimum of eight to twelve repetitions.

Now here is a perfect example of how to be vague. What is ‘small?’ What means ‘at first?’ The ACSM does not recommend a minimum of 8 to 12 repetitions necessarily.

Use only an amount of weight that you can lift while still maintaining proper form.

And that is…?

Once you build strength, you can progress in both the amount of weight and the number of reps.

You’ll build strength after the first workout. What does this mean exactly?

Don’t continue to lift if you feel pain.

What kind of pain? Joint pain? Muscle pain? There are differences. Pain in the muscles that is caused by deeply fatiguing the muscles is perfectly OK to feel and in fact, desirable.

Wear the appropriate foot wear. Ensure that your shoes have good traction to prevent slipping.

Should we wear cleats? (Just joking.) OK fine.

Remember to breathe. Some people have a tendency to hold their breath while lifting a heavy load. Failure to breathe properly may cause increases in blood pressure that could be harmful. It is recommended to exhale through the mouth as you lift.

Alrighty then! Finally a recommdation worth a darn. But what’s with the exhaling through the mouth tip? Just breathe. It makes no difference how so long as you do.

Get plenty of rest between workouts. It is recommended to give each muscle at least one to two days rest between sessions to allow for recovery, healing, and building.

Also a good recommendation but not for safety reasons per se. Fact is that you should give your body at least 2-3 days of rest in between weight lifting workouts.

But the bottom line on safety is this: Lift and lower an appropriate weight s l o w l y. An appropriate weight is a weight that is light enough for you to perform at least 40 seconds of continuous work through a full range of joint(s) motion and a maximum of 120 seconds before reaching complete muscle fatigue a.k.a muscular failure.

What is slowly? Take about 1-2 seconds to initiate the first inch of movement. In other words, overcome inertia carefully. Don’t heave, yank, jerk or thrust at the start of the set. Pretend you are picking up a newborn infant that doesn’t even belong to you. Then continue to lift until the rep is completed. Reverse carefully and lower in the same fashion. Only speed up, meaning work harder, when you feel you are slowing down due to fatigue. A good basic rule is 5 seconds minimum to lift and lower even more slowly.

Remember – safety first. You are not an Olympic lifter trying to toss as much weight as possible over your head. You are not a power lifter trying to discover your maximum single repetition poundage. You are using weights to dupe the body into thinking you need more lean mass and strength. This can be done without the bravado and ‘pump-and-circumstance’ you see being used in most gyms.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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