One misconception is that strength training and weight lifting (yes, these are two separate sessions, more on that later) are dangerous activities and are responsible for multiple injuries that occur in the gym.
From a young age, parents often choose safer activities for their children to participate in over-resistance training for fear of traumatic injury. Worse still, individual coaches and athletes who are already in their professional and college careers forego strength training for fear of weight training, which makes them too slow or bulky.
Unfortunately, not doing strength training ends up doing the body more harm than good and is not the culprit. There is no question that poor exercise technique can lead to injury. however, The likelihood of this occurring is unlikely, especially with proper instruction.
Don’t miss out on the exceptional performance benefits that lifting offers due to the fear of rare injury. Every day you drive your car you run the risk of being in an accident, but that doesn’t stop you from driving. This also applies to strength training and weight lifting.
Taking the right steps to learn sound techniques will improve athletic performance with little risk.
To be clear, strength training is any strength training that is done with machines, equipment, or weights, while weightlifting is the Olympic sport that explicitly involves snapping and cleaning and jerking.
Both modalities include a wide range of exercises, but together they include strength training.
In terms of safety, these two activities are among the safest sports to participate in. Weightlifting, as mentioned, is a sport in itself, but strength training includes powerlifting, bodybuilding, or any other type of exercise to improve physical fitness.
A 1994 research study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research1 examined the relative safety of strength training and weightlifting compared to many physical activities, including:
- Cross country
The results showed that for every 100 hours of training, strength training had the second lowest injury rate and weight lifting had the lowest, an amazingly low rate of 0.0035 and 0.0017, respectively.1
The safer option mentioned above that most parents choose to get their kids into soccer topped the list with 6.2 injuries per 100 hours of training.
Unfortunately, out of unjustified fear, individuals write off any type of weight training so quickly.
While I still believe that children should participate in a wide variety of sports, this evidence shows that children and adults should by no means forego resistance training on this matter unless clearly indicated by their doctor.
Do you have any self-imposed restrictions?
One of the most important problems I face when training a new athlete or client is the limitations they put before our first meeting.
- You may have heard that squatting is bad for your knees.
- They refuse to lift something heavy because they believe it will hurt them, even though the data suggests otherwise.
My all-time favorite quote on this point is from Brett Contreras, who once said:
“If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try to be weak. It is dangerous to be weak. “
– Brett Contreras
As I digress, he makes a fantastic point. Past injuries, health issues, and paranoia are not an excuse to avoid weight training altogether.
Now I need to anticipate that your doctors and medical providers always know the best path more than someone like me so please listen to them first.
The point I’m making is that if you have a fused spine and they tell you to never crouch again, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t crouch in any way. (Unless specifically directed by your doctor. Listen to them too, not me). It just means doing it in a smarter way.
Huge news flashIf at some point in your life you have to walk up and down from a chair or toilet, you can also learn how to do it correctly. The assumption that herniated discs and ligament ruptures are imminent when lifting modalities are performed is narrow-minded.
Everyone should be able to do this::
You should be able to perform any of these functions at any age with any type of resistance, especially if high athletic performance is the goal.
Take the dumbbell squat as our example; It is undoubtedly the king of all exercises, but it is not always suitable for everyone. It is important to remember that we are loading this movement pattern to allow an athlete to make a specific adjustment in preparation for their sport.
If a variant does not match what it is physically capable of, find another path.
Here are three main variations.
1. The cup squat
Cup squat: As soon as an athlete can demonstrate the sound technique in the squat pattern with his body weight, he can quickly switch to the kettlebell or dumbbell cup squat.
Those who are reluctant to take axial loading due to a previous injury or are relatively inexperienced can benefit greatly from this movement, as the front loading forces one to maintain an upright posture.
2. The front squat
Front squat: If an athlete is demonstrating sound technique in the front squat and requires a greater load than the cup squat, another great variation of the squat is the front dumbbell squat. Similar to the cup squat, it forces an athlete to use proper core stability to ensure they maintain their posture.
3. The Zercher Squat
Zercher Squat: This squat variant is clearly underused. It serves as a great replacement or workaround for the front / rear squat variations when there is a wrist injury or the like.
Athletes who cannot physically grasp a bar often fall behind while exercising because they cannot perform any of the three big conventional movements:
- The back squat
- The deadlift
- The bench press
Adding the Zercher Squat to this problem can make a world of difference.
Age and Security
I’ve worked with clients well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s who can move more weight than they were when they were younger because of their striving to improve.
Athletes who come to me as freshmen in high school and can’t squat properly with more than their body weight often end their senior year squatting twice as much.
With proper programming and a little discipline, significant profits can be made.
The earlier you incorporate training into your life, the better off they will be, especially if they are young and can learn skills quickly.
Most people wish they would have learned a foreign language as a child if it had become second nature quickly, but unfortunately it gets more difficult every year.
The same goes for exercise and training; When you learn to raise young and often incorporate healthy habits into your life that go well beyond athletic accomplishments.
When an athlete hears that they can take a pill that is guaranteed to improve their athletic performance while reducing the relative risk of injury, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t take that pill.
When it comes to weight training, they get this, but some still refuse to get involved.
I believe this is due to a serious lack of misinformation and guidance.
If you are a coach reading this you are helping your athletes understand the tremendous benefits of a good exercise program, and if you are an athlete reading this make sure you exercise. You will thank your coaches later.
1. Hamill, BP, “Relative Safety in Weightlifting and Resistance Training.” J Strength Cond Res, 1994, 8 (1), 53-57.