A large percentage of the population have fallen victim to the belief that resistance training is dangerous. If you take time to read clinical studies, learn fundamental movement patterns and progressively overload those said movement patterns, lifting isn’t only safe, it provides numerous benefits. Unfortunately, common misconceptions have taken the form of uneducated myths and limit the purposes and potential of youth and adults alike.
At Actualize we often hear things like:
- “Deadlifts are bad for your back.”
- “Resistance training too young can stunt your growth.”
- “Weights are not safe for kids.”
- “Working out will slow me down or negatively affect my performance.”
- “I only do cardio because I don’t want to get bulky.”
This list goes on.
When conducted properly and progressively, resistance training is not dangerous. There is increasing evidence that strength training can be a source of treatment for some of the conditions that diminish quality of life such as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression.
Why does weight lifting get such a bad reputation? Well, people can get hurt. Just like you can get injured when riding a bike. No one blames the bike necessarily. But if you are not equipped well on your bike, don’t know how to get out of your clips efficiently, or are riding on the road for the first time, biking can be termed “dangerous.” The safest way to pursue a passion of biking is to regularly practice at moderate distances and levels before reaching for expert equipment like clip-ins and road handles.
Moral of the story, anything can be termed “dangerous.” But let’s combat this myth with some evidence of what resistance strength training can offer.
First, become a master of the fundamentals. Move well and often. Then progressively overload your abilities. Recover from your training sessions with adequate nutrition, sleep and rest.
All ages can benefit from strength training, including adolescent athletes. For years clinicians have taken the stance that it is unsafe for youth athletes to participate in resistance training programs. But over the past decade, evidence related to the safety and efficiency of resistance training for youths has increased. A clinical study conducted in 2009 stated that the evaluation of a one-rep maximal test is safe for children (male & female, ages 6-12) to perform. Of course, this is dependent on appropriate loads being used, established guidelines are followed, and professionals are present. To speak to the opposers, the forces that children are exposed to during sport play is greater than the force on their body during a maximal strength test (Faigenbaum, 2009). Additionally, public health corporations now encourage programs to enhance strength training activities in the adult population because of a growing understanding of the health benefits.
Resisance training can be used as a tool to address many musculoskeletal pathologies. A meta-analysis published as early as 2013 was looking to determine whether physical activity exercises can reduce sports injuries and was set to perform a stratified analysis of strength training, stretching, proprioception and their effect on acute and overuse injuries. There findings were consistently favorable in obtaining injury prevention with all measures except stretching: “Strength training reduced sports injuries by 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved.” (Lauerson, 2013)
Another systematic review was published in 2018 by the same authors that set out to question the specifics of strength training practices based on sports injury prevention and present the best evidence to athletes. They found that “increasing strength training volume and intensity was associated with sports injury risk reduction.” (Laureson, 2018) The results were consistent across all tests. “A 10% increase in strength training volume reduced the risk of injury by more than four percentage points.” (Laureson, 2018) Strength training can aid the body post injury as well as work to prevent injury from occurring in the first place.
Strength training is about so much more than the load on the bar. Progressively loading the body results in a cascade of physiological signaling involving adaptations to tendons, muscle, cartilage, connective tissue, and bone. Introducing the term, “mechanotransduction.” The body will turn a mechanical load into a cellular response, which would be the trigger or catalyst. This cellular response will then promote a structural change by sending communication throughout the tissue with a message. (Khan, 2009) The message is delivered, driving an outcome that produces a magnitude of different effects. Therefore, mechanical stimulus on the outside of the cell promotes intracellular responses and processes leading to cellular remodeling. In simpler terms, resistance training has much more effect than just what you see or what you feel. Your whole body is working! Movement is just as impactful to your body as it is to your brain.
Sometimes the fear of the unknown and continuation of common misconceptions about resistance training makes people shy away from the benefits. A supervised, well-designed, and progressive strength training program for all ages has a host of benefits beyond what has been shared above.
My encouragement is to practice critical thinking when hearing fear phrases. The risk is minimal compared to the reward. Let’s lift some heavy weights (with proper form, wise council, and careful progression)!
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk
Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2013). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(11), 871–877. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2013-092538
Lauersen, J. B., Andersen, T. E., & Andersen, L. B. (2018). Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(24), 1557–1563. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099078
Faigenbaum, A. D., & Myer, G. D. (2009). Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(1), 56–63. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2009.068098
Khan, K. M., & Scott, A. (2009). Mechanotherapy: how physical therapists’ prescription of exercise promotes tissue repair. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(4), 247–252. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2008.054239
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