The TRUTH About Free Weights

Small Group Fitness in King - Spark Fitness and Performance

A recent news story came out warning people of the increased risk of injury and pain due to certain styles of weight training. They warn against strength training with barbells, lifting heavy weights, and performing specific movements. They have also discouraged people over the age of 50 from doing these activities. Personally, I would advocate that the older you get, the more important strength training becomes.

People love to see articles like this. It gives them an excuse to stay out of the gym. These articles warning against barbell and strength training are doing a huge disservice to people. Barbell training, and specifically strength training, is not inherently bad or dangerous, it just need to be done correctly and safely.

Strength training decreases the risk of injury due to falls, helps prevent development of chronic disease, and helps maintain of healthy amount of body fat and muscle mass. Yes, these things can be difficult, but with proper coaching and program design, everyone can benefit from strength training. If you are already spending time at the gym, the most efficient use of your time would be spent strength training. But why barbells? Why get stronger? Why can't I just get some exercise in a commercial gym on the machines or on a treadmill? Let me explain.

Barbells have been around for hundreds of years, and have proven to be a very effective way to get strong and stay in shape. Most commercial gyms do not typically have many barbells in them, instead they are being replaced by exercise machines. These machines looks very complex, fill up the open space, and require little to no instruction to use. This allows the gym to have less staff and fewer highly trained instructors to teach the gym goers.

A room full of squat racks and barbells may seem intimidating, and doesn't look impressive or much fun to the average person. The major difference between these two means of resistance training is the way your body moves while using them. When you lift a barbell, you are moving your body using multiple joints and large groups of muscle through a full range of motion in a way your body was intended to move. The barbell does not restrict the way you are moving, it is only acting as a tool to precisely and incrementally add weight to an exercise.

The machines on the other hand, isolate specific muscles to work independently from other groups, which is not how our bodies are designed to move. In some instances, this can be useful when used as a supplemental exercise to a full body, multi-joint movement. When you use a machine, your body can only move the way the machine was designed to move. These machines are designed as “one size fits all” and may not work well for someone who is shorter or taller than average. A barbell will always allow your body to move the way “you” are built. With a barbell you will gain strength in all the major muscle groups and supportive muscles allowing them to work together in the correct manner.

Besides allowing you to move more efficiently, strength training with barbells increases the body's ability to recruit more muscle when needed to move. This is called neuromuscular efficiency. This is a very important aspect of training to keep in mind as we get older. This neuromuscular efficiency is a response from the body's nervous system, it controls our balance and the ability to produce force against an external object.

There are 3 million visits to emergency rooms per year due to falls, 800,000 of these people are hospitalized because of it; and 300,000 of them result in a hip fracture, which can be very serious for someone over the age of 60.

Getting stronger will improve your balance and allow you to use less energy to move around, which we can all agree would make life a lot easier as you get older. The stronger you are, the easier it is for you body to produce force through your legs to the ground while you walk, and all of those muscles in and around the leg are more stable improving your balance. Not only will you get stronger, more importantly you will gain self-confidence knowing you can move more efficiently making everyday life and activity easier. Putting heavy weight on you back or in your hands and being able to control it gives you confidence like you wouldn't believe.

It is very frustrating seeing these types of stories that unnecessarily scare people away from barbell training because of a risk of injury or pain. Many people for many years have been using barbell training to build strength, and have done so, well into their 50's, 60's, and even 70's. The key to this type of training is proper form and progression.

A strength and conditioning facility will have the proper equipment and coaching to prevent injury, as well as the proper guidance to take things slow and build strength over time. As in any type of physical activity, sport, or even sitting on the couch; too little, too much, or improper technique and posture can create problems. Finding the right facility is essential to help you train for strength, reduce your risk of injury and allow you to use your time more wisely.

I would find it hard to believe that anyone would go through life without experiencing some sort of pain or injury. Physical activity is so important to the human body, and to ignore this fact will ultimately catch up with you. Sometimes you feel pain for seemingly no reason. I think we sometimes go looking for a reason to why the pain has occurred and blame it on anything to make ourselves feel better about aging.

Your brain can interpret pain from inactivity as well. The best way to maintain a healthy body and mind is to keep moving and constantly challenge yourself. Both of which can be done with just a few hours a week spent on strength training. With a little patience and proper instruction, you can use the time you already spend on your physical health more efficiently and receive more out of it than you do now.

Barbell strength training can be done by just about anyone, at any age. I would argue that it is a must. Being stronger will always be better than not being strong enough. You are not made of glass, and not moving your body on a regular basis should not be an option. Do not let your fear of injury or pain prevent you from using your body, it is an amazing machine and will not let you down if you take care of it properly. Strength training is challenging physically and mentally, but doing what is easy will not change you or the quality of your life.



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