How to Ruin Your Body by Lifting Weights
On Monday, I revealed a groundbreaking study that showed resistance training — like lifting weights — actually brought age-associated genes in the mitochondria back to “youthful levels.”
Today, I’ll follow up with how pumping iron can actually ruin your body…
… if you do it wrong.
I figured it’d be best to get this “fun police” article in front of your eyes as soon as possible. So you don’t end up like me.
Gather ’round and I’ll tell you a story…
*Takes a sip of whiskey*
About a decade and a half ago, I caught a glimpse of myself in a few photographs taken at the beach and, after conferring with the mirror, decided my scrawniness was shameful. I hated my body… and… soon after… radically transformed my entire life in order to pack some serious beef onto my frame.
First, I hit the gym as often as I thought my body could bear for workouts that (to borrow a phrase from Col. Samuel Trautman, Rambo’s commanding officer) “would make a billy goat puke.”
More than mere workouts… these were savage torture sessions. Almost literally. In a way, I channeled my own contempt for my appearance as I exercised. And instead of being some cathartic experience, I really just made myself feel worse.
One of the worst examples was the way I did “deadlifts.”
This is a barbell exercise where you stand almost directly over it… reach down… grab the bar… and stand back up holding the weight.
This seemingly simple movement is actually quite tricky to get right, because it involves keeping your delicate lower back area stable while straining to complete the movement. In fact, there’s no way I’ll go into any “how to” detail here, because if you’re concerned about staying injury-free, you need to learn the deadlift from someone in person. That way, they can watch your form and make any corrections.
Do I sound overly cautious and you’re thinking you’ll be fine as long as you “lift with your legs” and use common sense? Yeah, I remember having that attitude as well.
The common trouble with humans is our inspiration to make progress, succeed and especially look good in front of others… overrides this concern for safety.
Such was my case.
Every week, I’d do one killer set of deadlifts.
Always 20 repetitions…
Even if I ended up collapsed in a heap at the end gasping for air and drenched in sweat as if I’d just barely escaped being mauled by a cougar by scrambling up a mountain, which was usually the case (the sweating part, not the cat thing).
Every week, I’d increase my deadlift weight by five pounds.
Now, the human body has an astounding ability to adapt and overcome threats to its existence. But brutalizing myself with these constant five-pound increases was overtaking my ability to keep pace and grow stronger.
One day, I loaded 370 pounds on the bar. As I wrenched it off the floor, something felt… different. Instead of a tough but smooth lift, things felt forced and awkward. At the 10th repetition, my lower back shrieked in pain.
Fortunately, I listened. Many people who lift weights would simply keep going. I stopped my set and backed off doing any deadlifts in the future.
However, all my workouts began to suffer. I suddenly had a weak point to deal with… which soon spawned more.
One of my knees began to ache. My shoulder pain intensified. And I’m not the only one. In a 2011 survey of 245 powerlifters, who regularly strain under heavy weights, 43.3% reported problems during routine workouts, especially if they were over 40 years of age.
Eventually, it was too much. I vowed to stop hoisting any iron and sought out different ways to stay in shape.
That was years ago. And ever since then, I’ve missed those barbells and dumbbells. Especially considering the research showing their anti-aging effects, when used properly. On Monday, I showed you one such example.
Recently, I’ve returned to the weights, but this time with a different plan…and mindset.
Now, my ego’s going to be on its best behavior. Instead of demanding I do a certain number of reps with a certain amount of weight no matter what, I’m going to put in my best effort with good form and let the chips fall where they may.
The funny part is for me, that’s a recipe for faster progress.
It comes down to knowing yourself. I have the inherent motivation and drive. So the best thing I can do is balance that with respecting my body.
How about yourself? If you find your sticking point is actually getting jazzed up for a workout in the first place or staying consistent in your efforts… then the opposite mindset will probably do you well: Prioritize pushing your limits.
So anyway, like I said before, this is my official “fun police” post. Honestly, it’s mostly geared toward the male gender. The fairer sex doesn’t seem to have this issue. I mean, really. Who ever heard of a woman straining under a dangerously heavy barbell just to impress her friends?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of women avoid resistance training entirely, probably because of all the misinformation floating around on this healthy practice. Definitely a topic for another newsletter issue.
For now, a good rule of thumb:
Lifting weights — good.
Lifting weights with bad form — bad.
Lifting weights with bad form because you’re dead set on hoisting heavier barbells each and every time because otherwise you’ll feel like a failure… uh, then there’s a bigger issue at play here. And it’s bad.
Rant over… for now,
Underground Health Researcher
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