Strength Training Better Defined
Strength training should be designed to improve your overall health and well being, by creating proper muscle contraction and growth of muscle also known as hypertrophy. In addition, when properly performed, strength training should promote good joint stability by increasing tendon and ligament toughness. In other words, strength training should promote muscle growth and not destabilize joints and connective tissue. Most strength training exercises are built with good intentions of creating functional hypertrophy and proper joint stability. However, it has been repeatedly shown that repetitive pattern overload occurs when weight training exercises are poorly thought out. Repetitive pattern overload occurs when strength training programs fail to address individual joint arthokinematics and consequently leads to adaptive shortening of muscles and altered joint mechanics. The end result is a dysfunctional body that moves awkwardly. Care must be taken when choosing the best strength training exercises to negate joint altering effects of pattern overload which if left untreated, can lead to global body dysfunction and debilitating pain.
What Are The Strength Training Exercises That Are Destructive To Your Health?
- The Sit Up
- The Kettlebell Swing
- The Roman Chair Ab Curl
- The Supine Leg Press Machine
- The Seated Leg Extension Machine
- The Leg Abduction Machine
- Behind The Neck Cable Lat Pull Down
- The Bench Press
- Preacher Curls
What Makes These Weight Training Workouts Destructive to Your Health?
The Sit Up – The sit up is now obsolete in the world of scientific core and abdominal development. Electromyography studies have shown that the dominant hip flexor muscles called the Iliacus and Psoas do the majority of the sit up work, not the abdominal muscles that are presumedly targeted. Since these two hip flexor muscles attach to the lumbar spine, they can produce damaging shear forces to lumbar discs and spinal ligaments, which often cause chronic pain, lumbar pelvic hip dysfunction, poor posture and other layered spine disorders. Other alternative strength training workout choices designed to target and develop the rectus abdominis muscles are the Swiss ball or Bosu Ball crunch.
The Kettlebell Swing – The Kettle Bell Swing is a very dynamic movement that relies on good core stability, strong latissimus muscles and powerful gluteal maximus muscles. There are numerous kettlebell strength training exercises that are used to develop the posterior chain of the human body all while adding an intense cardio component to the strength training workout. These posterior chain muscles are the same muscles used when doing a broad jump. The mistake most often seen when using a kettlebell, is excessive force generation from the shoulder and not enough force generation from the hips, hamstrings and gluteals. Because of these faulty movement patterns, the typical injuries commonly seen, emanate from the shoulder’s rotator cuff and lower back. These injuries typically carry over into joint dysfunction and chronic pain due to faulty movement patterns and progressive joint overload. A better choice of strength training for the core, gluteals and latissimus muscle is the Supine Lateral Ball Roll invented by Paul CHEK a world renown Neuromuscular Therapist and pioneer in the world of scientific exercise strategies, core development and rehabilitation.
The Roman Chair V Crunch – This is one exercise that nobody seems to get right. It has the potential to be a good abdominal strength training exercise, however good hip mobility and above average core strength are an absolute prerequisite. The most common mistake is immediate activation of the hip flexor muscle group, which adds excessive torque to the lumbar spine with each leg swing. Moreover, your range of motion with this strength training workout is very limited, so most people report burning and fatigue in their hip flexors, but not their abs. And, as previously mentioned too much strain on the hip flexors creates spinal extension, which is the perfect set up for a lumbar disc injury, or a painful lower back condition. A better targeted strength training workout is the Swiss Ball Pike Maneuver.
The Supine Leg Press Machine – Perhaps the most commonly seen movement in most leg strength training workouts, the plate loaded leg press machine is angled at approximately forty-five degrees, while you comfortably sit back in a cushy chair. You simply flex and extend the legs according to your rep scheme for a joint crushing workout. The chief problem here is self induced spinal amnesia of lumbar and thoracic spine stabilizers because of your laying back position. There is no tonic back stabilization, nor intrinsic core stabilization going on. This is perhaps the best recipe for blowing out a lumbar disc. Mix in ballistic movements that force thigh extension and lumbar flexion and your strength training program just shifted into the danger zone. Overextend the knees into lock out and subject the knees to a cruciate ligament rupture. Game is officially over! This machine should be labeled the leg and spine guillotine. A better choice of a leg strength training program would include the classic Olympic bar squat and Olympic deadlift. Both of these exercises require above average core stability and keen attention to form, Both of these lifts should be the mainstay of your leg strength training program.
The Seated Leg Extension Machine- This machine can be found at most fitness centers, and the majority of physical therapists wish they would disappear. Extending your legs with a big load pressing on your ankle instep is just not natural. This unnatural distribution of weight places potentially crippling shear force on patellar tendons and cruciate ligaments of the knee joint. If and when they are overloaded they will do one of three things. One; overstretch the knee ligaments and create too much laxity which can lead to spontaneous dislocation. Two; simply overload tendons and ligaments which would later require repair and revision of any of the four supportive knee ligaments. Or three, rupture the patellar tendon and or fracture the tibial plateau which now means you’ll be getting that partial or total knee arthroplasty sooner than you expected. Aside from triggering these debilitating orthopedic medical conditions, this strength training exercise is known to over engage the hip flexor muscles which can lead to a lower back injury. Listen to the medical professionals who commonly treat exercise induced injuries, and avoid using this machine at all costs. Better weight training exercises for shaping the legs and gluteals include the dynamic lunge, or box step ups with resistance.
The Seated Hip Abductor Machine – This is a favorite of many unsuspecting women, looking to reducing outer thigh saddle bags. The muscles that you are attempting to target with this imprecise strength training workout, are the Gluteus Medius and Tensor Fasciae Latae. Both muscle work synergistically to move the thighs laterally BUT, also rotate the thighs medially into adduction and flexion. What you will gain from these secondary movement patterns, is compression to the IT band and a new set of banana knees, also known as pronation distortion syndrome. Both IT band and pronation distortion syndrome are two very painful joint problems which runners and jumpers commonly deal with. If you’re like most woman who have significantly wider hips than knees and ankles, also known as the Q-angle, you can expect a sharp stabbing pain beneath your knee caps also known as the patella femoral syndrome. This will be noticed when jogging, squatting, lunging or kneeling. The seated hip abductor machine is only productive at creating hip, knee and ankle dysfunction. Strength training for women should be aimed at joint stability by specifically targeting the outer hips. A great exercise endorsed by many physical therapists is the Swissball Hip and Glute Abduction.
Behind the Head Lat Pull Down – This movement is officially obsolete, but is still performed by those who just don’t know. It has been reinforced by all national personal training certifying organizations that certified personal fitness trainers instruct clients to only pull the lat bar in from of the head. Research has shown that this exercise in particular, in addition to many other strength training exercises performed behind the head, places excessive shear force on the anterior capsule of the shoulder joint. This often leads to a ligament impingement, rotator cuff muscle tear and faulty motor patterns. In addition, these anatomically incorrect strength training exercises create a forward head posture due to bad machine ergonomics, which forces the exerciser to extend their head forward in order to prevent getting bashed by the bar. A better option is the low cable pulley row which engages both the lat muscles and the core. The low cable pulley row can also be modified to a single are row with reciprocity, or a primal pattern movement .
The Bench Press- Every man I meet aspires to bench press at least double his body weight, but can’t seem to be able to execute twenty perfect form pushups. The bench press lacks real life functional application, but historically has become the gold standard for chest strength for power world wide. If performed properly the Bench Press is one of the most technical of power lifts performed competitively. Because of this high technical factor, and the high degree of skill required, the bench press in my opinion is one of the most dangerous exercises on this list. Why? Because only skilled professionals understand the physics of this complex movement. Novice lifters simply don’t! The majority of novice bench pressers seen at gyms are there to be noticed, and proper technique and form is rarely applied. It is not uncommon to see novice bench pressers with over arched spines frenetically bouncing hundreds of pounds rapidly off their chest in attempt to gain momentum and finish their repetition goal. Moreover, improper warm up, inappropriate weight loads, and poor periodization all contribute to the high degree of pectoral, capsular and rotator cuff tears with novice bench pressers
Conversely, competitive bench pressers exhibit precise form and timing. They pause for seconds at the bottom of each lift, and take an adequate rest before beginning the lift again. They dedicate time to priming their shoulder joints prior to each lift. They are usually dressed in compression suits to help keep their bones in proper alignment. When they are not performing bench presses, they are in the gym conditioning their back muscles and rotator cuffs to ensure posterior shoulder stabilization. They are educated on the ramifications of shoulder instability if these muscle are too weak. Research has shown there is a greater likelihood of shoulder related injury when muscle imbalances exist from the posterior chain of the body and when lifters fully extend their arms.
Because very few people who frequent the gym have a thorough understanding of bench press form and dynamics, the injury rate is quite high with novice bench pressers. Because of this high rate of shoulder injuries with novice bench pressers, my recommendation is to forlorn the bench press, and concentrate on strength training workouts that are body weight focused and dumbbell oriented. Dumbbells are far more joint mobility friendly, and are difficult to bounce off your chest! If becoming great at the bench press is your weight training goal, then join a reputable club like Westside Barbell and get educated.
The Preacher Curl – The preacher curl is thought to be a good resistance training exercise for the bicep brachialis muscle of the upper arm. However, this weight training exercise poses potentially harmful effects to the medial epicondylar joints of the elbow, the anterior capsule of the glenohumeral joint, and also creates abnormal protraction of both scapula. This detrimental and harmful effect has been shown in NIH studies looking at the effect of shoulder flexion angles . Because the exerciser’s arms are extended forward ahead of the body, the shoulders must protract. This scapular protraction causes the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints to pronate and rotate inwards. Because of this maligned positioning of the body, faulty movement patterns are created. Faulty movement patterns place unusual torque and stress on the skeletal arthrokinetic chain. Repeatedly performing a preacher bicep curl in the pronated position can lead to wrist, elbow and shoulder pain due to pattern overload on the tendons and ligaments which stabilize the arm joints. There are far better choices of strength training exercises, which include the classic bicep curl performed with free floating dumbbells or an ergonomic EZ curl bar. The EZ curl bar is designed to alleviate joint stress on elbows and wrists. Perform both these strength training exercises in strict form with back and head against the wall, and you will surely feel burn and muscular engorgement. Changing up your tempo and performing 4 second eccentric negatives will always out perform machine based weight training exercises.
My Final Thought When Choosing the Best Strength Training Exercises
All movements performed in the gym are catabolic or tissue destructive. What you do after your workout in terms of rest, repair, hydration and nutrition can make or break your fitness results. (known as the anabolic phase). Also inappropriate choices in strength training workouts can cause acute and chronic injuries, putting both you and your planned out strength training program on the sidelines. The internet is full of all kinds of information, some valuable and others not so much. Do your research and weigh out the pros and the cons before attempting any strength training workouts. Always keep in mind your long term health and fitness goals. What is your over arching dream look like and how will you get there?
If you are a woman, then there are many female specific exercise programs that you should follow. Never mirror what the men are doing. They might not know what they are doing either! Your joints, hip angles and tendons are not built the same way. You have probably already noticed that the majority of the machines in gyms are incompatible with a woman’s body dimensions. This is very symbolic of an industry that is stagnant in research and development. Strength training for womenshould be leg and core based. Exercises using the bodyweight, Swiss balls, cables and dumb bells are more appropriate in the beginning stages of development. Not to say that you should never perform low pull rows or workout out in a cable column. Just be mindful about what machine fit your body type well and which ones don’t. If your over the age of fifty, then making joint friendly choices is even more important than it was at age twenty. Your goal is, of course, to look and feel great, but don’t disregard postural spine dynamics and complete range of motions in place of the pure aesthetics of strength training workouts. As mentioned many of the traditional strength training exercises can exacerbate a pre existing weakness or body dysfunction. In other words, the wrong choice of resistance training exercises can compound an unstable painful lower back, an inflamed elbow or an impinged shoulder joint.
If you are still confused or ambivalent about making the wrong choices, then consult an expert who can perform an overall orthopedic assessment on you, and make the proper exercise recommendations. I am not an advocate of the usual “general personal trainer” seen in gyms. Most lack the medical education and training to perform an orthopedic and postural assessment on you. There are however, professional Corrective Exercise Specialists,Medical Exercise Specialists and CHEK Exercise Coach’s and Practitioners, who are medically educated and trained to design correct exercise programs for people from all walks of life, who require a customized strength training program. These professionals are worth the investment, and you will be glad you made the choice.
About the Author
Rivak Hoffman, President of Every Bit Fit Arizona is a devout health, wellness and exercise professional practicing his art in beautiful Scottsdale Arizona. He is a licensed Scottsdale Arizona CHEK Exercise Coach & Practitioner, a CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, a Scottsdale Arizona Corrective Exercise Specialist, a Scottsdale Arizona Precision Nutrition Coach and a Nationally Academy of Sports Medicine / Scottsdale Arizona Certified Personal Trainer. His passion and niche’ in the health and fitness industry is troubleshooting cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine dysfunctions, complete orthopedic rehabilitation and medical exercise training for the special populations. He has successfully healed hundreds of distressed and now happy clients who have been plagued with spine and other orthopedic issues over the past twenty years. Should you require a comprehensive, productive exercise therapy program to heal your medical issues, then contact Rivak for a complimentary consultation at EveryBitFitAz.com.