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Force, not Weight

One major concern that many people have about starting an exercise program is the risk of injury. Some have experienced injuries in the distant past, may be just coming off of an injury, or have been told by someone (often a doctor) that they need to avoid injury. Injuries should be a major concern; after all, you cannot reap the benefits of an exercise regimen if you are hurt. In many cases injuries are completely unnecessary and can easily be avoided if you exhibit the proper behavior. Unfortunately, many people are mistaken as to what the root cause of injury is when it comes to weight training, and they think the risk of injury is commensurate with the amount of weight they use on a given exercise. The primary cause of any injury is the amount of force produced and incurred by the body, not the amount of weight that is lifted.

Force is equal to mass times acceleration (f=ma). How you move is far more important than how much weight you move. It is possible to lift a relatively light weight unsafely; in fact, some injuries that people incur involve no additional weight at all (think about a person who is distracted by their phone, steps off a curb, and sprains an ankle). It is also possible to lift a fairly heavy weight in a completely safe manner. We have several clients at Total Results that use over 400 pounds on the Leg Press exercise, and perform that exercise very safely. The major consideration is the client's behavior (read: form); this dictates whether an exercise is safe or unsafe. All of our machines are designed to track muscle and joint function properly, so they should not inherently pose any biomechanical problems. Proper form is paramount in terms of keeping the potentially dangerous forces to a minimum. Abrupt acceleration, ratcheting, off/oning, firing out of the stretch, and wiggling or adjusting during an exercise will exponentially increase the risk for injury. It is important to maintain the correct mentality and mindset, while understanding the true objective of exercise: inroading the muscular structures rather than achieving an arbitrary number of completed repetitions.

It is important to understand the distinction between weight lifting and weight training. Some people think the terms are interchangeable, which is a source of the problem. Weight lifting involves violently and explosively throwing and catching weights in a misguided attempt to build strength. It is very much skill-based and often involves free weights, such as you would see in Olympic events like the clean-and-jerk and the snatch. Much of what you see in commercial gyms amounts to some variation of weight lifting, and there is very little understanding about the dangers of high force. This is why so many people experience injuries performing CrossFit and Orange Theory; unfortunately most people just accept this as a price that must be paid. Total Results feels differently. Weight training involves raising and lowering the resistance in a smooth, slow, and controlled fashion until another repetition cannot be completed in proper form. It is pursued for the purpose of building strength, not demonstrating it. The volume of exercise is low and it is performed infrequently, in accordance with principles of biology, chemistry, physics, and concepts of motor learning. While weight training and weight lifting may sound similar, the two entities could not be more different.

When we talk about sports and athletes, it's important to understand that injuries are a part of any sport. Generating a high amount of force in the course of running, jumping, and changing directions can and often does involve either a sudden or overuse injury of some sort. The main reason that any athlete should strength train, aside from improving their level of performance, is to protect against injury. No matter how strong and well-conditioned you are, injuries can happen, but you give yourself the best chance for success by pursuing an intelligent exercise regimen like Total Results. Most Total Results clients are not competitive athletes, although many participate vigorously in recreation activities of a physical nature. Clients coming off an injury or experiencing joint discomfort often ask me to lower the weight on a given exercise. There is often not a physical need to do so, since they haven't lost any strength, but using a slightly lower weight makes them feel better and helps to rebuild confidence.

The major thing to remember is that when it comes to injury, force is a far larger consideration than weight. Certain activities carry with them an inherent risk and higher amounts of force, but weight training is an undertaking that should place a high priority on safety. You cannot reap the benefits of an exercise program if it injures you. If you follow the directions of your Total Results instructor and do what is asked of you, the chances of you getting injured are virtually zero. Our exercise program is safer than stepping off a curb.

Posted December 14, 2023 by Matthew Romans