Question: Is Strength Training Dangerous?
This is one of my favourite myths in the exercise world. Strength training is dangerous. Why? Where did you get this information?
You can hurt yourself. Obviously! You can hurt yourself driving, cutting vegetables, walking down stairs, waterskiing, getting out of the shower. Pretty sure I could extend that list indefinitely.
I am not sure when going to the gym became one of the more dangerous activities on earth that was simply too dangerous to do without qualified supervision. But somewhere along the way this is exactly what happened.
Here is a great quote from a fellow strength coach to think about:
“If you think being weak is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.”
– Bret Contreras
This isn’t to say good coaching is irrelevant or you aren’t increasing your chances of getting hurt by going it alone. You will definitely have better results and less chance of getting hurt if you work with an experienced, educated, and certified fitness coach, just as having a pro chef teach you to cook will give you better odds at not slicing off a finger when preparing a meal that people actually want to eat.
When we talk about lifting weights, however, people freak out! Let’s look at the numbers. You are far more likely to injure yourself playing a pickup sport (baseball, tennis or even that fun game of staff volleyball once a year) than you are lifting weights. The epidemiological research shows this.
Yet no one thinks it is a bad idea to go play a sport. Or how about starting to run? Everyone thinks that is a good way to start a fitness program. Even though running is an extremely high rep plyometric activity with 2-3x additional force going through your joints, usually with poor technique, poor footwear, and no coaching or program guidelines.
Tennis? I love playing a game with my wife, but think about this; when you run and make a cutting motion (change direction suddenly) you can increase forces through the joints up to 8x bodyweight with the addition of all sorts of other multi-directional forces. Injury risk is a little higher on that then a controlled squat with less than your bodyweight and one direction of force don’t you think?
Interesting when you look at it from a physics standpoint, isn’t it?
Here is the thing – you aren’t anymore likely to hurt yourself lifting weights than you are doing any other activity in your life PLUS there are a multitude of benefits you will get from strength training including improved mobility, movement, bone density, grip strength, functional strength and cardiovascular health.
As with anything else a good coach will make the risks even lower and will increase your success exponentially. It is rare the weights cause the injury for most people. The benefits far outweigh the risks. If you can run or play sports you can lift weights. Period.