Strength Training: Beyond the "Gym Bro" Reputation
Why Strength Training is your key to being pain free and healthier
"How can I get out of pain and stay pain free?"
I get this question all the time. To be fair, the response is different for everyone depending on what condition they are dealing with, past injuries they’ve had, their current level of activity, current lifestyle, and many other factors. However, there are a few things that are true for EVERYONE across the board.
1) You will have a hard time staying out of pain without adequate sleep and stress management strategies.
2) Diet will most definitely increase or aggravate your pain if you eat the traditional western diet. This is because this style of diet is incredibly inflammatory.
3) The addition of a quality strength training routine will make your recovery from pain easier, period.
For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to focus on that last statement because when people hear “strength training”, a variety of different things may come to mind. But when implemented correctly, a quality strength training routine will make you much harder to hurt and will act as your own personal rehab.
First, let’s dispel some myths about strength training:
- Strength training does NOT consist of holding 10lb weights and doing an hour worth of squats, lunges, press, and bicep curls. This is cardio, not strength training.
- Strength training doesn’t have to consist of 2 hours of grunting and yelling in a mirror while you sniff ammonia capsules, wear a cut off t-shirt (glorified sports bra), and mean mug other lifters.
- Strength training will not make women “bulky” unless you're supplementing with hormones, lift with crazy intensity on the daily, and consume 5,000 calories/day. Coming from an average size man, if it were that easy we all would be jacked! But really… ☹
So why will strength training help me stay out of pain and why is it worth making the effort?
The vast majority of pain comes from “micro-injuries” that accumulate over the course of months or years. These are often the result of poor movement patterns used to perform daily tasks such as going up and down stairs, sitting/standing up from a chair poorly, or to much of a sedentary lifestyle with no recovery strategies. However, every day we use the major patterns of the squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, and carry, and without the practice of performing these thoughtfully in the gym, we “get by” with just enough mobility, coordination, and strength.
During a session of resistance training, the added weight forces us to move mindfully, which strengthens quality patterns. But with just body weight, we tend to adopt poor movements as we compensate around movement restrictions, old injuries, or weaknesses. While these compensations won’t hurt us in the short term, over time we wear down joints, lose range of motion, and strengthen our poor patterns. Under the right guidance and with a little coaching with your training routine, you can strengthen quality patterns that will carry over to your daily activities without needing to focus so much on “posture" or "corrective exercise".
From a health and wellness standpoint, strength training is the quickest way to change your body composition for the better. Moderate intensity resistance training has been shown to be just as effective as traditional “cardio” in improving markers of total cholesterol and triglycerides. And when it comes to losing weight, studies have shown when resistance training is added to a calorie restricted meal plan, participants were able to maintain much more lean mass than those who didn’t. This just means you keep more muscle and lose more fat! Building more strength and muscle will improve your bodies insulin sensitivity and decrease your risk of developing things like diabetes as well. And lastly, cartilage in the body feeds by a process called imbibition; a method of using compression (Loading a joint with weight) and decompression (stretching a joint) to feed the tissue like a sponge. The lack of these opposing forces accompanied with moving through limited ranges of motion will cause cartilage to decay much faster.
And likely the most obvious benefit of being stronger is making everyday life easier. If you can move weight outside of your body with good form, it’s going to drastically decrease the scenarios in everyday life that may cause you pain or injury. For example, if you struggle doing a push up, good luck not hurting your wrist or shoulder if you fall and catch yourself. The stronger you are, the more resilient you become and less like to experience “freak Injuries”.
So how should I get started with Strength Training?
First, you don’t need to train like a professional athlete. If you’re new to resistance training, you can’t go wrong with a 2-3 times a week training routine which challenges the major patterns of Squat, Hinge (deadlifts), Lunge, Press, Row, Carry. Keep in mind there are many exercise variations of each one of these movements, but if you’re not comfortable it’s important to get some coaching on how to perform these movements correctly and put them together in a productive way. You can check out my “Strength Training for Endurance Athletes” which lays out an easy workout structure and includes a library of exercise videos geared towards improving core, hips, and reinforcing proper gate patterns and balance.
However you start, the important thing is getting into a sustainable routine! Your confidence will build. Your health will improve. And I can promise, you’ll become harder to hurt!
Don’t Just Mend. Transcend.
For more information on treatment or online programming for sustainable exercise and pain relief, visit www.ChiroStrength.com or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway