Weight lifting exercises can be great for your body. If the right exercises are performed correctly, they can stabilize an injured, painful, or arthritic joint. If the wrong exercises are performed incorrectly, then you can exacerbate an existing injury or create a new one. If you chose the wrong exercises you can strengthen up an already tight and irritated muscle which will make it more tight and irritated and therefore more likely to become injured.
The best example I have of this is someone who works at a computer all day and then works out his beach muscles. We’ll call him Ted. Ted works at a computer all day which causes a whole host of muscular issues. Sitting at a desk all day will cause Ted’s neck, shoulders and upper back muscles to tighten up slowly over time. It will also cause Ted’s low back, hip, leg, knee, calf and stomach muscles to tighten up as well. These tight muscles will make Ted susceptible to getting headaches, neck and shoulder pain, rotator cuff problems, chest pain, elbow pain and carpal tunnel in his upper body. In his lower body Ted is susceptible to getting low back, hip, stomach, knee and ankle pain, along with patella tracking problems, plantar fasciitis and IT Band syndrome, to name a few of the issues associated with sitting for extended periods of time.
Every day that Ted sits at his desk his muscles are slowly tightening up. If Ted can keep his muscles loose and strong, the muscles will have more endurance and be better able to deal with the stresses of daily life. If Ted doesn’t do anything to manage his slowly tightening muscles, then the muscles will get so tight that they will tear on a microscopic level. This can send the muscles into patterns of spasm and inflammation that can last months to years. The Nimmo Trigger Point Therapy I practice is very good at getting muscles out of this pattern. But if you don’t have access to a trigger point therapist or chiropractor, then yoga and ti chi are great ways to loosen yourself up and balance your body out which can help get irritated muscles out of these patterns. This will prime you for exercising and keep you healthy so that you can continue to exercise.
If Ted, who is still working at his desk all day, goes to the gym to lift weights so he can get into shape and get rid of some of his aches and pain, lifts the wrong way and performs the wrong exercises, he can easily injure his already tight and irritated muscles which will irritated and injure the joints as well. The tighter and more irritated a muscle is, the more likely it is to get injured. It will get injured more easily than a loose and strong muscle will.
While at the gym, Ted wants to work on the muscles he sees when he looks into the mirror. Ted can see his chest and stomach in the mirror and he therefore will focus on those muscles. Exercise is all about balance. If you work one area of the body then you have to work the opposite area as well, unlike Ted. If Ted just focuses on his beach muscles (chest and stomach muscles-called this because they are the muscles that you see on someone at a beach) he will be tightening up and irritating already tight and irritated chest, shoulder and stomach muscles. It is essential to work on these muscles, but they just should not be the focus of working out. Ted would be much better off focusing on his upper back muscles and lower back extensor muscles. These muscles will balance out the tight muscles Ted is getting from working at a desk all day. Over time these back muscles will compensate for the tight chest and stomach muscles and overall will stabilize Ted’s shoulders, neck and upper back along with his low back, hips and legs. The upper and lower back muscles should be done in conjunction with the chest and stomach muscles so that they balance each other out. I even recommend doing more for your upper back than your chest. Your upper back will do a lot more to stabilize your shoulders and neck then your chest will.
That is just one example of how exercising the wrong muscle groups can irritate an already existing issue or even create a new problem or injury. Even if you are doing the correct exercises, you have to make sure that you are doing the form correctly. If you don’t have to form down, then you can easily injure yourself this way as well.
The exercises for Pain Free Lifestyle will have directions on how to perform them properly. And the routine was set up to be well balanced and easy on your body. It was created so that someone who hasn’t exercised in years and is overweight and basically just deconditioned can start exercising without hurting themselves. It is a safe and effective program for those of you looking to feel better and get into shape, but aren’t looking for the Insanity Workout or 2 Weeks to 6 Pack Abs.
This article that I attached discusses some exercises that are good to do, and some to stay away from. My opinion on a few of the exercises differs from that of the author of the article.
In the article they recommend performing the leg press machine with feet raised high on the platform. I feel that no matter which foot position you use, the leg press machine is still hard on your hips and low back. If you have a low back or hip issue, the leg press machine will exacerbate it. And if you don’t have any low back or hip issues, it is a good way to injure those areas. I think it puts too much stress on the hip flexors (the front of the hips). If someone is sitting at a desk all day, their hip flexors are going to be chronically tight. Doing the leg press machine will tighten them further until something gives, usually a hip or low back muscle.
I also don’t agree with doing lateral raises or front raises for your deltoids or shoulder muscles. These exercises are recommended instead of doing the upright row. I completely agree that upright rows are very tough on your shoulders and should not be performed. But lateral raises and front raises can be hard on your shoulders as well. I feel that unless you are a professional athlete, then you don’t have to work out those small muscles in the body, like the anterior deltoid muscle. I feel that as long as you are doing something like a military press then you will be hitting all of the muscles in your shoulders, but in a way that is easy on your body and easy on your shoulders. Doing those small muscle exercises like lateral raises and front raises puts too much stress on your shoulders and can easily cause an injury in your shoulders or flair up an existing injury. If you are not looking to be a professional body builder or professional athlete then it is not necessary to work those small muscles in the body. They are not very functional and won’t add much to the level of activity that you can do.
The last topic I want to discuss that the article brought up is that of using weight belts. I am not a fan of weight belts. Weight belts can stabilize your low back to prevent injuries- initially. But if used too much then your core muscles (the muscles between your ribs and knees on the front, back and sides of your body) will become weaker and less stabile. This is because the core muscles will start pushing out into the weight belt to stabilize the core rather than contracting in to stabilize the core. Over time this will weaken the core muscles and destabilize your low back, hips and leg muscles.
If used in the correct way, weight lifting can be an extremely effective exercise for stabilizing arthritic and injured and irritated joints. Weight lifting can also be an essential component to managing your body and keeping injuries and pain at bay, or at least minimizing them. And that is the Pain Free way.