Myth 1 – I shouldn’t lift weights

I saw a patient with back pain the other day. Formerly a strong guy, rugby player, used to go to the gym etc. He still does gardening, but because of a previous injury many years ago, he had been warned off any type of heavy lifting, running or significant activity.

Nah – this is surely dangerous?

He came to see me after carrying a 2 year old grandchild around a museum for half a day.

So here’s a thing. A formerly strong and fit person who got back pain from carrying a kid around a museum- and in his day to day life, he doesn’t really want to do any weight lifting for fear of making his back worse.

If we’d have taken him aside, given him a 16kg kettlebell and told him to lug it around town for half a day- would that have counted as weightlifting?

I know a number of people who would certainly class that as lifting heavy stuff and I certainly wouldn’t want to carry a 16kg weight around town for a day!

Now make that 16kg weight a squirmy and fidgity child- you can’t hold it how you want to, and all of a sudden there are a whole load of different forces acting upon you that you are trying to counter with your muscles… muscles that haven’t been used to lifting anything particularly heavy for the past few years.

NOW you can see why the poor guys back hurts. By swearing away from weights his muscles have detrained – and now when he really NEEDS the muscles, they aren’t there to help him… they get tired, grumpy and, bingo – start aching because they are tired and grumpy.

How could he have possibly avoided this problem?….Let’s think for a moment.

Human beings are adaptive, modifiable creatures. We respond to stimuli and get stronger. Bones get stronger when exposed to regular load. Muscles get stronger when exposed to regular load. Brains get better at understanding french when exposed to french regularly.

The most important part of that previous paragraph was this:

Muscles get stronger when exposed to regular load. 

I bet if this gentleman had been lifting a 16kg weight every day for the past few years, lumping a 2 year old kid around a museum wouldn’t have been nearly as problematic as it was for him. Would he have been in any danger from doing that? No. Not at all. Would it have broken him? No, not at all. Would he be a stronger and more resilient human being? – yes, I reckon so.

Moral of the story – Myth 1- you shouldn’t lift weights – definitely a myth.

Be strong. Be healthy.

Expose yourself to load. Get better at what you do. Lift heavier than necessary for normal life.

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