Four Commandments of Lifting Longevity
By: Dr Jordan Shallow D.C
Injuries are a plight that has been the downfall of many great athletes. Everyone (including myself) have that heartbreak tale of that one injury that held him or her back from the big times. In the uninhibited arena of conventional sports, injuries can occur at a moments notice and to no fault of the athlete. But in the rigorously controlled environment of the gym, injuries can be predicted and all together avoided if armed with the right set of “know-how”.
#1 JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD
We all like to stroke the ego every now and then, and give a solid answer to the age old question “Bro, what do you bench?” The trouble lies when that Neanderthal part of the brain takes over day-in-day-out.
Maximal effort lifts are a good tool to gauge progress and map a particular training program accordingly, using percentages of that 1 rep max to predict sub maximal weights for ideal training intensity. That being said, the 1 rep max is also the time where catastrophic injuries can happen, injuries that will put you on the shelf for weeks, sometimes months at a time.
Just recently we’ve seen the manifestations of what a lifetime of heavy lifting can look like. 8x Mr Olympia, Ronnie Coleman who became infamous for the saying “Light weight baby” when referring to a 2,300lbs leg press, or 200 lb flat bench dumbbell press, or most famously his 800 lb back squat AND deadlift. But now, Mr Coleman is coming off his 6th major surgery since 2007, with his last one leaving him learning how to walk again.
But there is a stoic nobility of the wounded soldier and it seems that the youth are not learning from Ronnie’s behavior, rather paying homage by emulating his past performances. Just recently, 24 year old IFBB pro Dallas McCarver pulled an 845 lbs deadlift just three weeks out from the upcoming Arnold Classic.
I would never say there is a correlation between lifting heavy and long term, debilitating injury. Lord knows I like to get under some heavy bars from time to time.But there is a relationship between the two. Consider this, Dexter Jackson, is only 5 years Ronnie’s junior and not only can he still walk without assistance, he is still competing. Dexter Jackson is known for a very “safe” style of training, which involves little to no heavy lifting, especially in the squat or deadlift. Now this might not be “cool” or “savage” but I doubt he minds, he’s too busy winning shows, just last year alone he won 4 pro shows with a second at the Olympia… at 46 years old.
#2 JUST BECAUSE YOU SHOULD, DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO
I’ll always tell people to stick to a program. Keeping a log of your workouts can serve you well on your journey to increasing strength and improving body composition. A well thought out and progressive training cycle is an invaluable asset to making progress.
It can be dangerous at the same time. If the program calls for a top set heavy single on back squats but your girl made you go on a 13 hour hike with her yoga instructor and her effeminate boyfriend there is no shame in postponing the workout until the following morning.
Now, a lot of hardcore guys will say tough it out- and there is a meathead gene in me that wants to agree with them. But true strength comes from knowing when to bow down, and live to lift another day. In hindsight pushing that big lift back 12 hours after a good nights sleep will get you a lot stronger than going into the workout flat and then rendering yourself out of commission for weeks afterwards.
The macho-primitive-knuckle-dragging-savage pseudo culture that has been breeding uncontrollably in the world of social media, has created a community of lifters looking to share their marginal improvements with the rest of their #fitfam. Often attempting to replicate a weight or exercises that their IG idol has been flaunting.
If you’ve been squatting everyday, with knocked knees, pronated feet and way to much weight just to get a quick shot of endorphin from an Instagram double-tap. Then your doomed to fail.
#4 BE AWARE OF BAND-AIDES
Wraps, straps, sleeves, belts, supports, heeled shoes and braces have all become commonplace on the gym floor. The majority of squat racks usually look like their being used by 7 year olds attempting to ride a bike for the first time. Safety-first children.
But in actuality this false sense of security can be doing more harm than good. All of the aforementioned safety precautions protect you from injury in the same way football helmets protect players from concussions… They don’t.
What I mean by that is think of the 1920’s cow skin hat that football players used to wear as helmets… you’d probably think, “oh those were good for nothing- good thing we have all these advancements in technology, plastics and research”.
– But concussion rates are higher than ever?
The modern day American football helmet allows players to play with little to no inhibitions or apprehensions, under the falsehood that the helmet will protect them. But, it’s that uninhibited style of play that leads to an increase of force from the players, which ultimately leads to injury.
The same comparison can be made with lifting-aids. Sure, the elbow sleeve might take away any apprehension of pressing through minor elbow pain, but with enough load placed on the joints, that elbow will soon begin to hurt with the sleeve on…
Fending off minor injuries by wrapping and strapping is just prolonging the inevitable and usually increases the magnitude of injury.
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The common theme with all these commandments is consistency, ensuring that you create a mental headspace that will keep your focus on the long term. There is no single workout, single set, or single rep that will propel you to your goals. Your goals are reached by a summation of good decisions. Let these commandments guide you and as always..
Dr Jordan Shallow D.C