Throughout the last 75 or more years, weightlifting has been associated with big, muscular, strong men that seem to be abnormally developed. We see pictures on magazine covers, Hollywood Actors and Actresses with chiseled abs and bulging biceps. We often silently or not so silently say to ourselves that we could look like that if we could afford a personal trainer or took steroids.

You might even go back 45 years for those that are old enough to remember the former Soviet Union weight lifter Vasily Alekseyev. The strong muscular pot belly heavyweight who broke several world weight lifting records. Others, might remember Jack Lalanne, the godfather of modern fitness and an avid weightlifter known for his lifelong commitment to exercise and feats of strength. Arnold Schwarzenegger embodied the modern bodybuilder who appeared to have muscles on top of muscles. Rachel Maclish was considered one of the first female body building icons, and she paved the way for Cory Everson.

Whatever, your weightlifting experiences or preconceived ideas are of weight training, I will try to help dispel some myths and maybe even get you to start adding weight training to your daily exercise.

Myth No. 1 - I’ll get muscle bound if I start lifting weights

Not true. Unless you are lifting heavy weights and not stretching you can maintain flexibility. In some cases, people gain flexibility with certain exercises such as squats. (when done properly)

Myth No. 2 - Machines are safer

Can be true, however, not usually the case. Machines make you do the exercise in one plane or pre-determined motion. They often put you in a “one size fits all” scenario placing more stress on your joints. People think that the weight on the machine means they can lift the equivalent weight on a barbell or dumbbell. Unfortunately, machines have pulleys and cables which reduce the actual dead weight.

“Free weights” build more functional strength and allow the individual to move through multiple joint motions and develop more coordination.

Myth  No. 3 - I’m too old for weight lifting

You are never too old to start. It might just take longer to see your strength gains. In fact, many studies have determined that weight training and resistance training help to strengthen joints and bones. Weight training also leads to increased blood flow and even decreased blood pressure when combine with cardio workouts.

Myth  No. 4  - Lifting weight will hurt my joints

This is one of those… can be true when done incorrectly, but again generally a myth. More studies have shown that weight training strengthens joints and improves their health. Joints that are mild/moderately stressed will secrete more synovial fluid (natural joint fluid that lubricates the joint) than joints that are not stressed. Even arthritic joints can benefit from mild/moderate weight training.

Myth  No. 5 - Baseball pitchers and golfers shouldn’t lift weights

Many baseball coaches and golf instructors still believe this is true. This too is false. They should do the proper exercises that develop leg and trunk power. Golfer legends such as Gary Player weight trained and was a fitness fanatic often doing several pushups on the first tee when he was announced. Fast forward a few years and Tiger Woods helped changed the landscape of what golfer should look like.

Many professional pitchers didn’t lift weights when they were younger but end up becoming weight lifters once they get hurt and must rehab. They continue to lift weight to prevent another injury.

Myth  No. 6 - I don’t need a weight lifting coach; my friend knows all about that stuff

Well this is something that I need to refute on many levels. Unless your friend or significant other is a trained strength and conditioning coach or a certified personal trainer, they probably don’t have a clue about training someone, in fact they are probably doing many things counterproductive in their own workouts. This same analogy can be borrowed from skiing and snowboarding. How many of you were taught to ski or snowboard by a friend that took you to the top of the mountain, then proceeded to show you how to turn and stop. Next thing, you were supposed to be riding down the mountain like a pro. Then you crashed and burned and swore never to do this again. Same thing with weight lifting. If your friend starts you off on the bench press and loads up the bar with a lot of weight, run. The bench press is not the place to start.

Seek out a certified personal trainer or someone with a quality credential to start and create a program that will meet your needs, not theirs.

Myth No. 7 - Runners shouldn’t weight train, it's counterproductive

False. If you look at the recent IAAF Track and Field World Championships in London, it was filled with athletes of all body types. Sprinters were muscular and powerful and the distance runners were lean but still displayed physiques that showed off considerable muscular definition. Sprinters work squats and power cleans and other explosive exercises, while distance runners will work higher repetitions to build muscular endurance.

Myth  No. 8 - Muscle turns into fat once you stop lifting

False. Muscles will shrink or atrophy when not used. People gain body fat because they stop exercising and usually develop poor eating habits.

Myth No. 9 - Women shouldn’t lift weights

As a standard rule, never tell a woman that she shouldn’t do something.

However, this statement is false. Women can weight train safely and develop strength alongside men. Women shouldn’t start a weight training program in their second or third trimester, but generally are safe to exercise throughout their pregnancy. Always consult your physician before beginning a weight training program.

There are several more myths floating among people who feel weight lifting is unnatural, these are few of the highlights. Some of the positive effects of weight training include: increased lean muscle mass while helping to decrease body fat; increased bone density; increased strength of tendons, ligaments, and joint stability; increased quality of life; increased mood and confidence; and improved cardio health. More studies of geriatric medicine are encouraging some level of resistance or weight training to maintain lean muscle mass in their patients.

Regardless of your view of weight lifting, choosing the correct type of training is essential. As a former competitive power lifter, we used to have a saying, “you have to lift big to get big.” In other words, for those that don’t want to move up a shirt or dress size, lighter weights with higher repetition can still be beneficial without gaining larger muscle mass. Specificity of your training is key. When you go to the gym have a plan, then work it.

Learn more about movement, fitness and health in this space each week or by visiting www.alliancehealthfresno.com, or calling 478-5833. Lance Hairabedian EdM, PTA is a physical therapist assistant at Alliance Health. He will be happy to answer questions submitted to lance@alliancehealthfresno.com.

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