Monday, January 18, 2021

Safety first: Why Force is the Most Dangerous Culprit in Exercise

Note: Last week we talked about the “definition of exercise,” and why that definition is so important.

“The definition of exercise is a series of specific movements that stimulate a positive physiological adaptation (i.e. improved strength, muscle growth) *without undermining health.*”

The benefit of this definition is to eliminate physical activities that do not provide a proper stimulus for positive adaptation, and also have long or short-term injury repercussions.

That leaves us with progressive resistance training performed with strict form with a high intensity of effort. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to dive into some main topics that make a proper exercise routine both extremely sustainable AND effective.

Exercise injuries often come from too much force, not the use of weights.

Today’s topic is the most important to both the sustainability and effectiveness of your exercise program — safety.

If you are putting your health at risk in anyway during your exercise program, there’s really no point in exercising to begin with! Remember, exercising is supposed to produce POSITIVE adaptations to your body, and if you are constantly battling injuries from that exercise, you’re never going to achieve any health benefits, since you’ll always be back starting from square one.

Moving slowly

So what does safety look like in progressive resistance training? Just like when we defined exercise in a deliberate way, we must exercise deliberately as well.

It’s often a misconception that heavier weights are causing injuries in the gym, while in fact, it’s a more subtle and usually ignored culprit: force.

Injuries in the gym are a result of your muscles and/or joints being exposed to forces exceeding their structural strength. Now, for my engineering and physics majors out there, remember “Force equals mass times acceleration.”

Many well-meaning doctors and physical therapists recommend reduced weight for patients wanting to participate in strength training, without realizing most injuries occur without the presence of any additional weight at all! Think about it: a runner’s knees pounding the pavement, tennis elbow, throwing out your back bending over to pick up a golf ball — as SuperSlow founder Ken Hutchins wrote:

“… even weight-training injuries sustained with ‘light weight, low reps’ often cause injury. The key to minimizing injury is minimizing force.”

These injuries occur because the body moved quicker than the tissue was ready for, not because an external load was too heavy.

No swinging allowed!

So if we can limit the speed of movement and acceleration, we significantly reduce the probability of injury. At Efficient Fitness, we follow the slow-motion protocol, moving and reversing direction in exercises slowly and smoothly, avoiding harmful fast, jerky movements.

Now, when we move slow, does that make it easier? Not at all! In fact, because we are eliminating momentum, it not only makes the exercise much safer on our joints, but because our muscles are doing 100 percent of the work, it makes it much more intense, much more quickly.

Next week, we'll explore intensity, and why it is essential for both the effectiveness and the efficiency of our workouts. If your interested in learning more now, call 425-214-2251 or email to book your complimentary session!