Serious Fitness

for Ridiculous Humans

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THIS ONE GOT ME SUPER TRIGGERED

In today’s love letter, I’d like to share an email a beloved Ninja recently wrote me.

She’d been told to stop doing lower body weight training after recovering from an injury. So she wanted yours truly to weigh in:

“A couple of months ago, I threw my back out all the way to Tanzania doing barbell squats in a SGPT class (no one’s fault but my own). After 2 months of PT, I felt all better, and asked my PT trainer what’s next? To which she replied, you’re done with weight training. Someone as small as you (I’m 5’3″ at best) at your age (68) and gender (F), lower body weight training is just going to wreck your back and your hips, just don’t do it! I’m tempted to double down and show her she is wrong, but in your opinion, is there anything in what she says? I feel confident that I am not the only Ninja who would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this one.”

Full disclosure; I definitely got triggered the first time I read this haha. 

I am not, as a rule, going to encourage anyone to disregard a clinician’s recommendations. I will always defer to doctors and those with greater scope and educational background than I have. But I do think there is some nuance we can add to this conversation.

First off, it’s difficult to discount the entire bucket of “lower body weight training” as that’s a HYOOGE bucket. There is a time and place where consistently pushing for heavier weights is no longer ideal. At a certain point, the benefits outweigh the possible costs.

Additionally, exercise selection is an important consideration. I confess, I’m not a big fan of barbell back squats for most people much of the time, with the exception of very specific goals for very specific individuals. Most people don’t have the requisite stability and mobility in shoulders and hips, and there are alternative exercises that will provide much of the same bang for a teenier buck. So back squats are not my fave.

Having said that, appropriately loaded strength training exercises performed with good technique are a foundation of health and fitness. Barring some unusual orthopedic situation, strength training maintains and builds strength, muscle mass, bone density, power, single leg stability, and all sorts of other positive outcomes.

To be clear, “appropriately loaded” and “with good technique” are a big piece of this puzzle. But if anything, I’d argue this remains –– and possibly becomes more –– important as we age. For more thoughts on using exercise to support optimal aging, go HERE.

I’m also not clear on what either size or gender have to do with this particular suggestion. I guess there could be elevated orthopedic risks unique to smaller skeletal frames and joints. But again, this simply changes our parameters for choosing how heavy to lift and the total weekly volume. It doesn’t mean we should stop weight training.

As you can see, this topic requires nuance.

Listen, I can’t actually speak to the specific recommendations of an individual working with a clinician. I’m the first to admit I may not have the whole puzzle. 

But I hope the overall message is clear:

If you want to age well and get the full range of benefits from your fitness activity, you’d do well to strength train on a regular basis.

We’re gonna live to be 150,

Mark

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