Ask any personal trainer about the benefits of exercise and they’ll talk your ear off all day about boosted metabolism, increased strength, and improved cardio capacity. But with great power comes great responsibility. Has any personal trainer ever talked about the dangers of exercise?
Like anything in life, moderation is key, and too much of a good thing makes it not so good anymore. Exercise is no exception. Now, don’t think of this as your get out of jail free card. Don’t say “My personal trainer told me not to work out too much!” Instead say “My personal trainer taught me to recognize my limits, and how to exercise safely and smart!”
If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone do a behind the head latissimus pulldown. Or engage their shoulders as they do a bicep curl. Or try to touch their heels to their head with a weighted back extension. Long story short, I’d be a rich man. The number one danger of exercise is improper form and technique. Simply put, doing an exercise incorrectly is just a waste of time, and quite honestly dangerous. Often times you are not engaging the target area, you’ll see little to no benefits in the long term, and you increase your risk of injury.
This is why having a personal trainer can be so beneficial. It pays dividends to have someone there watching you who understanding biomechanics and the safety involved with executing each exercise or lift. Or more importantly, having a trainer who understands individuality, and who can identify key weaknesses in your body chain. There is absolutely a right way and a wrong way to do every exercise. Don’t waste your precious time, hire an expert.
Overtraining (also known as chronic fatigue or “burnout”) happens when the training load exceeds your recovery capacity. As a result you will experience a plateau in performance, and in some cases even a decreased! Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Rest and recovery is just as important as the work that gets put in. Without rest you may experience constant high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), and your body will spend more time in a catabolic (breaking down) state more than an anabolic (building up) state. Micro trauma to the muscles will be created faster than they can be healed. Other dietary factors such as lack of calories or protein to match activity level may also cause an athlete to plateau or regress. Bottom line: give your body some time to recover.
Overuse injuries can also be considered as overtraining injuries, but they have their differences. Overtraining is not allowing sufficient time for recovery. Overuse has that component, but also stresses the fatigue on the central nervous system. Consider a carpenter. He spends most of his day raising his hand overhead and slamming his hammer down. Not a problem every once in a while, but add that stress up over the course of 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for 10 years. Also add in the fact that he’s right handed. What we’re looking at now is an individual with an extreme muscle imbalance and chronic neural fatigue. As a result, his shoulder nerves are now impinged (pinched) due to the musculature around the shoulder joint. This inhibits the strength of his shoulder and arm, and greatly limits his range of motion.
This example can be applied to pitchers too. This is why Japanese pitchers only have a performance expectancy of a few years. The chronic wear and tear on the nerves of the shoulder eventually breaks down over time. Once that happens say goodbye to the majors. Here we’re concerned not only with adequate rest, but also the movement itself. Try to not make your regiment too repetitive, and be sure to include the reciprocal muscle group for every exercise you do. For example, if you work your biceps, balance that with a triceps workout. If you focus on your hip abductors, be sure to hit your adductors too. This ensures that your body stays both balanced and rested.
Believe it or not some of the machines in the gym may also be dangerous, especially if you don’t know how to set the machine up for yourself or the proper weight to use. Don’t misunderstand me: all of these machines have the capacity to be used safely and correctly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t carry an inherent risk.
Seated torso twist: Creates twisting and shearing forces on the back and spine.
ALTERNATIVE: A core bracing exercise like the Paloff Press
Shoulder/military press: Does not allow for natural, functional movement. Increased risk to rupture the rotator cuff. May also lead to shoulder impingement.
ALTERNATIVE: Lateral dumbbell raise
Chest fly: Increases the chances of overstretching the coracobrachialis and possibly rupturing it.
ALTERNATIVE: Dumbbell chest press
Leg extension: Increases stress on the knee joint and patella tendon. May also lead to a muscular imbalance between the quads and the glutes/hamstrings.
ALTERNATIVE: Squat or step-up
Back extension: Increases pressure in lumbar spine. May lead to herniation of vertebral discs.
ALTERNATIVE: Prone back extension (also promotes thoracic extension, great for posture!)
Last summer I was playing softball at my old park district. As our team gathered for pre-game warmups, the older half of the team sat on the ground and started doing static stretches, while the younger half of the team ran the foul line and did dynamic stretches. When I asked the older guys why they were stretching first, they simply said that’s the way they’ve always done it. Well, times have changed. We know now that the best way to warm-up is with a little light activity, followed by active stretching.
If you’re a runner, warm up with some light jogging. If you’re a swimmer, warm up with some dynamic arm circles and shoulder stretches. If you’re a martial artist, warm up with some half speed kicks. This promotes blood flow into key areas and prepares them for exercise. NEVER stretch a “cold” muscle. Rolling out of bed and going right into the extreme toe touches is only asking for a pulled muscle or tendon. Typically in a workout you should do a light warm-up first (while also including some dynamic stretching), then do your activity (be it lifting, swimming, running, ect.), then end with static stretching. Not only is this safer, but you will also see more improvements in your flexibility.
Did you have any idea you could become addicted to exercise? Well, it’s true. Like pharmacological drugs, exercise can be addictive on a chemical level. Many scientists attribute this to the natural endorphins and dopamine that are released during exercise. There are also other possible causes, such as body dysmorphic disorder, a psychological condition in which an individual perceives their body as undesirable. Regardless of whether the addiction is causes by chemical means or by physical means, exercise addiction may lead to “over exercising”, in turn leading to overtraining syndrome. We personal trainers love it when people are excited about exercise, but not when they do it so much they hurt themselves.
So there you have it, 6 ways you may be doing more harm than good with your exercise regimen. Speak with a professional at ChiTown Trainer about your workout routine and what you can do to help balance your program and reduce your risk of injury. Always remember that rest is just as important as work, and that moderation and balance are key! Good luck!!
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