Weight training and joint health. Find out everything you need to know about lifting weights to improve the health of your joints!
When I first stepped foot into a gym, I spent a lot of time watching other people (not like that, you creep).
I was genuinely interested in what they were doing. What exercises they chose to do, why they were doing them, and what the results of those exercises were.
With this, I spent a lot of time trying to learn from some of the older guys in the gym.
Guys who simply screamed ‘old man strength’.
And I quickly noticed that these people could easily fall into one of two categories.
- Jacked old guys who moved well, lifted a whole lot of weight, and were pain free, or;
- Jacked old guys who could lift a ton of weight, but spent their time hobbling around the gym in obvious pain, and wore braces on every single one of their joints.
So what gives?
Is weight training good for your joints? Is weight training bad for your joints?
Does it come down to genetics, diet, or lifestyle factors?
Or maybe it comes down to how you train… (hint: it probably comes down to how you train).
Weight Training and Joint Health
Contrary to popular belief, there is a large body of evidence showing that lifting weights can be pretty damn good for your joints.
See, weight training increases the strength of the muscles that surround your joints. This improves your ability to stabilize those joints during movement, which ultimately reduces joint wear and tear.
It is for this reason that weight training is actually pretty good for people with osteoarthritis.
However, there is a caveat here.
If you train like an idiot, then your joints will hate you.
Training like an idiot…
So, what do I mean by this?
Well, i guess I would characterize it by two things:
- Lifting weights with poor form and an inadequate range of motion
- Training heavy all the time
To put it simply, weight training with poor form is a great way to place undesirable loads on your joints. It is this load that has the potential to cause an acute joint injury. Similarly, lifting with a small range of motion means that you will only become stable in that short range of motion, which can create joint instability everywhere else — which may also act as a precursor for a joint injury.
Pretty simply, make sure your prioritize technique.
On the other hand, we have heavy weight training (as in lifting really heavy loads for 1-5 repetitions).
Now, just to be clear, I think heavy weight training is the cats pajamas.
It is integral to building strength, increasing power, enchaining stability, and generally making you a more robust human being.
And seriously, who doesn’t want to be a more robust human being?
But the kicker here is that it places much more load on your joints than weight training performed using higher rep ranges, and lower loads.
So if you lift heavy week in week out, you wont allow your joints time to recover between workouts, which can take an obvious toll on your joint health.
As a result, you want to make sure that you match your periods of heavy lifting with periods of higher rep stuff using lighter loads. This gives your joints some time to recover, and ensures that you continue to build strength and stability in the long run.
But Won’t Weight Training Ruin My Flexibility?
A common knock on weight training is that it will make you stiff and immobile — leaving you completely unable to get your arms over your head.
But, much like the above, I would argue that this only happens if you lift weights using inadequate range of motion,
In fact, if you weight train using a full range of motion, you can actually cause some pretty large improvements in flexibility. Impressively, some these improvements are even comparable to those caused by stretching.
Additionally, you want to make sure that you are performing a variety of movements that train all of the muscles surrounding your joints. This will ensure that you do not develop any muscular imbalances that can lead to unstable joint positions.
So, in short, no — if you train appropriately, it will not ruin your flexibility at all.
Best 4 Tips on Weight Training for Joint Health
With all this in mind, there a couple of things you can do to make sure that your weight training improves the health of your joints, rather than hinders it:
- Train using a full range of motion for every exercise
- If you enjoy heavy strength training, make sure that you also employ periods training with lighter loads and higher rep ranges
- Use a variety of exercises to ensure you do not develop any muscular imbalances
- Stretch any stiff muscles if you do have some limitations in flexibility before you start your weight training session
Simple and effective.
Take Home Message
When performed properly, weight training actually has the ability to improve your joint health — which is pretty incredible if you think about it.
But not that I said “when performed properly”…
So make sure you use the tips outlined in this article, and drop us a comment t if you have any questions!