SPINE SAVVY Dr Murray McDonald

Weight lifting, done improperly, can cause injury. Catherine Hayden speaks to strength trainer and chiropractor Dr Murray McDonald on technique, form and fallacy. 
Weight lifting, done improperly, can cause injury. Catherine Hayden speaks to strength trainer and chiropractor Dr Murray McDonald on technique, form and fallacy.  Should you be doing some kind of resistance training? Well, resistance training like lifting, pushing or pulling heavy(ish) things is good for your bones, muscles, nerves, back (and everything else) and that's whether you're young, old, male or female. Build yourself up Resistance training can build you up or break you down. Treat it with respect and it'll make you stronger but push too heavy or too often and you could hurt yourself. This goes against the 'no pain, no gain' mantra of some lifters and extreme CrossFitters but remember that you exercise to get healthy, not to hurt so: safety first. Always. Get strong safely Follow these general guidelines, and chances are you'll get strong safely and avoid injury. '         Learn proper form If you exercise incorrectly you're likely to get hurt. Consult a trainer, read a good book on the topic, or check out American strength training coach and author Mark Rippetoe on Youtube. Strict is safe. And whatever you do, never round your back when lifting. Keep it straight or slightly arched. If you can't maintain proper form anymore, and this could be because you're tired, your set is done. It's that simple. '         Leave your ego at the door  Pushing yourself when you work out is one thing, but doing this to impress other guys in the gym or your crush on the elliptical, will end in tears. Start with a set using a weight you find easy and gradually increase the weight until it gets challenging. This is called a 'warm-up'. Try increasing that challenge next time you work out. This is known as 'appropriate loading progression'. Basically, you're increasing your load in a way that's appropriate ' not harmful ' for your body. Do both of these things. '         Lift with your legs Your spinal muscles were made to stabilise you. Your leg and buttock muscles are designed to do the actual movement needed when lifting/pushing/pulling heavy objects. (YouTube Bret Contreras for more details). '         Know when to stop One good way to understand this rule is when it comes to the (in my opinion, wrongly) maligned exercise known as the deadlift. When you deadlift, your back/glutes/hamstrings will get tired. They may start to 'burn'. This is 'good pain'. If you lose form, you lift too much weight, or you deadlift too often, you may feel sharp pain. This is not good. Stop lifting immediately and see your chiropractor if the pain doesn't go away as soon as you stop. What is deadlifting? A deadlift is a lift (using a weight or heavy object) made from a standing position without using a bench or any other piece of equipment. Strong but sensitive The spine is strong but sensitive. This means that back or spine pain is common, but actual damage is far less common than you may think. It's important not to 'push through the pain' when you feel it because you risk making it worse. Having pain doesn't mean you have to stop training, though ' you just need to avoid exercises that cause that pain. Training during injury Your can train around an injury quite safely while it heals if you are careful and listen to your body. Pain is, of course, not good. If deadlifting hurts, try lifting less weight or try a different stance. You could also utilise a different exercise to target those muscles. All the while, you can happily train other parts of your body (provided this doesn't cause pain). There is one important exception to this rule: Avoid sit-ups in general. Rethinking sit-ups It's a myth that sit-ups burn stomach fat. They simply don't. In addition, they degrade the spinal discs and can gradually cause lasting damage. Rather stick to variations of the plank exercise or, if you have to, hanging knee raises or very slow, controlled crunches. Dr Murray L. McDonald is chiropractor at the Chiropractic Health Centre (Claremont & Seapoint) and describes himself as an avid strength trainer and incorrigible health nerd. Contact him: www.chiropractor.co.za @DrMurrayMcD

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