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Weight training offers multiple benefits. It helps you build muscle, relieve stress and keep your mind and body healthy. If you’re dedicated enough to your nutrition, you could even sport the fabled 6-pack on the beach this summer. However, the right techniques and fitness plan are essential to obtaining the desired results. Otherwise, things could go terribly awry — it’s rare, but it happens. Are there disadvantages of weight training? Here’s what you should know.
You might not think of hitting the gym as inherently dangerous, and it can be safe when done correctly. However, the statistics bear a grim warning. Between 1990 and 2007, American hospitals treated nearly a million weight-training-related injuries. The incidents increased almost 50% over the 18-year study period. What lurks behind these fitness foibles?
One disadvantage of weight training is that anyone can do it. “Wait, what,” you might be thinking, “that sounds like a benefit.” In many ways, it is. However, people vary widely in their fitness expertise and don’t always get their information from reliable sources.
As a result, far too many gym-goers use improper, even downright dangerous techniques they see online or witness other people doing. For example, it’s not uncommon for folks doing Romanian deadlifts to strain their lower back — and chronic back pain is one of the leading causes of disability. Or they may perform lat pulldowns with the bar behind their neck, putting enormous strain on their cervical spine.
What’s your best bet for avoiding injury? Hire a personal trainer — even if only for a session or two. You might even get this service for free. Many fitness facilities include a free hour or two of strengthening and toning with a pro as part of their membership package. Please take advantage of this amenity if offered.
You might also consider sticking with strength training machines instead of heading right to the free weights — especially if you’re a novice. The fixed nature of these devices holds your body in precise alignment, reducing injury risk. You won’t work as many complementary and opposing muscle groups, but you’ll prevent unnecessary strain.
Another pro-tip: go light. Far too many injuries occur when people bite off more than they can chew — a classic example involves getting pinned under a bench press bar. Finally, it helps to have a spotter, even if they aren’t a professional trainer. They can help you lift too-heavy weights and keep an eye on your form. Plus, working out with a buddy helps motivate you to stick with the program.
Most people understand the “weekend warrior” syndrome: you remain relatively sedentary all week, then hit the gym hard on the weekends. Come Monday, you hobble back into the office with every part of your body screaming — if you aren’t laid up in Urgent Care.
Overtraining occurs when you work out at too high an intensity level for too long without a break while ignoring the subtle signs that you should slow down. It can result in injury or performance plateaus — ironically, going too hard can derail your progress. How can you recognize when you’ve pushed past your limits? Look for the following signs:
- Persistent soreness: While many people experience delayed-onset muscle soreness, this pain persists continuously throughout your training. It may even become severe enough to wake you up at night.
- “Heavy” muscles: No, we’re not referring to your bulk. Rather, this heaviness is a subjective feeling — you might find it tough to walk up a flight of stairs, even across a room.
- Increase in tension, anger or confusion: Physical exercise impacts your mental state. Overdoing it increases cortisol levels, causing you to become edgy.
- Inability to relax and poor quality sleep: Going too hard also keeps your central nervous system in a constant “high alert” state. As a result, you may feel perpetually restless and find sleep impossible, even though you’re exhausted.
Generally, you should keep most workouts to an hour or less. Longer workouts can lead to the above adverse effects and make you plumb sick of training and more likely to quit your program.
3. Tight Muscles
Everyone’s flexibility range differs. However, one disadvantage of weight training sometimes appears on the yoga mat. You could find yourself limited compared to your previous stretching ability.
Fortunately, this disadvantage of weight training is a cinch to counter — perform at least five to ten minutes of flexibility training after each workout. Additionally, you might want to devote your rest day to yoga practice to balance strength with elasticity.
4. Joint Damage
Can lifting too-heavy weights damage your joints? Yes. It’s ironic because strength training can also ease your pain if you have arthritis. It builds the muscle around your joints so that your cartilage doesn’t have to do all the work. Whether you benefit depends on your form and the resistance level you select.
Avoid these disadvantages of weight training by following these tips:
- Warm-up: Your warm-up is the place for dynamic stretching. Moves like lunges and squats without weights prepare your lower body, while tai chi twists and shoulder rolls prepare your upper body for action.
- Stay light: Treat weight training like the tortoise and the hare. You’re in this for the long haul. Therefore, stay on the lighter side with your weight selection, gradually increasing as it feels safe. You’ll never become one of the hulking behemoths you admire if you spend half your time on the disabled list.
- Cool down: You should stretch — and rest. Generally, it takes 24 to 48 hours for your muscles to recover from a strength-training workout. Taking adequate time allows your body to repair the microscopic tears that lead to strength gains.
- Listen to your body: Every day in the gym is different. Minor changes in hormonal or hydration levels can impact performance. You could even have a mild infection without knowing it — you may only feel more tired than usual. Honor your body’s cues and take it easy when need be.
5. Arterial Tears
Arterial tears are probably the scariest disadvantage of weight training. Although it happens rarely, many aorta and carotid artery injuries occur when lifting too much. Occasionally, other blood vessels like the celiac artery also incur damage.
If the thought of tearing open a major blood vessel inside your body scares you, it should. For example, aortic dissection can prove fatal. One study of recreational weightlifters with such injuries reported a 32.2% mortality rate, although surgical intervention saved lives over 80% of the time. Still — this possibility serves as a final, dire warning to start slow and avoid lifting more than you can comfortably handle.
Disadvantages of Weight Training
Strength training has multiple advantages. It tones your body while benefiting your mental health. It can even help you meet friends and make important business connections in the gym.
However, you have to recognize the risks. Now that you know what you should about the disadvantages of weight training, you can make your next sweat session safer and more effective.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.