Is weight training good for your joints?

The popularization of functional fitness and weight training routines has brought up the question of the long term effects of this type of exercise. There are many benefits to strength training, especially as we age which include improved bone density, increased strength, fat loss, and overall health improvement. Doctors and many others are concerned about the effects on joint health.

The technological advances of x-rays and MRIs detecting “early stage arthritis and degeneration” can be the end of this type of training routine. However, this doesn’t have to be the case for many reasons. The first is due to the normal effects of aging. Consider the arthritis and “wear and tear” as the normal aging process; just like wrinkles. The second reason is that it is often thought that with normal joint degeneration, strength training will only cause symptoms (or pain) to actually worsen.

The reality is that adding resistance exercises the correct way actually results in improved pain, strength and overall function; with the caveat of adding in an appropriate amount and type of weightlifting into the mix. Here are 5 action steps that will make weight training beneficial for you and your joints:

  1. Warm up sufficiently. The goal of the warm up is to increase body temperature, lubricate the joints, and ready the body for activity.

  2. Move within the pain free range of motion. Ideally this is through the full range of motion as compared to working through partial ranges which can actually cause a little more stress at the joint. Think partial squats versus full squats.

  3. Move with control. When you lose control of your lifts, all that additional force and movement can occur in less ideal areas. (Movement quality)

  4. Maintain tension throughout your body weight lifting. If your body isn’t creating tension, it will produce tension in areas that can cause pain.

  5. When adding weights, make sure that movement itself looks the same for every single rep (consistency). You will be moving slower because of more weight but nothing else should change.

Using these 5 action steps will be crucial to making sure that you are having a long and healthy relationship with strength training. As we age it is increasingly important to add lifting weights to the weekly routine. Even if you are younger, these action steps will be crucial to joint health in the future.

With that being said, what is your favorite weight lifting exercise?


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