Monday, July 20, 2009

Imaginary or real?

The term "busted up weightlifter syndrome" is used in the bodyweight-only fitness training community to describe guys who are banged up from their days of lifting heavy weights. Supposedly, a person afflicted with busted up weightlifter syndrome suffers from chronic pain and debilitating injuries brought about from lifting heavy weights day in and day out for year after year.

Is busted up weightlifter syndrome real, or imaginary like its yesteryear cousin “muscle bound” syndrome? Muscle bound was a term used by coaches and, even, medical doctors as recent as 50 years ago to describe a condition of being unable to move your body or be agile due to big muscles brought about from weightlifting. As a high school student, my Dad recalls being told by his physical education coach that he would get muscle bound if he lifted weights and would not be able to wipe his behind after going to the bathroom.

These weightlifting naysayers were flat out wrong as time has told. Is that the case with modern day weightlifting naysayers who are constantly crying wolf about busted up weightlifter syndrome?

If busted up weightlifter syndrome is real, how widespread is it and will all people who lift heavy weights day in and day out for year after year eventually get it?

Pierini Fitness is in search of the truth if busted up weightlifter syndrome is imaginary or real and welcomes your contributions of anecdotal evidence. We’d also appreciate you pointing us in the direction of published research studies related to weightlifting injuries compared to other fitness and sports activities.

Tell us what you think. Is busted up weightlifting syndrome imaginary or real?

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum


Ralph said...

My guess is that if someone is busted up, weights/bodyweight, it’s probably a synergistic collision of improper training technique, genetic predisposition to the injury, and pushing themselves past achievable healthy gains.

I understand the perspective of the man who uses the term, “busted up weightlifter syndrome" the most. He’s in pretty good shape for his age, and he receives a lot of ‘testimony’ from former weight lifters who are in agony. That’s his perspective.

Now from my perspective, whether the term is anecdotal or the most recent findings of a large scientific evaluation – I like to lift, so I lift.

Charles Long said...

A person can get busted up doing any kind of exercise. Certainly hoisting heavy iron around has the potential. I stopped lifting because I had developed chronic lower back pain. It was probably more due to my form than anything else as I had never had any coaching on proper technique.

How old is Jack Lallane? 94? He's been lifting for an awful long time and still does. He doesn't appear to be busted up.

I'm sure it can be a problem but isn't inevitable.

Justin_PS said...

I'm enjoying the hell out of your blog. It gives me a lot of good ideas for blog topics (hope you don't think of me as a copycat) at a time where I struggle about what to write about.

Enjoy the heat! I'm not too far from you right now (Carson Valley, NV).

pierini said...

Hi Ralph, Charles & Justin. Thanks for visiting Pierini Fitness and thanks for your comments. I'll have much more to say about this topic because I'm doing an extensive outreach to diverse fitness communities. It'll take some time to pull it all together.

Thank you Justin for the compliment. Actually, I think quite highly of your writing skills and emotional maturity. It says a lot about your parents.

Carson City is a long hop, skip and jump from Sacramento. I've had the pleasure of the company of two cyberspace fitness brothers from different mothers - Shen last year and, most recently, a gentleman from Massachusetts. I don't know how flexibile you are or what your interest is, but I'd like to extent to you a personal invitation to visit me at the worldwide headquarters of Pierini Fitness. I'll let you stay in the VIP Room at Pierini Fitness, we can train together and I'll cover all of your costs if you get here. Think about it and give me a PM holler if you are interested.

DPW said...

I do not think that weightlifters have any more injuries than any one else of their age group. I went down on a motorcycle two years ago and last year fell down some stairs and detached my quad. This stuff can happen to non lifters too. If you live long enough, the laws of probability catch up with you and you will get injured no matter what you do. Weightlifting may give you the ability and physical reserve to minimize and otherwise prevent more catastrophic personal events. Yes, lifters get injured. But no more than anyone else!

Lincoln Brigham said...

A trainer I know once said that all of his trainees over the age of 40 had physical issues. The irony is that this was a Super Slow trainer! The point is that everyone over a certain age develops accumulated trauma - whether they are weightlifters or not. Statistically I think older weightlifters are no more "busted up" than non-weightlifters. But if anyone wants to make a biased case for "busted up weightlifter syndrome" all they have to do is use non-comparative data. And believe me, they do.

Justin_PS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip said...

On one hand:

We are in age of specialization. To aim for that Wheaties box cover, or at least get recognition among a small subculture of thick-necked peers, you'd put al your energies into being a powerlifter or weightlifter or strongman or ________ (insert strength sport here). Or, of course, a bodybuilder, but since we're talking about strength, not pageantry, they won't even enter this argument.

Yes, bodyweight-only folks fall under a specialization as well, despite the erroneous sense of freedom they seem to hold onto (whenever you exclude a useful tool, you're limiting yourself).

But, with many bodyweight exercises comes movement patterns with much greater emphasis on mobility and joint stability that isn't there in specialization training for strength sports. Weight trainers of the barbell variety, therefore, might be traveling down a road of potential tension patterns which might very well lead to injuries. The mobility aspect of creative bodyweight exercises might give the joints a bit of an extended life.

On the other hand...

Force is force. Mass times acceleration. And neither the body, the laws of physics, nor gravity cares where that mass comes from. To get strong, we have to generate force. Lots of it. And the joints don't care if it is a battle between body weight and gravity or if there is also a heavy chunk of iron involved.

I've worked with a LOT of folks over the 16 years of being a trainer, and some of the most 'broken bodies' I've seen were from dancers. DANCERS! Guess what they've done all their lives (hint: it involved not a bit of iron)?

Again, force is force. Where it comes from matters not. Overload to joints too much or with bad application (poor technique), and there's going to be a problem.

Yes, many iron heads don't spend enough time moving through rotational pattern or ranges of motion that might help extend the lives of their joints, but neither do a lot of runners (ahem, sort of the King of bodyweight exercises).

So no matter what your poison, add recovery movements to a workout. Do not go into or out of a workout holding onto extra tension. Then you might live to lift another day.

Justin_PS said...

Hey, I appreciate that! If I can fit it into my schedule, then I'll let you know. I'd love to meet up with you. I wish I could be more definitive but in ten minutes, they could change.

I'll keep you posted! In the meantime, don't bust yourself up!

Oh, and here's my opinion on the matter...

Daniel Bell said...

I think we need to distinguish between those who train for fitness and those who are serious athletes. Serious sport is not about health. So if you are or were a serious strength athlete, you will be injured, and you will eventually be "busted up."

I wrestled, played football and rugby, then powerlifted and switched to Olympic lifting. I am now an Olympic lifting coach who can't lift at all. My joints are so busted up I have to demo lifts with an empty bar and can only swim for fitness. Would I go back and change a thing? Not just no, but HELL NO! I knew the price when I started as an athlete and paid it. I make sure my serious lifters know there is a price to pay down the road. It's not like they can't see it in all the coaches at Nationals, anyway. I have never had an athlete quit because they were afraid of the long term price in pain and disability. If they do, they aren't serious enough for me to waste my time coaching them.

pierini said...

Gentlemen, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for your outstanding comments. Some have sent me an e-mail with their comments and others have posted their comments directly on the fitness websites where I posted this blogflection.

I hope more comments come.

When all the comments are in, I'll sit back one day and put them all together for a future postscript blogflection on this controversial and fascinating topic. Until then, be safe and thanks again!

JME said...

Tom said...

This topic and term is too closely connected to some virtual playground fights of virtual importance. I expect relatively little reflective thought to come of it, in spite of the great thinkers in attendance. I smell points scored more than views shared.

As to the question, the final answer is: tightrope walking never hurt anybody. But falling did.

Justin_PS said...

The degree of points-scoring, virtual fighting, etc will be determined by the tone of the author and what he allows to go on at his blog.

I'm relatively certain that he'll keep it to a non-existent level.

Oh, and sample away from my blog... so long as the source is mentioned, plugged, and showered with piles of praise ;)

Fastfor40 said...

I'm sure there are weightlifters suffering aches and pains from years of heavy lifting. But, I also know of guys in their 50s and 60s still pushing and pulling respectable poundages who are just as robust and energetic and PAIN-FREE as they were 20 and 30 years ago. From what I've observed, the latter tends to rest more and engage in a lot of other physical activities.

I'll tell you what I've observed; the more sugar I eat, the more my joints hurt, and it doesn't make much difference if I'm lifting light, heavy, high reps, low reps, long walks, get the idea.

pierini said...

Thanks for your comment to this blogflection that generated the most comments ever at Pierini Fitness.

Hey, maybe one day you might be up to serving as a guest blogger here. Let me know if you have any interest.