Friday, July 31, 2009

For the millionth time... weight training...

Reader Tom E from Penticton, BC asks:

"Paulo, I know you are a smart guy and I want a serious answer. Have you ever read anything correlating athletes doing weights vs those that don't and the prevelance of injuries in each group? Trying to prevent injuries is the only reason I do them... and I think they do help keep the injuries to a minimum (for me). Absolutely nothing to prove it though so thought I would ask."

Hello Tom, and thank you for your question. The "injury prevention" argument in order to do weight training is really the last hope that the proponents of that kind of supplemental training have. For years they have tried to convince us of the performance gains from that kind of training, only to be proven wrong by the overwhelming scientific evidence.

The "injury prevention" argument is a great snake-oil selling point because it is so hard to prove. You would need to a pretty extensive study, done over a long period of time, in order to prove something that we already have a pretty good idea of the results. That is, it would be a complete waste of time (and money).

So how would this injury prevention occur? By increasing the strength of muscles and tendons? Well, as with the the argument against weight training and performance, when it comes to weight training and injury prevention we bump into the most pervasive concept in exercise... Specificity. Weight training develops strength in a non-specific way, while over-use injuries occur in a very specific way, as the result of the repetition of a specific movement.

Therefore, if you believe that increasing the strength of a muscle/tendon structure will help you prevent injuries, I would suggest you did that in a specific way, i.e., while performing the specific movement. The classic examples of this for swim/bike/run are:
- Speed* swim sets
- Speed* cycling sets
- Hill running repeats

Hope this helps and thanks again for your question.

* The correct definition of speed, any effort that elicits the alactic anaerobic energy system.

20 comments:

Andrew said...

All this talk about needing to post a new blog and you fall back on weight training??? What a cop out!

Speedy said...

I'm confused. Weight training can be as specific as you want it. How is it non-specific? I've found that, as a woman, if I do upper-body exercises that help my arms to pump harder, I can finish races faster because I can rely on my arms to get my tired legs to move. I've also found that doing drills and lunges (which I consider weight training), my overuse hamstring injury doesn't flare up. This is probably because I'm increasing the strength of the muscles around my hamstring so that my stride can utilize more than one tired muscle.

Maybe men don't need to do weight training, but I certainly need it.

Paulo Sousa said...

"I'm confused"

Yes, yes you are :-)

Lindsey Jerdonek said...

Speedy, I think Paulo means non-specific in that doing upper-body exercises is not specific to JUST running/pumping your arms. upper body exercises can help with a multitude of activities, like tennis, pole vaulting & even carrying a heavy child.

Will said...

Lindsey, I think Speedy is going to need that upper body strength to carry around the heavy shovel she'll need to dig out from under all the misinformation about weight training.

MarkyV said...

Oh me always lovey an N=1. We should base all scientific facts of such a sound body of... opinion? ;-)

jonnyo said...

boring post...not impress at all....

i beleive that doing lots of weight can make you bigger...and prevent the gravity of injury when in a bar fight. I rest my case.....

Marcos Apene do Amaral-TriPhiloSophia said...

Simple and effective!

Speedy said...

I don't see how it is mis-information if by doing it, I get faster and prevent my hamstring from hurting. And when I don't do it, my finishing sprint suffers.

The problem with weights is that many people do too much weight, and then it ends up being detrimental (ie. you bulk up or injure yourself in the weightroom instead of just making your lean muscle stronger).

Paulo Sousa said...

Speedy, you are a true well of misconceptions regarding weight training. Hopefully you will go beyond your personal feelings regarding the subject, do some research, and learn something in the process.

drtommy said...

1) unilateral exercises recognize muscle imbalances which you compensate for as you SBR "fast" ...weak left hamstring leads to left foot PF sort of thing
2) allows you to tell you physio and massage what needs attention
3) a good routine keeps the HR elevated...good
3) a good routine mimics the sport of choice but is again a unilateral movement identifying weakness...good

Marky...you should atleast be able to beat the 41 year old N=1 study if you are going to critisize him...can't wait to see how your going in your 40's

drtommy said...

"You would need to a pretty extensive study, done over a long period of time, in order to prove something that we already have a pretty good idea of the results"

I guess I asked the original question in search of a study correlating wts and injuries. Yes the numbers should be high. Done retrospectively it would be cheap and easy and cover a long time span. Most endurance athletes keep logs so workouts or races missed due to injuries would be easy to correlate with wts or no wts. Unlike Mark's naive N=1 comment I suspect the split is 50/50 on doing wts or not so yes the numbers could be high. That is the sort of correlation study I was looking for.

Paulo Sousa said...

Tom,

For as much respect I have for you, I would qualify as naive your views on weight training. Some of them reveal a poor understanding of simple concepts as specific strength, which really, is not a big deal, since exercise physiology is not a requirement for being an athlete.

But above all, what I find naive is that you are willing to override the amount of knowledge that there is out there, in favor of your personal perception. What you feel or believe in does not trump the knowledge-base on the subject, no matter how much faster you are than me, MarkyV or anyone else.

Thanks for stopping by, see you in a couple of weeks! :-)

Paulo

drtommy said...

Paulo, calling me naive about exercise physiology is a fair call. Most of my readings are not sport related. I also realize a slow guy like myself would make the worst N=1 example. My perceptions are based on non-scientific anecdotal information. I see some of the fastest, most successful endurance athletes with deep pockets and large very qualified staff doing weights. In a sense you are calling them naive which I do find intruiging. Would the fella below not have several very qualified exercise physiologists at his disposal??

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDawlrIeaVM

Paulo Sousa said...

You mentioned Lance, you lose! ;-)

drtommy said...

No Paulo, I was refering to his "team" of coaches and advisors whom would all be leading experts in their respective specialty.

Your specialty is Mec Eng. which I presume has helped you develope great research skills that you have applied to sports. But to assume you know more than a "team" of experts is again intruiging to me. Just looking at things from a different angle and keeping an open mind...sorry if that offends.

Paulo Sousa said...

Tom,

The "great research skills" that I learned throughout my professional career taught me many things. Among them, the ability to pick reliable information sources. As such, I would hardly qualify youtube as a valid source of information.

Therefore, if you want to discuss how Lance Armstrong does weight training, the impact that said weight training has in his (cycling) performance and use that video as proof, you simply have to find somebody else besides me.

drtommy said...

Paulo, again you misunderstand where I'm coming from. You like myself have zero credentials behind your name in terms of exercise physiology. So we both look to other sources for our information as we are not actively involved in the profession. I was inquiring as to what factors (or articles) made you decide your "reliable information sources" were more knowlegdeable than the well paid team of experts advising a guy like Lance. The Lance example of course is just one example of thousands...but he is the most prominent.

Paulo Sousa said...

Thanks for your comment, Tom. I have nothing else to add to what I've already said on this subject.

alvaro velazquez said...

Hi DrTommy, if you google a bit you will find an interview where Bruineel says lance only lifted when he retired, for general health, he stopped when he came back