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.