Managing Gravity Through Workouts
f you lift weights, then you are feeding into gravity. You are increasing the down force into the ground, which requires you to have to push more into the ground to stay upright. This is surely a great way to get stronger and improve health, but it can also be a cost to your movement. Before you get in a panic, this is in no way an advocation to say lifting weights is bad. We highly encourage it, we just want to make sure we do it well.
If you read our previous blog (you can click here to read if you didn't) then you might remember the example of rounding shoulders and forward hips as a means to combat gravity. Well, if you are poor at managing forces to begin with, then added forces are only going to make you utilize your strategy even more. This could result in a further arching of the low back or rounding of the shoulders over time since you increased the means to push in this manner. Sure you can still build muscle and strength, but it may eventually compress you too much, causing impingements, pains, and other potential injuries.
If you can safely control positions without the need to unweight the body or have compensations during movement patterns, then it's time to hold those positions by progressively adding load. If you go too much too fast, then you run the risk of just creating new compensations.
One way to start introducing loading patterns safely would be to utilize split stances since they already bias a slightly unweighting position, allowing you a chance to effectively load the position. If you are doing a movement like a split squat or staggered RDL, having a weight in the opposite hand is a great way to learn how to turn into the working side hip and hold the positions under increased loads. In the upper body, this could be done with a floor press in alternating fashions as the body is more supported and distributed, reducing the compression in finite areas.
As you progress and move towards very high rates of loading, you are going to run the risk of having compensations being created. Some may be beneficial for specific performance needs, but not so much from an overall health standpoint. To try and avoid this pitfall, you will want to utilize gravity-eliminating movements to assist with the gravity-feeding-based activities to control the forces and distribute the load without forcing a compensatory strategy. This will create a healthy balance for optimal movement.
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Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.