1

votes

Why do people keep spreading the myth that free weights are dangerous?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 07, 2012 at 10:51 PM

Given the following information from http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/Safety.html:

Weight Lifting Injuries

Rhea (2003) suggests there is no practical difference in injury rate between using free weights or machines in healthy adults.

Requa RK, DeAvilla LN, Garrick JG. (1993) Injuries in recreational adult fitness activities. Am J Sports Med, 21(3):461-7.

Injuries sustained during weightlifting training and weightlifting competition are substantially lower than injuries incurred from other sports such as football, gymnastics, or basketball.

Stone MH (1990). Muscle conditioning and muscle injuries. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 22(4):457-462.

In college football players, time lost from injuries during weight training amounted to 1% of the time lost from injuries during football participation.

Zemper ED (1990). Four-year study of weight-room injuries in a national sample of college football teams. N atl Strength Cond Assoc J. 12(3):32-34.

Injury Potential of Weight Training

Weight training injury rates are low.

General Population (Powell et al. 1998) Athletes (Hamill 1994, Zemper 1990) Free weights do not produce more injuries, compared to machines (Ralph et al. 1993).

Weightlifting injuries are lower than those sustained in other sports (Hamill 1994, Stone 1990, Stone et al. 1993).

Sports Injury Rates (Hamill 1994) Sport

Injuries (per 100 hours)

Soccer (school age) 6.20 UK Rugby 1.92 USA Basketball 0.03 UK Cross Country 0.37 Squash 0.10 US Football 0.10 Badminton 0.05 USA Gymnastics 0.044 USA Powerlifting 0.0027 USA Volleyball 0.0013 USA Tennis 0.001 Weight Training 0.0035 (85,733 hrs) Weightlifting 0.0017 (168,551 hrs)

Sorry, the table does not come out right.

It is apparent that strength training is not an activity with high risk of injury. Why do people keep the myth alive that strength training is somehow dangerous?

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 12, 2012
at 02:43 AM

Thats great Mark. Why ask a question to just dismiss peoples answers? I really dont give a shit how much you squat. Is this a pissing competition? You are obviously quite accomplished in the gym, but you must forget what it was like the first time that you walked into the gym. People with no experience in the gym need to be shown good technique to be able to use free weights? Agree? People dont need to be shown shit to use the machines? Disagree? I cant really see what your argument is here?

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 11, 2012
at 04:39 PM

I will take my own experience with strength training and the cited research over your assurances. I am 5'8" 165 pounds and squat 375. Just bought SS and ran the program. Now I am on to Texas Method.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 11, 2012
at 04:30 PM

No problem with being a novice. Still wish I was a novice! I would love to go back to simple linear gains. Increasing weight every work out was awesome! I will check out HIT. I think Texas Method is similar (one volume day, one low intensity day, one high intensity day per week). I will check out HIT. Good luck with your continued training. That is the real key...actually doing the work! lol.

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 10, 2012
at 11:48 PM

Mark you can cite all the research you like, but I can assure you that take an inexperienced person off the street and get them to do leg extensions or squats, the guy doing squats will injure themselves first.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 10:36 PM

Lots of people love Starting Strength and Strong Lifts and such. I have nothing against pyramids or any of the other things. Just saying I've gone a completely different route this past year and am very pleased with the results.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 10:32 PM

^ No HIT (High intensity training) is a variation of strength training that focuses on intensity. Normal frequency is 1x/week. It is a different philosophy from the more volumetric approach to training. Here is some reading http://baye.com/ Of course if you are training for a specific lift (like your going to the olympics), then you will obviously need to practice that lift more frequently for neuroadaptation and muscle memory. Didn't mean to infer that your a novice, but there are other theories out there.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 09:58 PM

The Texas Method and Starr Method (also known as Madcow's) are variations used by oly lifters and power lifters from intermediate to advanced. All are based on 3X a week. I use the Texas method now since my gains can only be planned weekly instead of from work out to work out. I am confused though, HIIT is a form of anaerobic training that works on conditioning not strength. Lifters incorporate it because it does not cause catabolism and as such, will not interfere with strength training.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 08:05 PM

Oh, and the 5x/week thing is something I have not done in a long time....just a simple comparative since I couldn't actually list every variation I have incorporated into my training throughout life....would take far too long.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 08:03 PM

^I'm sorry....are you talking to me? If so I appreciate the sentiment, but I actually know what strength training is and your description is simply one prescribed method (essentially for beginners as thats why its called STARTING strength). BBS and HIT are another. Believe me, I've done many variations. There is more than one way to approach strength. But good luck with your stuff, and keep learning.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 08:00 PM

Why is the research being 20 years old notable? Have human beings changed in 20 years or any of the principle activities involved? As far as the table, it injury risk for an individual (similar to how they figure out most dangerous jobs). Otherwise table would be meaningless. Any exercise has inherent risk over not exercising but I think we can both agree that no exercise carries considerably more health risks than weight lifting.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:53 PM

If you are lifting for hypertrophy, isolation movements have advantages over compound movements. This is why bodybuilders focus entirely on isolation movements with machines and abandon the strength training staples (squat and deadlift). It sounds like you were doing split routine 5X. Which is a is a bodybuilding routine. Strength training is done 3X's a week, full body every time. Most S&C programs have you squatting every work out. My total is 1040 (Squat 375, DL 405, BP 260) @ 5'8" and 165 pounds. That is all Starting Strength.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:48 PM

I agree. My point being is that many give advice to avoid it all together stating it is unsafe. This is false based on the evidence. The argument that 'if done improperly, it is unsafe' is nonsense. Anything done improperly is unsafe.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:46 PM

The main purpose behind developing the chest is so that strength can be developed in your upper back muscles. The pectorals lie in opposition and act as stabilizers when your upper back is engaged. If you want to increase the strength in your upper back, you have to increase the strength in your pectorals. Symmetry IS something that bodybuilders got right. For every push, you should pull. OHP/pull up - BP/row. As to the obsession that bodybuilders and 'Bros' at the gym have with the BP, I cannot answer that.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:40 PM

Yes but anything done improperly is dangerous. The aforementioned leg press can be terrible for your lower back if done improperly.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:39 PM

Your example of substituting the leg press for the squat as 'safer' is wrong. From the OP: "General Population (Powell et al. 1998) Athletes (Hamill 1994, Zemper 1990) Free weights do not produce more injuries, compared to machines (Ralph et al. 1993)." So again, since data shows that free weights are not more dangerous than machines, why do YOU insist that they are more dangerous?

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 09, 2012
at 03:39 AM

Yes, Luckie, yes they are.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 08, 2012
at 02:18 PM

^ Thanks.......

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 08, 2012
at 01:40 PM

Farmers walk.....

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 08, 2012
at 02:34 AM

Are most people really that dumb? I have never had an actual gym membership, just used fitness centers at the office and apartments, so usually there weren't many people in there with me.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 08, 2012
at 12:52 AM

But were did "everyone" get started? Damn you arnold!....well maybe not him, but I'm sure you can trace it to some 60's bodybuilding shtick.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 08, 2012
at 12:23 AM

Yeah functionally I don't think you get a lot of benefits from training to be able to perform a big bench press. Certainly not relative to the same in DL or squat. However, everyone wants a nice looking chest. Everyone does.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 08, 2012
at 12:20 AM

Because weights are heavy and many times made of metal which hurts if you drop it on you. Plus many times they're just laying around a gym where anyone, with no training or instruction,may use them. Many Americans receive some sort of training at baseball, basketball, football, etc so playing those sports may seem safer.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:36 PM

"I wouldn't say that I could walk into a gym and properly do a dead lift or squat - but then, I'm not silly enough to just walk over, pick stuff up, and imitate the dude beside me."...Well you are smarter than the average gym goer ;)...and that its a good thing.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:34 PM

"I wouldn't say that I could walk into a gym and properly do a dead lift or squat"....your smarter than the average bear ;).

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:30 PM

I agree Peter has a good point! I just don't think that a person's lack of knowledge should be attributed to the lifting itself being dangerous. I wouldn't say that I could walk into a gym and properly do a dead lift or squat - but then, I'm not silly enough to just walk over, pick stuff up, and imitate the dude beside me. And if I were to be that silly, I'd blame myself for any injury - not go about saying that free weights are dangerous. :)

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:26 PM

Throw dead lifts in this category too.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:26 PM

Nope peter has a very good point. Certain lifts...especially squat are more technical in nature and require a great deal of practice before attempting a weight that sufficiently stresses the muscles you are trying to build. Compare that to the leg extension machine or something and its a no brainer as to which is more dangerous. Now the leg press does take a bit of instruction to do correctly, but thats nothing compared to the squat.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:21 PM

I think that speaks more for that individual's ignorance of proper form and use, rather than the actual weights. Most anything can be dangerous if used improperly, but that doesn't mean that the object itself is dangerous if used as intended.

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:20 PM

Its all about bad form and lack of technique, and trying to lift too much

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11 Answers

3
6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:19 PM

Because they are. Get someone off the street and get them to do a heavy squat and see how you go. If you dont know what you are doing free weights can be incredibly dangerous compared to machines.

Dont get me wrong, I dont use any machines, and I spend all of my gym time in the free weights, but I can see that without question free weights can be dangerous.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:21 PM

I think that speaks more for that individual's ignorance of proper form and use, rather than the actual weights. Most anything can be dangerous if used improperly, but that doesn't mean that the object itself is dangerous if used as intended.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:36 PM

"I wouldn't say that I could walk into a gym and properly do a dead lift or squat - but then, I'm not silly enough to just walk over, pick stuff up, and imitate the dude beside me."...Well you are smarter than the average gym goer ;)...and that its a good thing.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:26 PM

Nope peter has a very good point. Certain lifts...especially squat are more technical in nature and require a great deal of practice before attempting a weight that sufficiently stresses the muscles you are trying to build. Compare that to the leg extension machine or something and its a no brainer as to which is more dangerous. Now the leg press does take a bit of instruction to do correctly, but thats nothing compared to the squat.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 08, 2012
at 02:34 AM

Are most people really that dumb? I have never had an actual gym membership, just used fitness centers at the office and apartments, so usually there weren't many people in there with me.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:26 PM

Throw dead lifts in this category too.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:30 PM

I agree Peter has a good point! I just don't think that a person's lack of knowledge should be attributed to the lifting itself being dangerous. I wouldn't say that I could walk into a gym and properly do a dead lift or squat - but then, I'm not silly enough to just walk over, pick stuff up, and imitate the dude beside me. And if I were to be that silly, I'd blame myself for any injury - not go about saying that free weights are dangerous. :)

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 09, 2012
at 03:39 AM

Yes, Luckie, yes they are.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:34 PM

"I wouldn't say that I could walk into a gym and properly do a dead lift or squat"....your smarter than the average bear ;).

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 10, 2012
at 11:48 PM

Mark you can cite all the research you like, but I can assure you that take an inexperienced person off the street and get them to do leg extensions or squats, the guy doing squats will injure themselves first.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 11, 2012
at 04:39 PM

I will take my own experience with strength training and the cited research over your assurances. I am 5'8" 165 pounds and squat 375. Just bought SS and ran the program. Now I am on to Texas Method.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:39 PM

Your example of substituting the leg press for the squat as 'safer' is wrong. From the OP: "General Population (Powell et al. 1998) Athletes (Hamill 1994, Zemper 1990) Free weights do not produce more injuries, compared to machines (Ralph et al. 1993)." So again, since data shows that free weights are not more dangerous than machines, why do YOU insist that they are more dangerous?

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 12, 2012
at 02:43 AM

Thats great Mark. Why ask a question to just dismiss peoples answers? I really dont give a shit how much you squat. Is this a pissing competition? You are obviously quite accomplished in the gym, but you must forget what it was like the first time that you walked into the gym. People with no experience in the gym need to be shown good technique to be able to use free weights? Agree? People dont need to be shown shit to use the machines? Disagree? I cant really see what your argument is here?

2
03a4ec34751186201a56da298ac843ce

on July 08, 2012
at 02:31 AM

I see a lot of morons at the gym swinging free weights around, doing crazy things, with no form, acting like they know what they are doing! It drives me crazy!

2
293ba4c95d190bc616b27d85b10d705a

(661)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:49 PM

terrible form + free weights (that are too big for you) can be dangerous

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:40 PM

Yes but anything done improperly is dangerous. The aforementioned leg press can be terrible for your lower back if done improperly.

2
Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:08 PM

For me, free weights are MUCH better. Not only do they provide strength, but using free weights also helps me with balance issues (I have MS), and keeps me from 'favoring' my weaker side.

I do have to have someone track my form, to make sure I'm staying consistent on both sides of my body, because of my muscle/nerve communication issues.

2
Medium avatar

(3213)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:07 PM

We've been lifting very heavy free weights for hundreds of thousands of years

0
B41cdb2253976ba9b429dd608d02c21f

(1495)

on July 08, 2012
at 01:54 PM

I think it's because Nautilus convinced people that their machines are better (so not true, in my opinion).

0
Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 08, 2012
at 04:21 AM

I dont get why people do many reps of weights.

Surely if paleo folks where lifting a carcass, a log or something, theyd have picked it up and carried it some large distance.

Not picked it up and put it down twenty times, without carrying. Maybe I am missing something?

Also is there a form of strength training that actually involves carrying?

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 08, 2012
at 01:40 PM

Farmers walk.....

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on July 08, 2012
at 02:18 PM

^ Thanks.......

0
F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on July 08, 2012
at 12:14 AM

It's hard to say without looking at the original research (which is 20 years old), but unless the table adjusts for the number of participants, the figures are misleading.

An hour of weightlifting involves just one person. An hour of soccer involves 22 players, all of whom are subject to injury.

In any case, lifting weights, whether free weights or machines, is always going to have a higher risk of injury than not lifting at all.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 08:00 PM

Why is the research being 20 years old notable? Have human beings changed in 20 years or any of the principle activities involved? As far as the table, it injury risk for an individual (similar to how they figure out most dangerous jobs). Otherwise table would be meaningless. Any exercise has inherent risk over not exercising but I think we can both agree that no exercise carries considerably more health risks than weight lifting.

0
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:32 PM

Let me also say I have been an avid free weight lifter for about 19 years. Last year (one year post ruptured pec tendon), I read Body By Science and decided to give the routine a shot. I have no reservations in saying machines can absolutely produce results. I throw in a lot of random stuff (I do a round of 50 pushups or 20 pullups when the mood strikes) throughout the week, but the BBS routine is my one heavy lift. Works damn well for me. My gains seem to be on par or better with what I was getting out of lifting 5x/week with free weights.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 08:05 PM

Oh, and the 5x/week thing is something I have not done in a long time....just a simple comparative since I couldn't actually list every variation I have incorporated into my training throughout life....would take far too long.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 09:58 PM

The Texas Method and Starr Method (also known as Madcow's) are variations used by oly lifters and power lifters from intermediate to advanced. All are based on 3X a week. I use the Texas method now since my gains can only be planned weekly instead of from work out to work out. I am confused though, HIIT is a form of anaerobic training that works on conditioning not strength. Lifters incorporate it because it does not cause catabolism and as such, will not interfere with strength training.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 10:36 PM

Lots of people love Starting Strength and Strong Lifts and such. I have nothing against pyramids or any of the other things. Just saying I've gone a completely different route this past year and am very pleased with the results.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 10:32 PM

^ No HIT (High intensity training) is a variation of strength training that focuses on intensity. Normal frequency is 1x/week. It is a different philosophy from the more volumetric approach to training. Here is some reading http://baye.com/ Of course if you are training for a specific lift (like your going to the olympics), then you will obviously need to practice that lift more frequently for neuroadaptation and muscle memory. Didn't mean to infer that your a novice, but there are other theories out there.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:53 PM

If you are lifting for hypertrophy, isolation movements have advantages over compound movements. This is why bodybuilders focus entirely on isolation movements with machines and abandon the strength training staples (squat and deadlift). It sounds like you were doing split routine 5X. Which is a is a bodybuilding routine. Strength training is done 3X's a week, full body every time. Most S&C programs have you squatting every work out. My total is 1040 (Squat 375, DL 405, BP 260) @ 5'8" and 165 pounds. That is all Starting Strength.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 10, 2012
at 08:03 PM

^I'm sorry....are you talking to me? If so I appreciate the sentiment, but I actually know what strength training is and your description is simply one prescribed method (essentially for beginners as thats why its called STARTING strength). BBS and HIT are another. Believe me, I've done many variations. There is more than one way to approach strength. But good luck with your stuff, and keep learning.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 11, 2012
at 04:30 PM

No problem with being a novice. Still wish I was a novice! I would love to go back to simple linear gains. Increasing weight every work out was awesome! I will check out HIT. I think Texas Method is similar (one volume day, one low intensity day, one high intensity day per week). I will check out HIT. Good luck with your continued training. That is the real key...actually doing the work! lol.

0
61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:18 PM

IMHO, it is because people injure themselves by overlifting, either by just going for too much weight, or too many reps. They push too far, get weak and wobbly, weight dips to the side at an awkward angle because they can't maintain form, and end up tearing a ligament or something. If done properly, it's perfectly safe, and many people I know prefer free weights because they feel it is more natural and that they get a more functional workout, hitting more muscle groups.

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:20 PM

Its all about bad form and lack of technique, and trying to lift too much

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:48 PM

I agree. My point being is that many give advice to avoid it all together stating it is unsafe. This is false based on the evidence. The argument that 'if done improperly, it is unsafe' is nonsense. Anything done improperly is unsafe.

0
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 07, 2012
at 11:13 PM

Not dangerous per se BUT I have come to the conclusion that heavy BENCH PRESS is USELESS. I believe just performing it creates imbalances. It is simply a leave over from body builders. There is no functional precedent for over development of the chest through this motion, and actually ruptures/tears of the pec tendon occur almost exclusively from performing this exercise. Alright, flame on. I'm willing to respond.

I will add that ANY training carries risk. Strength trainings is fairly low overall. Especially if it is truly strength training and not some sort of bastardized strenght/oly/metcon (talking to you CF).

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 08, 2012
at 12:23 AM

Yeah functionally I don't think you get a lot of benefits from training to be able to perform a big bench press. Certainly not relative to the same in DL or squat. However, everyone wants a nice looking chest. Everyone does.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 08, 2012
at 12:52 AM

But were did "everyone" get started? Damn you arnold!....well maybe not him, but I'm sure you can trace it to some 60's bodybuilding shtick.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:46 PM

The main purpose behind developing the chest is so that strength can be developed in your upper back muscles. The pectorals lie in opposition and act as stabilizers when your upper back is engaged. If you want to increase the strength in your upper back, you have to increase the strength in your pectorals. Symmetry IS something that bodybuilders got right. For every push, you should pull. OHP/pull up - BP/row. As to the obsession that bodybuilders and 'Bros' at the gym have with the BP, I cannot answer that.

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