Joint Health When Lifting HEAVY

Lifting heavy takes its toll on your joints, you may not notice it for years but if you don’t take the time to look after yourself then severe problems could haunt you when you get old! Scared yet?


Whenever I train using max effort workouts, typically I’ll feel a dullness or deep ache in my shoulders and hips after 2-3 months of constant training, no missed workouts, no light weeks but lots of strength and muscle gains! Clearly there’s a trade off, lifting a sh*t load of weight isn’t a natural thing….but is it detrimental to joint health?


Many lifters complain of broken shoulders and hips, but (and we’re talking completely anecdotally here) most if not all do not use corrective exercises in their warm-ups, no filler exercises are used and recovery workouts are just curls and pushdowns. Hmm….I think I’m seeing a link here:


Heavy Lifting + Zero recovery/prehab = Joint Problems


I won’t spell out the obvious here, just sort it out guys! Train smart and stay healthy.


Think about this;


Hamstring pulls whilst sprinting are probably caused by tight hammies, weak glutes and inflexible hips. Solution: strengthen and STRETCH all involved muscles.


If you keep a training journal you have one of the most wonderful tools for problem solving ever devised in the sporting world, let me give you an example from my own experience…


Twice I have strained the ligaments in my shoulder during big collisions whilst playing rugby. I don’t believe that the collision was what caused the problem. Looking back in my training journal I was performing the following workout 2-3 times per week for the previous 4 weeks on BOTH OCCASIONS!


1) Back squat: 1 x 20 reps (one all out set of 20, as heavy as possible)

2) Bench Press: 3 x 10 (going to failure on the final set)

3) Pull-Ups: 1 x as many as possible


This is a short, tough workout that works great for building muscle but also gives us the following problems:


  • During squats the shoulders are externally rotated and adducted. Or put simply; stretched like hell for 2-3 minutes.
  • Following squats, the now fatigued shoulder is subjected to 30 total reps, ending on muscular failure. Put simply, the shoulders are fried and then asked to support a weight they can’t lift on the last few reps.
  • Pull-ups also work the shoulders, and with a straight bar the shoulders are forced into external rotation, closing the kinetic chain at the hand means the shoulders are not able to move naturally, therefore screwing up the massively fatigued shoulder joint even more. *

*This is why pull-ups on gymnastic rings are much better for your shoulders. They allow rotation to occur at the hands, where it’s possible, rather than the shoulder, where it’s not.


So looking back, this workout is the ultimate shoulder breaker, combine this with heavy collisions from rugby league and I learned my lesson…..the second time it happened!


Look after your joints! Don’t go to failure in season, do warm-up thoroughly and have at least 1 session a week that’s purely stretching focused. I recommend going to yoga or something similar.

Look after your body, keep a journal and become a better athlete!


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