Does weightlifting negatively affect your joints (especially when you’re older)?
This is the sixth question that I’m answering this month of the 24 most commonly asked questions Mark and I receive.
The Short Answer
I understand how it may seem that pulling or pressing hundreds of pounds day after day would cause wear and tear on your joints, but research seems to tell us a different story.
Below are summarized points taken from a dozen different studies, with hyperlinks to each:
- Researchers found that competitive weightlifters’ joints were as healthy, or healthier, than other people their age.
- Even in extreme cases of squatting, such as powerlifters lifting 2.5 times bodyweight, the compressive forces placed on the knee and its tendons are well within its ranges of ultimate strength.
- Stress placed on the ACL is negligible considering its ultimate strength (in one study, the highest ACL force recorded when squatting was a mere 6% of its ultimate strength). Highest recorded PCL forces were well within natural strength limits as well.
- There’s plenty of research demonstrating that strength training, and squatting in particular, is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, both in terms of reducing pain and improve function.
- Research conducted by scientists at the University of Waterloo used real-time x-ray imaging (called fluoroscopy) to watch the spines of elite powerlifters while they fully flexed their spines with no weights, and while they deadlifted over 400 pounds. With the exception of one subject, all men completed their deadlifts within the normal range of motion during full flexion. Ligament lengths were unaffected, indicating that they don’t help support the load, but instead limit range of motion.
- A study conducted by researchers at the University of Valencia found that the deadlift is an extremely effective way to train the paraspinal muscles, which run down both sides of your spine and play a major role in the prevention of back injuries.
For additional information, read more here.
Lifting weights as you age may sound like a bad idea, especially if you already have have joint pain. But it’s actually an important way to manage and relieve joint pain like arthritis.
Get to the gym daily. Lift weights regularly. Fear not the barbell or other resistance exercises, especially the squat and deadlift.