Recreational Weight Training Makes You More Prone To Shoulder Injury?

Posted on 30 Apr 2010 21:13

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This is an older post from the GUStrength's Blog.

I noticed a post about a study at Male Pattern Fitness1 that I would like to have reacted to but for some reason the comments are always closed kinda quickly at this blog so I wanted to comment on it here. I feel it may be a bit misleading.

Yes, I agree completely that most people train in a way that predisposes them to imbalances and injury. Such as the internal rotator dominance that was brought up in the post.

However, it is not likely that a study can prove what the study claims to prove:

"The findings of this investigation suggest that RWT [recreational weight training] participants are predisposed to strength and mobility imbalances as a result of training. The imbalances identified have been associated with shoulder disorders in the general and athletic population; thus, these imbalances may place RWT participants at risk for injury."
- Shoulder Joint and Muscle Characteristics in the Recreational Weight Training Population

There are just WAY too many variables. The quote above about the findings of the investigation is not even a logical statement since the authors basically say that the same imbalances are found in both the general AND athletic populations and that these imbalances are associated with shoulder injury. So what they are saying is that imbalances place EVERYONE at risk for shoulder injuries, including athletes. This would lead me to believe that the point is that training does not "protect" us from injury or from the consequence of imbalances. This is not the same thing as saying that recreational lifters are more more predisposed to injury than the general population. Yet the opening sentence says that these lifters are more prone to injury as a result of training. Seeing that the following statements in no way back up the opening statement I would call the entire study into question without even reading it!

However, the study simply finds that recreational lifters tend to have internal rotator dominance which these days most gym trainers could have told you. It's hardly "news". But yes, those same imbalances are found in the general population.

Still, I want to make this very clear: Everybody has baggage. You can and likely do have imbalances regardless of whether you've ever hit the weights. Many occupations which require the constant repetition of certain movement patterns or the maintenance of certain positions cause huge postural distortions and do result in PAIN for many, many people who do NOT lift weights.

My side job is painting and I don't need a study to tell you that painters are prone to shoulder dysfunction.

In fact, what you do 23 hours a day probably has a much bigger impact than what you do one to two hours a day three to four times a week. That is not to say that you cannot do some serious harm with faulty training practices.

But hell, sleeping habitually in a bad position can lead to problems as well. Sleeping on my right shoulder almost constantly contributed to a bout with bursitis, for instance. Notice I didn't say "caused" but contributed.

Ask a physical therapist. Or ask a body work person who does deep tissue therapy of some kind. If you think the majority of their clients are athletes (even "recreational") of some kind…think again.

That internal rotator problem..desk jockeys are prone to shortened pecs, pec minor, lats which dominate the scapular adductors leading to problems about the shoulder complex. Factory assembly workers…

Very often weight training is simply the straw that breaks the camel's back. Going too heavy too fast and not paying attention to all the factors mentioned in the post is just a tipping point that turns deficiencies into "injuries".

There are many problems with the thinking involved in separating groups of people into "trained and "untrained" or "trained" and "control". When it comes to lifestyle habits that may predispose someone to certain imbalances and injuries this "baggage" begins accumulating at an early age, at least around puberty.

One of the major fallacies here is the base rate fallacy2. Separating groups into "trained" and "control" is essentially ignoring a great deal of information about the individuals in the 'trained' group, much of which could be pertinent in determining lifestyle habits that may predispose these individuals to injuries. Even the term "recreational weight training" suggests this.

Base rate information is information about the population or group a person comes from. If we take 100 individuals and separate them into a "training" and "non-training" population then we might consider the typical attributes of a weight training population to be base rate information. But what if we mix our training group in with 500 other people of a similar background but have no training history? Say our population has similar jobs involving manual labor, repetitive motions and sustained postures? Suddenly the fact that "John" and "Ed" lift weights recreationally becomes information that is perhaps exacerbating, but if we focused on this we would be ignoring the population that these two individuals come from which is our aforementioned manual laborers.

So what this all means is that we cannot make broad sweeping conclusions from the conclusions of one controlled study and that we shouldn't assume that a person's injuries or chronic pain problems stem solely from their training habits.

None of this is to suggest that the points brought up in the article are untrue…simply a bit unfair and not the whole picture.

I would like to agree with the notion that you training should make you BETTER. That is, not just stronger but better in every way. However, the goal of strength training is strength. Avoiding injury will allow you to become much stronger, faster, and it will prolong your training career. So, it just so happens that injury prevention and strength go hand in hand. However, the fairly-tale version of strength training that has been popularized by certain strength-coaches-cum-physical-therapists is creating a paranoia and anxiety in the average strength trainee that will result in a lack of injuries, perhaps (although some of the "prehab" is damned ridiculous), and a lack of strength gains. The goal of strength training is not to produce a super-human and we have only so much time and resources. The central goals of training should be focused on those things that directly lead to greater strength.

This page created 30 Apr 2010 21:13
Last updated 22 Oct 2015 18:18

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