Let’s face it: Walking into a gym and lifting a metal bar laden with heavy weights high overhead, or strapping yourself into some gear-and-pulley contrivance, all just to build some muscle, is as far from a natural act as you’re likely ever to perform. And in the back of your mind you know that, no matter how ripped you were, Sparta’s King Leonidas would still laugh in your face, if not slap you.
But not everyone has a lifestyle where they can run with the wolves or hurl javelins at Persians, so it’s to the gym we go. Best, then, to at least make sure that exercises don’t add any undue risk to their ridiculousness.
The popular plyometrics, for example, brings an inordinate amount of hidden danger for not a lot of reward. Also known as “jump training,” plyometrics was created in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and made its way to the West two decades later.
Plyometric training involves a high degree of central nervous system stimulation and performance on top of adding a speed and stretch shortening cycle to foundational movement patterns. Studies indicate that the musculo-skeletal system is subjected to impact forces between 3 to 5 times body weight as a result of landing from a plyometric “depth jumps” such as the upper body push, hip hinge, and squat patterns. The plyometrics enthusiast risks spinal compression, back pain or injury, patellar tendinitis (“jumper’s knee”) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.
Is there any exercise more iconic than Olympic weight lifting? Better to ask if there are any more risky. It’s not so much that big, dynamic barbell lifts are so bad for you when done properly, it’s just that so many people don’t do them properly. Worse, the whole procedure seems so simple and is such an ingrained part of gym culture, many newbie lifters won’t just make the mistake of diving in with both feet.
As counter-intuitive as it seems, you shouldn’t start Olympic lifting until you are stronger than you likely are. There are many better ways to build strength than performing the snatch or clean-and-jerk, and it’s tough to justify adding them to your gym regimen, given the risks.
The dangers for a weekend gym warrior include various neck issues borne of holding a load over your head, and lower back problems such as lumbar strain and spasms.