Friday, 19 March 2021

Why Safest is Strongest

Why I prioritise injury free lifting for long term strength gains. 
When coaching squat, bench and deadlift to a new client, whether they have lifted before or not, the first thing I will teach is how to correctly breathe and brace. Why? 

1. Correct breathing and bracing provides a mechanical advantage, by allowing effective transfer of power from the lower body into the bar without any of this power leaking out. 

2. Correctly breathing and bracing will help minimize injury risk to the lifter, particularly through the lower back when employed with a sound technique. This is building block number one. We can tweak technique moving forward and such is the nature of lifting that technique will need to be continuously reinforced, sometimes altered and occasionally rethought, but in breathing and bracing, we have something to build everything else around, comfortable in the fact that if this is employed correctly, we are already minimizing our injury risk.

Once a lifter can correctly breathe and brace, we can help develop other aspects of technique around each lift, to help develop their lifting. What are these aspects? This isn’t about the “what” of technique but about “why?”.Consider the example of someone walking into the gym able to bench press 100kg. Just because this person has the strength to bench press this weight doesn’t mean the following things: 

a) that they couldn’t do it in a more efficient manner, 

b) that they couldn’t lift more weight if they were to employ a modified technique 

c) that they aren’t going to injure themselves if they continue to lift with their current technique and 

d) that they will be able to continually progress with their technique as it is. If this client starts training with me, the first thing I am going to do is work on their technique and stability so that we can achieve all these things moving forward; greater efficiency, ability to lift more, injury prevention and ability to continually progress. That is not to say that every person that walks in will have a technique that needs fixing, it is simply the first thing I will check and work with before we look to actively progress strength and weights. However, stability is something that can always be worked on and improved.

Why efficient is safe and safe is strong.
You may have heard that the most efficient technique is the safest technique and that the safest technique is the strongest technique (and by extension the most efficient technique is the strongest technique). Why is this? If we can efficiently move a weig
ht (let’s use a 60kg squat as an example), this is going to mean as little movement as possible to perform the lift. Meaning; very little movement side to side or rotationally through the hips, no extension or flexion of the spine, no movement of the bar on the back, and a vertical bar path on decent andascent – this is the maintenance of stability through our movement. If we can tick all these boxes, what we will find is that it will take considerably less effort to move this 60kg than it would if we weren’t able to do so, and subsequently can continue to move heavier weights. By maintaining our stability through this range of motion, controlling our hips, our spine and the movement of the bar, we are much less likely to put our body in a position where we will get injured or where it can’t handle the load we are placing upon it. Thus, if we are able to move with stability and efficiency, not put our body in a position where we are likely to injure it, we will be able to apply more force and energy to the bar and move heavier weights.
That’s great, but why is this important?
When taking on a client for strength training, I am not interested in how strong they can get in 12 weeks, six months or one year. I am interested in how strong they can get and stay. Injuries aren’t just going to slow down progress and in some cases take us backwards, they are going to make training, and subsequent rehabilitation very mentally challenging. When training becomes mentally challenging or downright unenjoyable, our training longevity is always going to be threatened and in the end, this is the number one threat to strength training; long term enjoyment and fulfillment. Why would we keep doing something we don’t enjoy or keeps hurting us?
At the end of the day, building true strength takes many years, which is why we don’t need to rush when we start strength training and why I believe in prioritizing injury free lifting; so that my clients can maintain their training longevity and continue to train for strength for many years to come. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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