Stronger Athletes

How Important is Safety?

May 29 "You can observe a lot by watching." -Yogi Berra

Is Safety The Number One Priority In Your Training Program?

We have visited with many coaches that provide various types of strength programs for their athletes. Many coaches take the issue of safety in the weight room very seriously while some coaches will put safety, "certainly in their top 8 priorities".

The latter attitude is a big problem. With some sports being so demanding to our athletes bodies, more attention needs to be directed toward safety in training for those sports. We still find that many coaches have their athletes perform a 1RM on the Olympic lifts as well as the power lifts. This is not necessary nor is it safe for the athletes.

Roger Schwab in his article, "Personal Reflections on Weight Training and Spinal Injuries," reflects on his own experience in lifting. He performed heavy bench presses, squat snatch, and below parallel squats with a pause at the bottom with significant weight. Schwab explains the result of this type of training, "My choice of exercises caused structural damage that would manifest in long term chronic pain. Advanced spinal pathology at 20 plus years old! Disc herniations throughout my neck (cervical spine) C3-C7, a reversal of my lordotic curve and spinal stenosis at C-7. My lower back suffered severe degenerative change as well with disc herniations at L4-5 L5-S1."

Roger Schwab currently works with Main Line Health & Fitness in Bryn Mawr, PA. He has a series of outstanding articles which can be found at the Main Line Health Fitness web site. does not advocate the squat snatch, 1RM in bench press, or pausing at the bottom position of a heavy squat. None of these movements are safe nor do the positives outweigh the negatives. Using common sense in an athlete's training is mandatory. As Schwab indicates, "Rather than finding out for themselves what does and does not constitute safe, result stimulating exercise, trainees are being taught training regimens that are outright dangerous and lack the fundamentals of common sense." This is unfortunate but true in many programs.

We will leave you with a suggestion from Roger Schwab on the proper approach to strength training. "After too many years of repeated mistakes, I finally "woke-up" to the fact that if anyone is going to lift weights to improve functional ability and build stronger muscles, do so in a slow, deliberate focused manner. Choose exercises wisely. Follow sound routines that emphasize quality rather than quantity and which do not leave the overall system depleted and ripe for muscular or skeletal injuries. Fast movements do not build fast muscles no matter what any "expert" might tell you. Even if fast lifting did build fast muscles, it would never be worth the risk of injury." Well said, don’t you think?

***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***

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