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Debunking the Myth of Weightlifting and Joint Problems

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Debunking the Myth of Weightlifting and Joint Problems

Many people fear that weightlifting regularly is going to cause joint problems sooner or later. Fortunately, they’re wrong…if they take simple actions to protect their joints from injury.

 

When I started lifting, I was pretty concerned with my joint health. I definitely didn’t want to become one of those old guys always complaining about his back, knees, shoulders, and elbows, warning the young’uns to take it easy in the weight room lest they become like me.

On the other hand, I also knew plenty of middle-aged guys who never seemed to have joint pain and who had been lifting their entire lives.

What gives? Luck? Genetics? Is weightlifting inherently bad for our joints and we just have to hope for the best?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s find out.

The Myth of Weightlifting and Joint Problems

At first glance, it would seem to make sense that weightlifting would, over time, give us joint problems.

I mean how good can it possibly be for our joints to squat, push, and pull hundreds of pounds over and over? Wouldn’t it speed up the “wear and tear” on the joint and thus the onset of osteoarthritis (the degradation of the joints)?

Interestingly enough, research doesn’t support these assumptions.

For example, this study was conducted with 25 competitive weightlifters–people that spend a lot more time training and lift a lot more weight than you or I do–and researchers found that on the whole, the subjects’ joints were as healthy, or healthier, than other people their age. (Researchers found the Olympic lifters had the most joint problems out of the group, however, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of these movements and the sheer amount of weight competitive lifters throw around.)

Furthermore, about half of the subjects admitted they were using anabolic steroids regularly, which means their joints were under even more strain than usual from the excessive weights lifted. 

One other point worth noting is researchers found that previously injured joints were more susceptible to joint degeneration than healthy joints. So if you’ve sustained joint injuries in the past, lifting heavy weights week after week may aggravate them.

These findings are in line with other research conducted specifically on the Squat and Deadlift–two of the most maligned, and–ironically–effective, exercises you can do.

  • 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.
  • 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.

So then, if weightlifting isn’t inherently bad for your joints, why do so many weightlifters seem to have shoulder, knees, and lower back problems?

When Weightlifting Can Lead to Joint Problems

First, you should know that weightlifting just isn’t a very dangerous activity. You’re far more likely to get injured playing just about any sport than you are lifting weights.

That said, like with any physical activity, the occasional ache or strain is inevitable, but if you do certain things wrong, you can get hurt. And with weightlifting, the common ways to get hurt involve injuring a joint like the shoulder or knee or the lower back.

What gives?

Well, in most cases of joint injury that I’ve come across, the person was…

1. Attempting to lift too much weight; and…

2. Doing it with poor form

These are the cardinal sins of weightlifting, and are what give certain exercises like the Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press a bad reputation.

Simply put, weightlifting is not a forgiving sport if you don’t “respect” it. That is, if you get sloppy with heavy weights, bad things can happen. And ironically, this doesn’t just apply to free weights–machines are just as “dangerous” when used improperly.

So, take the time to learn proper form, especially on your big compound lifts and leave your ego at the door when you lift, and you’ll dramatically decrease your chance of getting hurt.

Pushing yourself in the gym is good, so long as you always maintain proper form as well. Go for that extra rep on your Squat or Deadlift…so long as you don’t have to hunch over to do it or turn the exercise into a Good Morning. Try to hit that PR on your Bench Press…so long as you don’t flare your elbows out or roll your shoulders in the process.

There’s also the matter of ignoring signs that it’s time to back off. “No pain, no gain,” right? Not really. Pain means something is wrong, and if you ignore it and try to push through, you can get hurt. As I said earlier, if you lift weights regularly, you’re going to strain muscles now and then. Maybe it’ll affect your shoulder or knee, maybe your back, or even something random like your wrist or brachialis.

The key to dealing with pain is treating it like an injury until it’s better. Avoid exercises that aggravate it, ice it and apply heat accordingly, and let it heal. If that means no deadlifting or squatting for a few weeks, so be it. Find alternative exercises that you can do. Annoying, yes, but an injury that sets you back several months is much more frustrating.

5 Effective Joint Pain Remedies You Need to Try

Ask the wrong “expert” about what you should do to relieve your joint pain and you’re going to hear drugs or surgery or both.

The problems with anti-inflammatory drugs are they just mask the problem and long-term use is a bad idea.

The problem with surgery is obvious: it’s a traumatic, risky experience that we would all rather avoid if at all possible.

Well, short-term use of drugs can give some relief and some situations necessitate surgery but if yours doesn’t (and a good sports doc can tell you), there’s a good chance the following 5 pain-relief strategies can help.

Mobility Exercises

“Unsticking” soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, and fascia) and improving movements patterns and range of motion can be very effective in relieving joint pain.

The type of exercises that accomplish this are commonly referred to as “mobility exercises,” and the right ones can work wonders.

Check out this article to learn more about how to use mobility exercises to reduce or even eliminate your joint pain.

Rest, Ice, and Heat

The most important part of recovery is rest.

That doesn’t mean immobility but it does mean you have to not do things that are going to impair healing and recovery.

Violate this simple principle and injuries can become chronic and debilitating.

Once a joint has fully healed and you’re ready to start training again, it’s a good idea to start with lighter weights and see how you feel over the next several days (no pain is a good sign), and gradually work back into your normal routine.

Ice helps you recover by reducing inflammation and swelling as well as internal bleeding from injured capillaries and blood vessels.

As long as there is pain and inflammation, ice will help.

Don’t apply ice for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, but you can rotate on and off all day.

Heat stimulates blood flow, which helps your body bring nutrients to and remove waste products from the area faster.

Heat shouldn’t be introduced immediately following an injury, however.

The general advice is to ice only for the first 3 days to bring down swelling and, once this has been accomplished, introduce heat. Alternate between 15 to 20 minutes of ice and heat.

Acupuncture

As you know, abnormalities in soft tissues can cause joint pains, and research shows acupuncture can help treat this.

Specifically, needling can help release “trigger points” in the body, which are tight, painful areas of muscle that refer pain to other areas of the body.

For example, when you press on a trigger point in your neck, you might also feel pain in your shoulder (I’ve personally experienced that one).

The key here is obviously the skill and knowledge of the acupuncturist. Look for someone trained in using acupuncture for myofascial release.

Massage

Like acupuncture, research shows that massage is another effective strategy for releasing trigger points.

This can not only relieve pain but can help prevent muscular problems from developing in the first place that can, in time, cause joint pains.

Arnica Gel

Arnica gel is produced from the Arnica Montana plant and has long been used to treat inflammation and pain in the muscles and joints.

Research shows that arnica gel can be an effective way to reduce joint pain. In fact, it can be equally as effective as ibuprofen in alleviating joint pains associated with arthritis.

Here’s the product I use when I have joint pain:

arnica-gel

Joint Supplements That Do and Don’t Work

Bone and joint health supplements comprise a multi-billion dollar market that is only getting bigger and bigger.

When people are in pain and looking for a solution, they’ll buy and try just about anything.

Before you jump on the joint supplement bandwagon, though, let’s go over your options.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I want you to know that the supplement FORTIFY that I recommend in this article isn’t just what I personally use but is from my supplement line, LEGION.

As you probably know, the supplement industry is notorious for its lies and shenanigans. The truth is the majority of the supplements you see in the magazines and on the shelves aren’t going to help you reach your goals faster.

That’s why I decided to create the products I myself have always wanted: science-based formulations, clinically effective dosages of all ingredients, no fillers or unnecessary junk, and natural sweetening and flavoring.

You can learn more about LEGION and my goal to change the supplement industry for the better here.

And if you like what you see and decide to support my work…you’re awesome. 🙂

It’s because of people like you that I get to spend my time writing articles like this that help others get into the best shape of their lives.

Glucosamine

If you’re boning up on joint health (har har har), you’ve heard about glucosamine.

It’s a supplement derived from shellfish and is often sold as a sure bet for relieving joint pain and improving joint health.

Well, studies show that it can provide minor pain relief but is unreliable in this mechanism.

Research also shows that glucosamine can reduce the rate of collagen loss, which is particularly relevant to people that run or participate in other high-impact activities regularly. Its collagen-preserving effects are relatively weak, though.

The bottom line is glucosamine isn’t worthless but also isn’t nearly as effective as many supplement companies claim.

It’s not the most popular joint supplement because it’s the best. It’s just cheap to produce (great profit margins) and heavily marketed.

If you want to get the absolute most out of a joint supplementation regimen and don’t have a budget, it makes sense to include glucosamine in it.

The clinically effective dosage of glucosamine is 900 to 1,500 mg per day, and here’s the product I personally use:

glucosamine

Chondroitin

Chondroitin is an major constituent of collagen and is frequently paired with glucosamine to treat the symptoms of arthritis.

Research casts doubt on its effectiveness, though.

Based on the scope and quality of the more recent research on chondroitin, my recommendation is save your money.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM is a sulfur-containing chemical found in plants, animals, and humans. It’s often paired with glucosamine because of its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies show that MSM has promise for treatment of arthritis but more rigorous research is needed.

Many people report that MSM relieves their joint pain so, like glucosamine, I think it’s worth including if budget isn’t a concern.

If you are on a budget, however, then the following supplements will give you the most bang for your buck.

The clinically effective dosage of MSM appears to be around 3,000 mg per day, and again, here’s the product I personally use:

glucosamine

Curcumin

Curcumin is the yellow pigment found in the turmeric plant, which is the main spice in curry. It has been used therapeutically in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.

Its health benefits are extensive, and scientific researchers around the world are investigating applications for fighting a variety of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more.

One reason for this is that curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which are exerted by inhibiting proteins that trigger the production of inflammatory chemicals.

Curcumin has a significant downside, however: intestinal absorption is very poor. So much so that supplementation without enhancement more or less eliminates the majority of its health benefits.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution for increasing bioavailability: black pepper extract.

Research shows that pairing black pepper extract with curcumin increases bioavailability twentyfold. And when you do that, curcumin becomes an effective joint support supplement.

Studies show that supplementation with curcumin and black pepper extract reduces inflammatory signals in the joints and, in those with arthritis, relieves pain and stiffness and improves mobility.

When paired with piperine, the clinically effective dosages of curcumin range between 200 and 500 milligrams.

Given its powerful anti-inflammatory effects and long list of additional health benefits, curcumin is on my “highly recommended” list for both joint and general health.

And that’s why I included 500 mg of curcumin and 25 mg of piperine in each serving of my joint supplement, FORTIFY.

fortify-single-600

That’s only the beginning of what FORTIFY has to offer, though.

It also contains clinically effective dosages of three more molecules shown to alleviate joint pain and improve joint health.

Let’s take a look at each.

Undenatured Type II Colagen

Collagen is the main protein of the various connective tissues in animals and type II collagen (CII) is a type of collagen that makes up your joint cartilage.

“Undenatured” is more than a fancy word—it’s vitally important to the effectiveness of the product.

Denaturization is the alteration of the natural structure of a substance, usually by the addition of another chemical or heat that changes the substance’s physical properties.

Typical commercial processing of collagen causes alterations to its basic form (denaturization), and research shows that denatured collagen has no beneficial effects on joint inflammation.

Undenatured collagen, however, is a more natural form of the substance and research shows that the UC II® undenatured type II collagen is highly effective for regulating the immune response that inflames joints and destroys cartilage and bone, which further inflames the joints and starts a degenerative cycle.

And the best part about undenatured type II collagen is that these effects have been demonstrated in people with arthritic conditions and people with healthy joints.

It accomplishes this by “teaching” the body’s immune system to stop attacking collagen as a foreign substance, which is the cause of some arthritic conditions. Orally ingesting CII works almost like a vaccine, resulting in less of an inflammatory response to your own collagen because the body now recognizes it.

The clinically effective dosages of undenatured type II collagen range between 10 and 40 milligrams.

Undenatured type II collagen isn’t cheap but research shows it’s one of the most effective supplements you can take for preserving your joint health. I highly recommend it.

That’s why my joint supplement FORTIFY contains 10 milligrams of undenatured type II collagen per serving.

I chose the lower end of the clinically effective dosage because it isn’t clear if more is better. Research clearly shows that 10 mg is effective but not that two, three, or four times that amount is more so.

fortify-single-600

Boswellia Serrata

Boswellia serrata is a plant that produces an aromatic substance known as frankinsence, which has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various disorders related to inflammation.

Thanks to modern science, we now know why.

Frankinsence contains molecules known asboswellic acids. Research shows that, like curcumin, boswellic acids—and one in particular known as acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid, or AKBA—inhibit the production of several proteins that cause inflammation in the body.

And in case you’re wondering, the difference between the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of curcumin and boswellic acids is they work on different enzymes. Curcumin inhibits an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase, or COX, and boswellic acids inbhibit lysyl oxidase, or LOX (and, most notably, 5-LOX).

These anti-inflammatory properties extend to the joints, which is why studies show that Boswellia serrata is an effective treatment for reducing joint inflammation and pain as well as inhibiting the autoimmune response that eats away at joint cartilage and eventually causes arthritis.

The clinically effective dosages of boswellia serrata range between 100 and 200 milligrams.

What can I say…I’m a fan of this molecule. Its powerful anti-inflammatory effects are not only good for your joints but for your entire body, as systemic inflammation is a known contributor to many types of disease.

FORTIFY contains 125 mg of boswellia serrata per serving.

fortify-single-600

Grape Seed Extract

Grape seed extract is a substance derived from the ground-up seeds of red wine grapes, which have been used in European medicine for thousands of years.

There are two molecules in grape seed extract that account for most of its health benefits: tannins, which are bitter compounds that make wine taste dry, and procyanidins, which are chains of antioxidants found in some plants.

Much of the research on grape seed extract’s beneficial effects on joint health is extrapolated from research on a similar molecule known as pycnogenol, which is also a potent source of procyanidins. Pycnogenol is significantly more expensive than grape seed extract, however, which is why GSE is preferable for supplementation needs.

Research shows that the primary way grape seed extract helps protect joint cartilage from damage caused by the pro-inflammatory immune response that can develop into arthritis.

Studies also show that supplementation with grape seed extract confers other health benefits, including the following:

Clinically effective dosages of grape seed extract range from 75 to 300 mg.

You get a lot for your money with grape seed extract. Like curcumin and boswellia serrata, it improves both joint and overall health, and is a worthwhile inclusion in your supplementation regimen.

Like curcumin and boswellia serrata, grape seed extract improves both joint and overall health, and is a worthwhile inclusion in your supplementation regimen.

FORTIFY contains 90 mg of grape seed extract per serving.

fortify-single-600

Spirulina

Spirulina is a non-toxic blue-green algae that is very similar to fish oil in its health benefits.

Research has shown that supplementation with spirulina can…

The anti-inflammatory effects are what help with reducing joint pain, and animal research has shown that spirulina supplementation improves joint health.

Spirulina has a lot to offer, which is why it’s in my cabinet and on my list of supplements everyone should take. Here’s the product I use:

spirulina

Fish Oil

The next type of general health supplement that I highly recommend is fish oil, because it’s a great source of “omega-3 fatty acids.”

Omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid–EPA–and docosahexaenoic acid–DHA) are an essential type of fat, meaning they can’t be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet.

Research shows that fish oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can significantly reduce joint pain.

Studies also show that supplementation with fish oil can…

If you don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet (2 to 3 grams per day is a good target), I strongly suggest that you take a fish oil supplement.

Not all fish oils are made the same, though. There are two important things to consider when choosing one:

You want to know how the oil has been processed.

There are two forms of fish oil on the market today: the triglyceride form, and the ethyl ester form.

The triglyceride form is fish oil in its natural state, and the ethyl ester form is a processed version of the triglyceride form that includes a molecule of ethanol (alcohol).

While plenty of studies have proven the benefits of supplementation with fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs), research has shown that the triglyceride form is better absorbed by the body.

One of the reasons for this is the ethyl ester form is much more resistant to the enzymatic process by which the body breaks the oil down for use.

Another downside to the ethyl ester form is during the digestive process, your body converts it back to the triglyceride form, which results in the release of the ethanol molecule.

Although the dose is small, those with alcohol sensitivity or addiction can be negatively affected. Furthermore, research has provided evidence of cellular and organic toxicity and injury resulting from the ingestion of FAEEs

You want to know the EPA/DHA content of each serving.

Because of the varying quality of fish oils on the market, it’s important that you look at how many milligrams of EPa and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) are actually in each serving.

Lower quality supplements might have as little as 150 – 200 milligrams per 1 gram of fat, which makes them nearly worthless as you have to take far too much every day to get enough omega-3s (you want a minimum of 2 – 3 grams of omega-3s per day).

A high-quality fish oil can be quite a bit more money than a low-quality one, but when you look at how much you’re getting for that money in terms of omega-3 fatty acids, the price makes more sense.

For example, here’s the label from a cheap, low-quality (ethyl ester) fish oil product:

on-fish-oil

This product costs about $11, and comes with 100 pills containing 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each. This means you’re getting 30 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per bottle, and paying about 37 cents per gram.

Now, here’s the label from a high-quality triglyceride fish oil product that I use, Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega:

ultimate-omega-fish-oil

This product costs about $40, and comes with 120 pills containing 640 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each.

This means you’re getting about 77 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per bottle, and paying about 52 cents per gram.

So, as you can see, the initial price difference of $11 vs. $40 isn’t as drastic when you look at what you’re getting:

37 cents per gram of low-quality oil that isn’t likely to deliver all of the benefits you’re looking for vs. 52 cents per gram for the highest quality oil on the market that will.

Thus, I recommend you go with the high-quality product whose nutrition facts label I showed above:

nordic-naturals-ultimate-omega

What do you think about weightlifting and joint problems and pains? Have anything else to share?

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  • halevi

    Great article. I’ve learned (the hard way) for myself that I should push myself, but not to the point where my form is compromised. That’s when I get injured. I’ll even stay stuck at a certain weight for a month and increase 1 rep each workout if that’s what it takes to avoid injury and keep lifting.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I hear you. It takes some getting used to and then discipline to keep in.

  • Gonzalo

    Hi Mike,

    I’m having some pain in one shoulder, and the only exercise I can do 100% pain free is incline dumbell press. Pretty much all the rest produce at least some degree of pain when doing them with perfect form, so I’ll avoid them for a couple of weeks.

    What should I do? Do 9 sets of that same exercise? Do 3 but train more frequently?

    • Sean

      try flexing your traps, it squeezes your shoulders back into better form i use to get a clicking in my shoulder when pressing and other exercises but i don’t notice it as much anymore

      • Michael Matthews

        Good tip.

      • Gonzalo

        Thanks Sean! I’ll try that once I get back to those exercises.

    • Michael Matthews

      Are you sure your form is correct? If so, yes, lay off and treat with ice, heat, and stretching. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-shoulder-flexibility-and-mobility/

      9 sets of that exercise is fine. Not exciting but will get the job done.

      • Gonzalo

        Hi Mike, my form was not OK before. But it is ok now and still hurts a bit. Im pretty sure that after a couple of weeks of resting I will be able to do them again without pain. I ‘ve already started doing the shoulder mobility exercises also! Thanks a lot.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay good. Yes rest, ice, and for me, Tiger Balm and arnica gel really do help as well. Let me know how it goes.

  • Eric R

    Mike, great timing on the article. I’ve been experiencing some pain in my right elbow/forearm area when performing any type of pulling exercise. I don’t mind dropping the bicep curls for a few weeks but I can’t live without my weighted chins. What do you think about compression sleeves to help with inflammation during exercises? I’ll definitely consider your other recommendations.

    Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’ve never tried a compression sleeve on my arm so I’m not sure. I like sleeves for my knees when squatting though.

  • Dennis Fallo

    I’ve used Tiger Balm for 15 years in the martial arts, works great! There are also some imported herbal liquids from China that can also work well! You have to check with a martial arts supply house or online for them. They not only help injuries feel better, but protect hands and such from injury while striking and training on mung bean and split shot filled pillow bags. I have also used Eskimo PurEFA fish oil 1,000 MG, from Integrative Therapeutics that is very good!

    • Michael Matthews

      Love TB! Cool on the herbal liquids. Which do you use?

  • Marco

    Yeah, the great thing that differentiates living tissue from a man-made mechanical device is that it can heal and that the correct dosage of strain can actually make it more robust.

    I had knee problems when I had been training with weights at age 14. They caused me to give up training.

    When I had been training again around 24, now and then during squats, my knees would suddenly “crack”. No, they did not make a sound, but it felt like a crack. No terrible pain, but definitely something that was not OK. So I suspened squatting for maybe two weeks and started squatting again, with a lighter weight. Then the weight went up beyond the weight that caused the “crack”, until the next “crack” at the higher weight. I repeated that cycle a couple of times, as far as I can remember. I gave up training again, but due to reasons unrelated to joint problems.

    Now, at 33, I have been training for over a year and my knees are fine. I occasionally feel a very light pain during cycling, but heavy leg pressing causes no problems. (Strangely, sometimes the warm-up sets do not feel OK, but the heavy sets are OK.) I am currently not squatting, but I will try it again in about two months.

    Anyone reading this and having joint problems should be very careful before taking this as an advice for dealing with aching joints. I think you need experience and a good intuition for what your body can take. If someone else told me his joints where aching during a warm-up set, but he would try the heavy working set nonetheless, I would probably tell him that this is pretty stupid. 😉

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing! I agree that safe is better than sorry and see a doc if there are any indicators of real issues.

  • James

    Hi mike another great article! Your practically the only fitness expert I listen to now! Too much bro everywhere else! Lol I’m a bit confused with your stance on insulin – I know you say as long as you hit your numbers, food choices aren’t important in terms of body composition but I’ve also read you say that high insulin causes fat gain which would indicate food choices are important. Would appreciate your answer to clarify this, many thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks James! Haha I understand.

      Good question. I’m actually going to write an article on insulin next. Many people have been asking.

  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve asked a load of questions recently (sorry) but i have one last one that is the most important. I’ve made a tough decision to stop trying to battle through my shoulder tendinosis, i’m quitting the gym for an indefinite period of time to hopefully fully heal. This could be anywhere from 1-2 years I am told which totally sucks, i’m 22 and I want to look my best in my prime but it’s not to be.

    In this period of time off I want to try and retain as much muscle as I possibly can and I have heard that BCAAs and Creatine contributes to muscle retention. Do you know if these supplements can be effective in helping retain muscle over a long period of time even without any resistance exercises at all? Or would their contribution to muscle retention under these conditions be pretty minimal? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      I totally understand. Could you do body weight stuff? Diet will only help for so long. Eventually you’ll lose muscle if you can’t train at all.

      • Julien

        Absolutely no exercise is allowed, tendon recovery takes forever. It takes over 100 days just for the body to start to build new collagen and that’s only the beginning of the recovery process. By exercising I would be re-damaging the micro tears in the tendons and make it worse. I feel the human body is such a fragile thing! But the message for everyone is loud and clear, always have impeccable form during exercises, always warm up, always allow adequate rest! If i could turn back time I would have done things so differently but I was too young to give a shit!

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay, I understand. Well, just take it easy then and eat around .8 grams of protein per pound.

          Let me know when you’re back in the gym brother.

  • Bill Maslen

    Speaking as a somewhat older trainer (53), the other key things I would definitely add to this article are:

    a) Warm up. Yeah, really. Do yourself a huge favor and warm up before every workout – even the short ones.
    b) Allow plenty of time for recovery (related to Mike’s words on pain)

    As I’ve grown older, I have found that as long as I obey those two rules, I can lift as much (in fact, more) than I did in my mid-20s. But if I forget or neglect either of those rules – oh boy, I’m hobbling about for weeks afterwards. The older you get, the longer you need to warm up, and the longer you need to recover. I strongly suspect that’s why Bill Pearl spends hours in the gym in the morning – at least 50% of his time is undoubtedly spent warming up for the (really) heavy stuff!

    On the plus side, my knees are much more robust now than they were when I was 20. But that may because I haven’t played soccer for years (very bad for your knees!). I’ve also suffered from tendinitis-related pain in my elbow ever since doing stupid things in the gym when I was in my 20s. Guess what? I’ve discovered that as long as I warm up with several light sets, I can do heavier curls now than I ever could when I was 30. So stay cool and get warm 😉

    • Michael Matthews

      Great points. I completely agree. I do a 4-set warm-up for all exercises and make sure I don’t overtrain.

      Keep up the good work.

  • Mike

    Hi Mike..thanks for the article and suggestions on the products..always appreciated..my right shoulder has been giving me issues..particularly in chest pressing movements..it was fine before as long as I stayed away from barbell pressing (even had my form checked by a few professionals) when I lift and appear to be ok in that regard…so I guess the only solution at this point is to work around the injury with different movements(have used some machines too to take pressure off my supporting muscles and joints), rest it, try some additional supplementation, etc..I just ordered the spirulina, tiger balm, and some glucosomine (worked great for me years ago) not sure why I stopped taking it..other thoughts?

  • Felipe

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa052771

    Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination did not reduce pain effectively in the overall group of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Exploratory analyses suggest that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be effective in the subgroup of patients with moderate-to-severe knee pain.

    • Michael Matthews

      If you look at the totality of research available on glucosamine it’s pretty well established that it helps with osteoarthritis, and we don’t know with healthy joints.

      • Felipe

        I think it’s not that well established that Glucosamine helps with osteoarthritis. A well-conducted randomized trial with large sample published in NEJM should raise some of skepticism. Some reviews of meta-analysis have shown inf fact the available evidence is, at best, inconsistent:

        – Conclusions of 2010 Meta-analysis (N=3803): “Compared with placebo, glucosamine, chondroitin, and their combination do not reduce joint pain or have an impact on narrowing of joint space”
        http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c4675

        A systematic review of recommendations and guidelines for the management of osteoarthritis says:
        Controversy remains about the use of acupuncture, knee braces, heel wedges, intra-articular hyaluronans, and glucosamine/chondroitin.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24387819

        I would also be skeptical about fish oil supplementation. I’m not talking if it is good muscles, I’m talking about safety. Studies have found assoaciation with omega-3 and prostate cancer.

        • Michael Matthews

          Instead of cherry picking studies, you should try to achieve a more holistic view of the evidence available:

          http://examine.com/supplements/Glucosamine/

          And supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids is very important unless you get a lot through your diet:

          http://examine.com/supplements/Fish+Oil/

          • Felipe

            Cherry picking? Do you really read the links I put it? Systematic Review and Meta-analysis are considered the most strong source of evidence regarding treatment in medicine. I copied two comprehensive reviews about the effects of Glucosamine.Bottom line is: the data is inconsistent. That is what happens, usually, when the treament is not better than placebo. You’re the one who is cherry picking when you use site as examine.com as the source of your science.

            Since you made a not fair critique about me, I going to say this out loud. Stop using studies with very small number of participants. You cannot extrapolate the results of small study to a big population. You need be more skeptical until those data are reproduced by large studies.

            “Supplement is omega-3 fatty acids is very important”. Maybe on your world. In the world of science, I would be more skeptical, I’d wait data from good trials, systematic reviews or meta-analysis. This is particular important if the omega-3 fatty acids are associated with prostate cancer in some studies.
            We need to make sure the supplement is safe and works, before we can make a recommendation.
            And the results of supplementation studies (vitamins, antioxidants) have shown that those notions of using supplements for healthy people are just wrong.
            Even data regarding vitamin D supplementation is not that clear. Some people think they should take large dose of vitamins, because its antioxidant, because its all natural, but data from high quality scientific studies say those people are just wrong.

          • Michael Matthews

            Wait…Examine’s fish oil page cites OVER 700 STUDIES but I’m cherry picking? Lol.

            Did you even look at their matrix for it?

            Getting adequate vit D is very important and most people just don’t (I talk about this here: https://www.muscleforlife.com/sun-exposure-and-skin-cancer-is-sun-protection-as-important-as-we-think/) and yes loading up on vitamins randomly isn’t necessarily useful.

          • Felipe

            The problem is we can’t equate, let’s say, a double-blind randomized controlled trial with large sample size with one that only has 10 subjects, or with one that is not even properlly randomized. Obviously the weight of evidence needs to be different. That’s the reason we do systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Scientists ranks the weight of each evidence available.

            I did not say getting vit D is not important; it is. The slippery slope is to assume vitamins obtained in the diet are going to be processed by the body in the exactly same way of vitamins in supplements. With the body of evidence available, all vitamins, but vit D, should be taken only with the patients has been diagnosed with a particular vitamin deficiency. Like I sad, the data of vit D supplementation is not that clear. One big systematic review published on the Lancet in January said vit D does not prevent chronic disease or any cause of mortality in patients without vit D deficiency.

            You know that you can have a study in medicine that can almost prove anything, right? The study won´t be a good study, will have flaws, but the link fot it would be available. Ergo, anyone can write almost anything using low quality studies to back it up, when, in fact, it might exist well-done studies that point to another direction.

          • Michael Matthews

            Again, look at their matrix. There are dozens and dozens of studies to review. I also recommend you review how omega-3 fatty acids work in the body so you can understand why the molecules are helpful, whether gotten from a piece of fish or the oil.

            You’re wrong about vitamin D. I recommend you review the research of Dr. Rhonda Patrick on this matter. I recently had her on my podcast–VERY sharp.

            And the belief that synthetic vitamins can’t be used by the body is marketing baloney to sell whole-food “raw” vitamins. I will be talking about this in an upcoming article.

            Yes, you can find INDIVIDUAL studies to support just about any nonsense, which is why you need to review and weigh all the available evidence.

            Out of curiosity why are you so biased against supplements? Just don’t want to spend the money or?

          • Lewis

            Dude – why are you so biased FOR supplements? Stop worrying about your amazon affiliate sales and start worrying about your scientific literacy. Meta-analysis and systematic review is far superior to an Examine article.

            Nice attempt to discredit the guy as cheap or cherry-picking, but I think since you’re worried about your 4% and only cite pages that support your conclusion, you’re projecting on both counts.

          • Athelred Davis

            “…anyone can write almost anything…” you should probably stop and wonder why you’re doing this.

            I only have a minor in mathematics, 9 hours from a major which would have been a double. What is the minimal sample size of a single trial where one can reasonably assert a correlation with 95% confidence? If I remember correctly your sample size would need to be 1000. However, what is the process for maintaining confidence over 100 trials each having 10 subjects? Does not the sum of observations have a confidence interval?

            You should get more comfortable with the practical because life is unfortunately relentless with application over theory where both are constrained by time. Yes we could all stop ingesting glucosamine and wait for truth from science but when considering that the age of philosophy was meant to define a method for discovering truth which went on for some time yielding only one singular truth, that truth is nearly always contextual and subjective, it is more prudent to go with “as best we know” approach. This is how man has achieved; we work with what know at the time and maintain what we learn along the way, but we do not sit and wait for the perfect moment in time…that is for those who wander the corridors of pendants, individuals who can escape accountability by never being clear one way or the other.

          • Great comment. I completely agree.

  • marsa

    Hi Mike,
    I feel burning in my trapezius ,clavicle and acromion. that’s my program: dumbbell pullovers 4*8,7/5 kg, supinated grip pulldown(super set )4*10,10 kg, seated rows 4*8, 10 kg ,narrrow grip pulldown, 4*8-10, 10 kg. one-arm dumbbell rows 3*8-10, 6 or 7/5 kg.I’m 28 year old girl.I weigh 63 kg and I’m 164 c.m.at about 24-26% body fat. I’ve been working out for 10 years.I think the performances are right. oh and I do them twice a week. thanks.

  • Dale Eastham

    I found that I used to get joint pain in knees, shoulders and sometimes elbows too when I lifted heavy eg; 5 x 5 after approx 3 weeks. But then I realised after reading BLS I was doing too many sets/volume. Stuck between 9-12 sets per muscle group and now I don’t get any joint pain at all and I’ve got about 30% stronger on my compound lifts. I currently don’t take any joint supplements, have trained for nearly 15 and I’m 36 years old. After reading this article I may start taking fish oil for health benefits as I only have flaxseed and egg yolks containing omega 3

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing brother. Keep up the good work.

  • Ben

    What’s your thoughts on CherryActive products? http://www.cherryactive.co.uk/sports_recovery.html

  • SkateboardT

    Hi Mike,

    I was thinking about starting using a weight lifting belt when doing squats and dead lifts, I have never used it before. Should I start using it? What are at Pro’s & Con’s?

    Thanks

  • i used lipo 6 black,glutamine,creating,whey protien before 6 month.. and i workout
    regulary i stop suppliment and now im playing my muscle are not bulking why that is plaese help me

  • LifeForMuscle

    hi mike!

    im really glad you wrote an article about this, as joint problem when lifting occur to me alot… quite sad , im only 16. starting to feel old XD! any way i experienced some shoulder pain but got fixed and its getting better as time pass by after reading your (shoulder mobility and flexibility exercise).

    however i experience some wrist pain! only my right arm as i got a fracture on it! i was an idiot to jump over a wall and i was weak as hell so my body weight just went over my wrist and i got a fracture. but that was about 4 and half months ago. and now when i bicep curl (which is heavy 5-7 reps as you mentioned) i get pain in the wrist and it feels bad. i tried to do some different variation of bicep curls (hammer) didnt work. what do i do? should i stop training my biceps. should i stop training 5-7 rep range and increase it? (to 10-12 reps)

    what do i do?

    further more i forgot to ask you is your workout were you go heavy (4-7 reps) bad for teenagers like me, because im growing and my bones isnt fully developed?(as i said im 16 years old). should i just stick with the 8-12 reps?

    so far you have never ignored a post i wrote 😀 . i really appreciate that. because nothing is free in this world and its really rare to find someone who would give up his time to help other people . thank you!

    sincerely, your biggest fan!

    • Michael Matthews

      I fractured my wrist years ago and had to ease back into certain exercises on that arm. It took a good 1 to 1.5 years to get fully back to normal.

      Work around it and do what you can.

      No the heavier lifting won’t stunt your growth–that’as a myth.

      Hope this helps man!

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast 35: Q&A Part 5: Whole body recovery, cardio and muscle preservation, macro "flexibility," and more... | Muscle For Life()

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  • Andres

    Hey Mike,
    What are your thoughts on Chlorella vs Spirulina? Is one better than the other for muscle leanness or overall health vs study results?

  • James L Robinson

    Hi Mike, is it correct that you should never lock out on any exercise as this will shift all of the weight from muscles to joints?

    • No it’s fine unless you have something that specifically hurts while locking out. I lock out on all my lifts. There’s no need to pause while locked out though. I just lock out to complete the rep and then go to the next rep.

  • Aaron

    I’m confused on how much Omega 3 is in each serving of the Ultimate Omega Fish Oil you recommend. It says “Total Omega-3s” = 1280, but you say it has 640mg of Omega-3 — but 640 is only the EPA amount. When you recommend 3.5 grams of Omega 3, which number am I supposed to use the “Total” or just the EPA?
    According to the Total that would require ~3 servings to get the recommended ~3.5 grams, correct?

  • Paul B

    Hi Mike,

    Tried to find the right topic to ask this question…

    Would you recommend Glucosamine/MSM/chrondroiton on top of your new Fortify supplement, or is it a sufficient stand-alone?

    Thanks!

    • Only if you have arthritis or arthritic symptoms. Otherwise they’re unlikely to do anything.

  • BungleeayvuhCockleberry

    Dumb fitness industry…….. This “research could easily be and LIKELY is wrong, as it contradicts what hundreds of orthepedic surgeons see in their offices among THOUSANDS of patients. MURRAY GELL-MSN PUBLISHED A PAPER OF A BEAUTIFUL THEORY THAY SEVEN EXPERIMENTS DISAGREED WITH. GUESS WHAT, YOU FOOLS? ALL SEVEN EXPERIMENTS WERE WRONG

  • Erin

    Hi mike, I’ve been doing the TLS year challenge, I’m a few weeks into phase two. I’ve been loving the exercise programme and see a massive transformation taking place. I have arthritis in my knee – patellofemoral joint degeneration and I’m struggling with the lunge and Bulgarian split squat. I don’t feel pain during the exercise but the evening or day after notice joint pain. Do you recommend another exercise or lower weight/ higher reps? I also want to say that I love the fortify supplements! I take those and triton and triumph. Do you recommend glucosamine too?

  • Jere

    The first study that you refer to has a mistake in it that changes the whole outcome of the study. The study they refer to as the normal population’s radiological osteoarthritis prevalence (Lawrence et al. 1966) measured osteoarthritis changes from 10 joints (and I’m counting joints from lumbar and thoracic spine and joints in the fingers as only 3 joints) while Fitzgerald and McLatchie only measured changes from 6 joints (not including any parts with multiple joints such as the spine and fingers).

    If you’d only compare knee osteoarthritis changes (arguably the most affected joint by exercise and the most common problem-causer in normal population, when it comes to osteoarthritis) between the two studies, you can see that Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters had a 20 % prevalence of knee osteoarthritis while the normal population only had 5,6 % prevalence.

    Although the sample size is small, you cannot come to any other conclusion from this data than that competitive weightlifting is a significant risk factor in knee osteoarthritis.

    • Hey Jere, that’s a fair point that there certainly were differences between the studies, so it’s not completely apples and apples. However, I think when you weigh the small sample size against the majority of evidence, including measurements on joint strain during different activities, and overall injury rates, it’s still fair to say that weightlifting isn’t damaging to the joints when performed properly.

      • Jere

        Was not really expecting an answer on a comment in such an old article, so thank you for that.

        There’s also loads of evidence from systematic reviews showing that competitive weightlifting and other strength sports are indeed a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis even without injuries (e.g. Driban 2015; Kujala 1994; Kujala 1995).

        I have also read many articles on the benefits of strength training on knee osteoarthritis, and quadricep muscle weakness is actually a known risk factor for knee osteoarthritis. Though my gut feeling is that many of those articles had a rather “therapeutical” approach to exercising (versus 5/3/1 á la Jim Wendler and other more performance oriented methods).

        The line between beneficial and harmful weightlifting (in osteoarthritis context) is really hazy and it probably differs from person to person. I do realize comparing competitive olympic weightlifters to people looking to get fit lifting weights is clumsy at best, but the word “weightlifting” has a more serious-athlete tone to it (at least to me) which is what triggered my response in the first place.

        Going to the gym 2–3 times a week and doing some weight training (squats and all included) is probably not too taxing on one’s body and joints (assuming correct form) but I recon most people will have developed some form of exercise induced osteoarthritis after 10 years of competitive olympic- or powerlifting, even if good form is emphasized.

        PS: I am absolutely FOR weight training and train powerlifting-style myself.

        • Hey Jere, I think that’s a pretty sound and fair point. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that most people will have some kind of osteoarthritis, but as you mentioned, competing and just trying to be healthy are very different. It just goes to highlight how important good technique and proper training are.

          – M

  • Candice Fisher

    Hi Mike
    I have a slight fracture in my shoulder cartilage. It’s radiating pain down my arm and into my collar bone. I was lifting heavy until about 6 months go when this started but I’ve only just had this diagnosed after an mri.
    I’m 47, female, lean 50kgs with about 20% bf.
    Would you recommend glucosamine/chondroitin/msm?

    • Youch! Yes, and do follow your therapist’s recommendation as well.

  • Dd K

    It’s not a myth. It’s a fact. Next

    • It’ll definitely get you if you’re not taking measures to prevent it. That is true. But it’s a myth that weightlifting will guarantee the problems mentioned in the article. Those problems are preventable.

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