Most instructions for weightlifting exercises start with you having to hold a dumbbell or a barbell in your hand. But how does it safely get there?
I got the idea for this video when I saw one on YouTube, where a fitness trainer demonstrated why you shouldn’t do a specific shoulder exercise, because it supposedly causes unnecessary strain on the shoulder.
When he picked up the barbell to show the effect, his back pretty much looked like the passage through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
But let’s leave my sniggering at the irony aside. If an experienced trainer does that, it’s no wonder we see a lot of weightlifting rookies do the same.
To protect your back, it should stay in the neutral position when you lift something heavy:
(Mentioning the Arc de Triomphe probably got the last remnants of my school French reactivated.)
In the first part of the video, where I demonstrated how not to pick up the barbell, you of course see that the back is rounded. People who do this let at least half the load be carried by their spines, because they go back to the vertical position by straightening it.
The problem with this is that your spine consists of a number of discs and inbetween each one of them there is a liquid-filled squishy ring (“annulus fibrosus”) that protects them from rubbing and scratching onto one another. Every time you round your back you put pressure on these rings and they may wear out. Then the liquid inside them spills and puts pressure on the nerves running along the spine. The result is tremendous back pain (what is colloquially called a “slipped disc”).
For many people this happens just by having a bad posture. But if week after week after week you pick up, say, a 100 lbs barbell that way, that of course is a lot more stress for the spine on top of what it usually has to carry.
Picture courtesy of “Harshlight“.