T Nation

Dangers of Heavy Lifting


hello. I pulled my back a few weeks ago doing heavy rack deads. Nothing happened in particular, I think I just made too big of a weight jump from my usual floor deads to rack deads. So I have taken a couple of weeks off all lifting (just icing and heating) and decided to go see this physio-therapist a friend highly recommended.

Basically he blamed the whole thing on heavy deads and heavy lifting in general. He was telling me that if I continued with heavy lifting that I would basically crush my vertebrae. Claiming I would shrink by at least 2" and develop major back issues. He was not even speaking about me specifically, he was speaking out about any form of heavy lifting involving the spine.

I have definitely heard about powerlifters shrinking several inches as they age due to the heavy poundages but I know he must have been exaggerating his point. Either way, I left his office to go do some front squats...

Just wanted to get some other views... does anything he said have any merit or is this just another case of people talking about things that they've read in books without any real experience?


Yep for sure heavy lifting is the devil do it and you will die. LOLOLOL


You need to read more than your write.


The guy is asking a question and giving background. How can you possibly have a problem with that?


Everyone shrinks with age. I don't know if lifters are likely to shrink more. I suspect nobody knows for sure. My hunch is that lifters will shrink less because they will have better bone density, develop better posture, be more nutritionally conscious and do work that stimulates blood flow to areas that might otherwise be starved for blood.


any kind of cumulative damage will eventually catch up to you

though i still dont see that as a reason to stop lifting heavy completely


Agreed with the age aspect .. However the constant compression on the spine due to heavy weights can result in shrinkage. This is not due to bone density but as a result of intervertebral disc flattening.


I find the hatred of the medical establishment against weightlifting particularly interesting in light of the fact that the general population has collectively ****ed up their lower backs and shoulders without ever touching weights.

The health benefits of heavy weightlifting will outweigh any negative effects of weightlifting, if in fact any negative effects truly exist (other than injuries).


Is squatting and deadlifting once a week really enough to cause this sort of effect? I could maybe understand if you carried a heavy pack 6 hours a day, 7 days a week sort of thing, but it just seems like the spine would decompress in the time spent not lifting


lol welcome to tnation where everyone thinks everything is common sense.




I mean it's gonna happen anyways.. we will all be shorter as we age... I was just stating that it's primarily due to the flattening of the disc and not a result of bone density as was stated by the poster to which i responded.

I doubt squatting and deads once a week have much of an impact, but logically i could only assume that someone who constantly puts their spine under that stress would most likely be more susceptible than someone who doesn't.

Then again you could always stretch....i heard it adds an inch or two.


Only Danger of lifting Heavy is Looking so Badass that it hinders other people progress of lifting heavy because there jaws are dropping from watching you lift, which makes them grow less, ultimately making the world have fewer big people which is Dangerous. Dam Im good.


Your spine compresses during the course of the day. Then it decompresses while your sleeping at night. Yes, it will compress more when you do things like squats and deads, but this is not a chronic condition.

As you get older, the discs in between your vertebrae lose some of their fluid, and therefore become less springy, which is why the older you get, although very subtle, the shorter you get.

To be quite honest though, your physio sounds fucking retarded. I would argue that squats and deads are probably the two exercises that produce the most compressive force on your spine, along with certain overhead presses. But for the sake of my theory, I will focus on squats and deads.

Now, most of us squat and deadlift once a week. Lets say a set lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute, and you do 3-4 sets. AT MOST, this is 4 minutes of squatting, and 4 minutes of deadlifting a week. 8 minutes total A WEEK (unless you squat and deadlift more than once a week). The point I'm trying to make is its going to take A LOT more than that to lead to a chronic decompression of the spine, which I don' think is even possible until you have aged significantly. I would be much more worried about something like herniating a disc due to improper form than the possibility of shrinking due to lifting heavy. And honestly, when your 60, I think you are going to have much more important issues to worry about than how tall you are LOL.


He obviously wants to read some responses to his thread.


My chiropractor looked at an x-ray of my spine and said I have unusually thick discs due to squatting. Pretty much a sign of health.


Worst mistake I ever made was taking a long break because a chiropractor told me to. Don't get me wrong, I blame myself for listening to him.

In my opinion, if you get ANY doctor that tells you lifting is bad, you should find another doctor.



I have had several physios, dr.s, and chiros talk shit about DL's and squats. Find a practicioner who is active in this area and wants to support you.

Instead of taking time off, why not use your time to correct small shit imbalances elsewhere if you can. I fucked myself up in the general low back area and took the time to iron out other problems.

Keep hydrated. I think if your dehydrated your discs don't replenish their fluid as much as they can. Hope you heal up.


^^ This

My experience with back injury and rehab has been actually positive the first time i started using weights. If I had listened to such half-baked misinformation from incompetent doctors then I would have been stuck in the rut forever. If you really want proper information go to real heavy weightlifters , competitive bodybuilders or doctors who actually do either of them or have at least had personal experience of weightlifting. Don't discount or under estimate mind-muscle connection and its impact on breathing, if you think you will end weaker, injured while lifting weights you have started on the wrong foot and your technique and tempo will falter on the execution and implementation phase; the only way is to test yourself positively and thinking about overcoming the weight and mastering it. Now do the math if you have already started believing your therapist/doctor/chiro ...Its a skill and its takes effort , repetition/trials and hazards/errors, as far as the consequences are concerned all depends on the mastery of your skill and management of the hazards, confidence and how alert you are.


I went to see a 'sports' physio because I knew through experience that if I went to my doctor the most he would do is give me pain killers and ask that I do an x-ray. In this case I know I didn't break or herniate anything (no bruising, no pain in the legs, mobility didn't change...), so I figured a Sport Physio would be of benefit. I figured they Especially because he was so highly recommended.

He basically told me that I hurt my lower back because my abdominals are too weak. At the end of the session I asked, so what should I do next. That's when he said "honestly you should stop all heavy lifting". He said (and I quote!) Heavy lifting will cause you to develop degenerative issues with the lower vertebrae. He said it would squish them, forcing them to lose their cushion and harden.

I am NOT saying that I will stop lifting or trying to debate whether we are all wasting our time with this self destructive, sado masochist activity. I just want to know if what he said has any value at all (and more importantly whether I should save my 70$ and go somewhere else lol)

edit: This is my first lower back 'pull'. To any of you who have strained their low backs, how long did you wait before doing any low back involved exercises?