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MSC Performance

Home to Birmingham Barbell Club

Bro, Do You Even Lift

Do You Even Lift?

The locker room jibe that may well be the lowest hanging fruit for health, performance, and longer living!

It’s a question usually reserved for internet trolls and guys in the changing room
trying to make their mates feel inferior / weak / small, and more often than not
preceded / followed with the word ‘bro’. When you work with people from all walks of life who suffer from back pain, shoulder pain, multiple muscular and soft tissue injuries from sporting pursuits, traumatic injuries from falls or sporting collisions, whiplash, whatever it may be. It’s a serious question that needs asking! Physiotherapists, sports therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors etc… Anyone who provides a service around injury and pain management, in my personal opinion, often miss HUGE potential benefits to injury management and recovery by not asking this one simple question.

Do You Even Lift?

If you go to see any one of the above professionals, the outcome more often than not is predictable before you walk through the door.

  • Back pain is given low-level core control exercises, ‘glute activation’ drills
    and hip stretches
  • Shoulder impingement from sitting at a desk all day, this is solved with
    pec stretches and some rotator cuff work
  • Runners with knee pain, you’re given a massage and quad stretches, often
    alongside more glute activation

After a brief period of success, these are usually followed by a suggestion of
taking up Yoga or Pilates and the statement that ‘injury is all about flexibility,
yoga is great for that’. You name it, injury and therapy comes with the expectation of low impact, home based rubber band work and bodyweight exercises with a vague suggestion that this will fix all your issues. And yoga. Loads of yoga. The list of injuries treated with this sort of low-level intervention is literally longer than my arm. But if we aren’t asking the question of ‘bro, do you even lift?’ we’re sort of missing the wood through the trees.

So Why Strength Training?

Strength training, when performed correctly, is unique in its ability to allow an
individual to tolerate the demands of training, sport, life, aging, sleeping,
working, on a whole new level. There are countless mechanisms behind this
simple fact that include the science of pain, muscular tightness, flexibility, posture, biomechanics, physics, all areas of human movement that are directly related to your training and movement habits. Without going into too much detail on any of the aforementioned areas, you can boil down the reasoning behind my fixation on strength training with one simple


Person A

An office worker who sits at a desk all day, gets stiff through the hips, and loses
all coordination around their spine and core, before going home for the evening,
lying down, and doing it all again the next day.

Person B

The office worker who, before going home for the night, gets to the gym, goes
through a purposeful warmup, loosens off their hips, gets a bar on their back and squats, deadlifts, pushes and pulls their way to a strong and functional body. When the first one of these office workers walks into the MSC Performance Sports Injury clinic saying they think the reason their back hurts is that they ‘aren’t activating their glutes enough’, the real reason behind their pain is that THEY DON’T HAVE ANY GLUTES TO ACTIVATE. This is usually followed by a conversation between this individual and myself setting out a plan of action to address some underlying control issues, embedding the basics of breathing and bracing, quality of movement etc, but ALWAYS with the understanding that we are embedding these principles so that they can go and apply them to a squat, a deadlift, some form of heavy core strength work, and a whole host of other movements that they will be doing over
the coming weeks and months.

The Take Home Message…

Simply put, the person isn’t in pain because of their lifestyle; they are in pain
because their body is in no way ready to tolerate the demands of their lifestyle
and daily activities. Strength training has the unique ability to place stresses on
the body that make you more resilient, more robust, more flexible, leaner,
stronger, the list goes on. I’m not going to sit here and tell you lifting can cure cancer, but there’s some pretty powerful evidence proving that it will extend your life, and the quality ofit, significantly… A 15 year cohort study by Kraschnewski and colleagues published in 2016 showed a reduction in all cause mortality: that’s death for any reason, by almost 50% in adults over the age of 65 who regularly participated in strength training.

In 2015, Knapen and colleagues showed that an exercise programme including
strength training was as effective as medication for those suffering with mild to
moderate depression. In 2014, Anderson and colleagues showed that scapular / upper body strengthtraining in office workers with chronic neck and shoulder pain gave significant, substantial relief of symptoms. Finally, a great quote from Suchomel in a 2016 literature review describes the importance of strength training for those participating in sport at any level: “Based on the extant literature, it appears that there may be no substitute for greater muscular strength when it comes to improving an individual’s
performance across a wide range of both general and sport specific skills while
simultaneously reducing their risk of injury when performing these skills”
So, do you even lift? If the answer is no, and you’re looking for answers as to
why you get injured playing sport, why you have more sick days than your
colleagues, why you can’t touch your toes, or why you’ve put on some weight in
the last few months, the answer is pretty simple!