Pritchard: Respect resistance training, don’t fear it (column) |

Pritchard: Respect resistance training, don’t fear it (column)

A common misconception is that weight training and weightlifting (yes, these are two separate entities, more on that later) are dangerous activities by nature and are to blame for a number of injuries that occur in the gym. Parents often elect “safer” activities for their children to participate in over resistance training for fear of a traumatic injury occurring. Furthermore, these same parents and adults will avoid training themselves due to the misconception that heavy lifting will destroy their back or wreck their knees. Unfortunately, abstaining for resistance training ultimately does the body more harm than good — it is not the culprit to blame.

There is no question that poor exercise technique can result in injury, however, the chances of that occurring are extremely low, particularly with proper instruction. Lifting properly provides numerous health benefits that should not be missed due to the fear of a rare injury occurring. Every day you drive your car you run the risk of getting in an accident, but that doesn’t stop you from your regular commute, correct? The same applies to weight training and weightlifting, taking the proper steps to learn sound technique that will enhance your life at a very low risk.

Where do they stand?

To be clear, weight training is any type of resistance training that takes place with machines, implements or weights while weightlifting is the Olympic sport that specifically includes the snatch and clean and jerk. Both modalities include a wide array of exercises, but together they cover the majority of what one would consider resistance training.

Regarding the safety of these two activities, they are actually some of the safest “sports” one can participate in. Weightlifting as previously mentioned is a sport in itself, but weight training includes powerlifting, bodybuilding or any other type of training to improve physical fitness.

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A 1994 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the relative safety of both weight training and weightlifting in comparison to a number of sporting activities, including rugby, football, tennis, cross-country, soccer, volleyball and others. The results showed that per 100 participation training hours, weight training had the second lowest injury rate and weightlifting had the lowest, an amazingly low 0.0035 and 0.0017 rate respectively.

The aforementioned “safer” option most parents elect to place their children in, soccer, topped the list at 6.2 injuries per 100 training hours in comparison.

It is unfortunate that individuals are so quick to write off any type of resistance training due to unjustified fear. While I still believe children should participate in a wide variety of sports, this evidence demonstrates that children and adults for that matter should by no means avoid any type of resistance training unless clearly stated by their physician.


It would be naïve to suggest that weight training and weightlifting can never result in injury. They are technical skills that must be treated with respect and given the time to learn properly like anything else. That being said, falling prey to the assumption that herniated discs and torn ligaments are imminent when undertaking lifting modalities is close minded. Everybody should be able to squat, hinge, press, pull, carry and lunge some type of resistance at any age. I’ve worked with clients well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s that can move more weight than they did when they were young because they put the effort in to get better.

The earlier one can incorporate training into their life the better off they’ll be, particularly when they are young and can pick skills up rapidly. Most people wish they would have learned a foreign language as a child so that it was now second nature, but unfortunately every year that goes by it becomes increasingly difficult. The same applies to movement and training; learning to lift young and lift often engrains healthy habits into your life.

Have a healthy respect for resistance training, but do not fear it. If you get into it, who knows, you may just actually have some fun, too!

Jimmy Pritchard has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength and conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or Check out his website

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