Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Theory of Fat Loss and Injury Prevention

Injury prevention is critical to any fat loss program (and any exercise program). Unfortunately, the tendency of society is to take a reactive approach to injury rather than a proactive one. This is a direct result of... for lack of a better term... ignorance. If people had just a basic understanding of the law of repetitive motion and were given just a few practical tools (like foam rolling or postural correction, for example) to prevent injury during training, then perhaps qualified fitness professionals wouldn't have to have an ongoing battle with certain (and I do mean certain, not all) physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, athletic trainers, personal trainers, lay persons, etc. who keep repeating the same simple minded dogma about lifting weights that keeps society, as a whole, in the dark ages regarding proper training.

We've all heard ridiculous things such as:

"Squats are bad for your knees."
"Deadlifting is bad for your back."
"Lifting heavy weights is bad for your joints."
"Moving is just too dangerous. That's why I recommend having a machine spoon feed you pastries and potato chips while you sit on the couch all day."

 Squatting is Bad
Just ask the doll

These statements go to show that most people have no context or experience in training the right way or that they have no knowledge of APPLIED biomechanics. What it also shows is that more people are training incorrectly than correctly and that most "trainers" have no idea what they are doing. This makes it easy for health professionals to think that certain things are bad for you because it is all they see. Nobody goes to the orthopedic surgeon and says, "Hey, I'm here to tell you my knee is doing great because I added deadlifting to my exercise program and fixed my anterior pelvic tilt. I don't need surgery after all!"

As old man, good friend, and fellow fitness professional Steve Payne has said: "If you're the type of trainer who injures people on their quest for fat loss, do all of us a favor and find a job as a gas pump attendant. What good are you if you keep people from their daily lives?"

So, before I get off topic (this IS a fat loss blog, for the most part), let me ask the question, "What is the role of injury prevention in fat loss training?" I posed this question on my Facebook wall about a week ago to get some insight from other movement specialists...

Joe Martin, who owns Huntsville Adventure Bootcamp in Alabama, summarized it in the following way... "If you're hurt you can't train. If you can't train, you can't lose fat." Well said. 

Side Note: Of course, I must qualify that statement just a little... you CAN train if you are hurt. You just can't do it optimally. If you have a bum knee or shoulder, you'll have to be very intelligent and careful in exercise selection and programming while you undergo rehab. I actually have a friend who underwent knee surgery (traumatic injury, not overuse), and he was unable to squat, run, or jump. He was, however, able to trap-bar deadlift over 350 pounds and rack pull over 400 pounds without any discomfort whatsoever. So, training is doable, just trickier.

But anyway... the purpose of injury prevention, a major topic of The Theory of Fat Loss book, is to enable someone to increase the absolute intensity of their training. Most people go about fat loss training incorrectly. Rather than taking a long term approach towards health and dedicating themselves to continual improvement, they try to do it all at once... they're after the quick fix. The true key to fat loss exercise is absolute intensity, not relative intensity... a fact completely lost on most individuals.

In fact, Heath Herrera of HH Fitness in Texas, was spot on with what most people do when they decide to lose fat. "Everyone wants to push themselves as hard as they can, to get maximal results, no matter their age. We all want instant gratification. I always tell my clients when they start to focus on the technique. As the technique improves, speed and efficiency of the exercise will increase. Performing 6 technical push-ups vs 12 fast sloppy push-ups will result in greater gains." I couldn't agree more.

Candas Elizabeth Jones, a 50 year old young fitness professional with a six pack, said, "At 50, it takes some smarts to look great and keep it fit and working." She draws from experience working with clients of that age group with special needs. 

"My newest client is my age, just released to begin working out after gastric bypass. She is still heavy. Fat loss with no injury is the only way to help her. Otherwise she will be back in the drive through after 5 minutes. The way I see it, we have one chance to teach people how to lose fat and move the right way so they don't get busted while busting a move. We have a delicate population out there. Mentally and physically, she has obviously failed many times and is willing to try again. We are not all 20 ready to push it until we puke it. Nor should we."

I agree with Candas wholeheartedly. Although... I have to note that she is a tad bit biased against us 20 year olds. The truth is that it takes smarts to look great at ANY age. It is just as important to train properly at age 16 as it is 80, right Steve (heheh)?

Pushing it hard is completely fine to do, provided you are simultaneously "pushing it smart" in the context of your unique goals and your long term training plan. After all, improper training at a young age will only serve to set someone up to get old really fast, which is counterproductive to the overarching theme of The Theory of Fat Loss and the true outcome one should intend to achieve with training. Injury prevention is key to setting yourself up for success.

I'll leave you with one more gem from Steve Payne... "Injury prevention means giving a damn about people first, and their goals secondarily. You can get people where they want, from a health and fitness standpoint, without hurting them, if you know their limitations and sticking points. If you're a good trainer, you can offer alternatives, regressions and so on to your training protocol. Always remember, there is more than one route to fitness success, just as there is more than one way to skin a...bad trainer..."

Do you have any comments on the role of injury prevention and fat loss? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment. If I like what you have to say, I'll send you a FREE digital copy of my book!

Furthermore, if you are interested, here are some of my previous posts with practical injury prevention advice:

Anterior Pelvic Tilt
Shoulder Injuries
Low Back Pain
Foam Rolling
The Law of Repetitive Motion


  1. By the way, if you leave a comment and aren't friends with me on Facebook, I need to be able to contact you if I'm sending you a free book. So, friend me on FB:

  2. Thanks Tim,
    Your post inspired me to actually schedule a visit with the ortho-surgeon who told me not to do squats anymore. I will inform him that box squats have improved my recovery from knee surgery drastically. I will smile, shake his hand, and take a picture of his dumbfounded look and post it on your blog...

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