I love the idea of functional, bodyweight exercises and heavy lifting. My problem: I'm a not-very-strong 42-year-old woman, and I've had lots of muscle and joint issues. I'm not overweight.
My biggest problem is my wrist. I've had varying degrees of tendonitis in my wrist for years, and since doing pushups for the past few weeks, I've had worsening wrist pain. I just installed a pullup bar, and that seems to hurt my wrist and my shoulder, which also has tendonitis. I can't do side planks because my shoulder hurts afterwards, and I'm afraid I'm aggravating it.
I'd like to do deadlifts, but I'm scared of hurting my back. I have scoliosis and have had several episodes of severe sacroiliac pain (severe as in missing 2 weeks of work). I hurt my back one time when I lifted a cinder block without using my legs enough; lifting with a bent back, as in the deadlift, seems similar.
I sound like a real wuss! I swear I'm not trying to wimp out. I'm enthusiastic about exercising Primally, but I really don't want to hurt myself. Any advice would be much appreciated!
When it comes to lifting weights, form is everything. It might be worth spending some money for a session or two with a personal trainer who can teach you proper lifting technique.
Also, lift heavy things means lift heavy things for you. Start out with a light weight and focus on your form. Gradually add weight as you become comfortable with and confident in your lifting technique.
Not sure what I can recommend for pull ups. Are you using a chair to assist you? That should take some of the strain off your wrists.
As for push ups, you definitely want to get a set of push up stands. I have a set designed by Tony Horton and while they aren't inexpensive they are the best ones I've ever seen on the market. They have big and comfortable (foam) grips and are angled correctly to help relieve pressure on your wrists.
You can find out more about them here:
Thanks for the quick response! Yes, I am most certainly using a chair to support much of my weight for pull-ups. There's no way I can do a pull-up or even a chin-up without cheating. I recently graduated from knee pushups to regular pushups, though! I installed low brackets for the pull-up bar so I can use that for pushups, and I'm hoping that will be easier on my wrists. If not, maybe I'll shell out the big bucks for the pushup stands.
I agree with Davefish about form and being taught that. I lift only once a week, and all lifts are done in a power cage for safety.
My body is under strain for under 2 minutes total. 10 lifts and no lift is over 10 seconds. The rest of the time is moving weights and preparing the bar for the next lift. The rest of the week is allowng my muscles to grow.
As an example, you set your dead lift up. If you can't lift it then you have too much weight. You lift it for 5-10 seconds. Longer than that, set it down and add a bit of weight.
If you can't lift more the next week, it is because you returned to the weight room to soon and your muscles haven't grown.
The concept is known as Static Contraction. When applied correctly, it is a safe way to lift and you will see positive results.
Annika, I started lifting weights about 4 years ago, when I was 46.
At that age, it takes a lot longer to make progress than when you're younger. It takes a lot longer to build up the tendons and ligaments than the muscles, and that includes eating well for an extended period of time. You also need to be more vigilant about recovery time. At least initially, you may only be able to work out a few times a week.
When I started, I was very weak and I had prior injuries in my right hand, my right ankle, and my lower back. It took a few years of consistent work and lots of protein to build up to what I can do now. (Which is deadlifting twice my body weight and being able to do 10 pull-ups.)
But you've really got to pay attention to your aches and pain. For example, I've discovered that I can do multiple sets of 5 pull-ups without any problem, but if I do a set of 10 pull-ups, my right hand will be very stiff and sore for the next couple of days. I also took my own sweet time. Starting out with a pull-up assist machine, it took me over a year before I did my first full, unassisted pull-up.
I also strongly suggest that you try out a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. Costco has a Kirkland brand, plus there's Move Free and a ton of other brands. It doesn't work for everyone, but it sure helped me.
"See a trainer" is probably your best option. Even better would be a physical therapist to help you get your form right, while not damaging anything. I know it's another expense, but why not try using resistance bands and working up to the pull up bar from there?
If you are doing flat-handed push-ups, this means that your wrists are bent. Get your arms out a little wider if you can, to relieve some of that stress. Also, doing push-ups from stands, or even on dumb bells should help with that stress. Try to get your wrists straight any way you can. Squeezing a tennis ball can strengthen your wrists, and it's easy to do at work.
... I've had lots of muscle and joint issues. ... My biggest problem is my wrist. I've had varying degrees of tendonitis ... for years ... I've had worsening wrist pain. ... seems to hurt my wrist and my shoulder, which also has tendonitis. ... my shoulder hurts ...
... I have scoliosis and have had several episodes of severe sacroiliac pain
I think those are problems that can be addressed. But I've isolated them deliberately, because I wanted to bring out what you've said, because don't think you should push on with some heavy exercise programme without taking account of what you're telling us here. I think you need to address those problems before using weights - or, indeed, doing any strenuous exercise.
There are various ways of, so to speak, re-balancing oneself. You might try Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, chiropractic, or osteopathy. Tai Chi might be helpful, too. Possibly yoga - although some forms of that are questionable, and it's not always well taught.
I hurt my back one time when I lifted a cinder block without using my legs enough; lifting with a bent back, as in the deadlift, seems similar.
It's not as simple as that - "without using my legs enough". Alignments are quite critical and can't be covered with a few simple verbal instructions - to "use the legs enough" or whatever - or with diagrams. You don't want the back bent, but it shouldn't be hyperextended either; you might need to think of the tailbone dropping down as you bend. The alignment of the head/neck/shoulders is critical, too. Not that it's just alignment - you have not to be using excess tension where you shouldn't be. Unless you're an exceptionally well coordinated person, this kind of thing really has to be taught by one-to-one tuition. That tension thing is important - for example, scoliosis, which you mention, seems in most cases to be caused by over-contraction of muscles on one side of the neck/back. If it is a muscular habit in your case, then something like Alexander Technique could help to undo it or mitigate it - try googling this for more on that:
alexander technique scoliosis
If you lift weights, you're likely to further contract where you're already over-contracted, simply because that's already your muscular habit. That's unhelpful.
That's my advice. If you want to lift weights, don't necessarily abandon the idea, but look into doing some kind of "re-balancing" first.
Thanks for all the comments. Dragonmamma, you are an inspiration! Mick, I sounded so whiney when you quoted me! I didn't mean to sound that way. My pain is generally not bad at all; I have minor aching most days (wrist & shoulder) and rare flare-ups in my lower back. I see a chiropractor regularly and he has helped me tremendously. He recommended wearing a lift in one shoe, and the before and after pictures after a couple of months of wearing the lift are amazing - the curve in my spine was dramatically reduced.
I will look into a few sessions with a personal trainer so I start out with good form.