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Author Topic: Other ways of preventing hernias (and spinal injuries) from strength training  (Read 243 times)

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Offline Query

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I've been doing a little reading on this topic.

I'm not medically trained, so don't take this as certain. I am trying to use qualified medical sources of info, but that doesn't mean they are all correct. I would love feedback from someone with appropriate medical training.

Unfortunately, many sources say that you can be genetically predisposed to having hernias, just like other injuries. But some things can still be done. says:

It isn’t always possible to prevent the muscle weakness that leads to the occurrence of a hernia, but it is possible to reduce strain, which will help to avoid a hernia or keep an existing one from getting worse. The following suggestions may help to reduce strain:

    *do not lift weights that are too heavy for you
    *when lifting, bend your knees, keep your back straight, and tighten your abdomen
    *maintain a healthy body weight
    *avoid straining during bowel movements or urination
    *see your doctor when you have a bad cold or flu to avoid developing a persistent cough (caution: anatomical diagrams are not child friendly) says

Anything that causes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia, including:

    *Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles
    *Diarrhea or constipation
    *Persistent coughing or sneezing

In addition, obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking, can all weaken muscles and make hernias more likely.

I've tried to understand how to better "stabilize the abdominal muscles". Apparently, humans normally instinctively tense our abdominal muscles,  back muscles, and many other core muscles in general, any time we lift something, or bend over (like "spiral" and "arabesque" poses). This is generally believed to do two things:

1. It allows the body to move more efficiently. Stabilizing (largely immobilizing) one set of muscles and joints lets other muscles move other joints much more efficiently.

I know this works to a considerable extent. For example, the closest I have come to a successful skating spin, without travel, is when I first tighten and stabilize a long line of muscle from the free leg, diagonally on up to the opposite shoulder. (Shoulder-to-shoulder stabilization, and outer abdominal region stabilization have been less successful, at least for me.)

Again, in kayak paddling, you literally use several times less energy, and paddle several times longer without tiring, and have several times more effective strength when you need it, if you use arm and upper body muscles to stabilize (almost completely immobilize) your arm, elbow and shoulder joints (but elbows should almost never be quite be fully locked straight, because that can cause other injuries). This allows you to instead move efficiently by twisting around the waist, and twisting and rotating upper spinal joints to tilt the paddle side to side, all using abdominal, back, leg and oblique muscles. To an extent this is an opposite set of muscles that are stabilized vs moved, but the principle is still the same.

2. As mentioned in the above two medical sources, tensing strong abdominal muscles, before lifting weights, or going into one leg standing, one leg lift poses (like spiral and arabesque poses), are believed to help prevent hernias. (That, along with back muscle stabilization, is also advocated for preventing spinal injuries, but that is off-topic for me.) (However there are other medical sources that say that there is insufficient medical study evidence to support the core-stabilization injury prevention model at this time.)

And here I depart from established medical sources: Several less reliable sources say that before doing any hard core strength training involving lifts (of weights or one leg standing, one leg lift poses), you should first start with many months on a long-term training program to strengthen abdominal muscles (along with back muscles, for spinal injuries). Until they are strong, so many non-authoritative sources say, you shouldn't work to strengthen the other muscles, because of the possibility of injury. Of course Spirals, Arabesques and other standing leg lift poses strengthen abdominal and back muscles too - but they also use the internal (farthest from the skin) muscles which create the problem by exerting forces on the abdominal walls, and therefore should not be done until the abdominal and back muscles are strong.

Weight training belts (which go around the abdomen and/or back) are often sold which claim to help support the abdomen (and back, to protect the spine - but that is off-topic for me). However, several sources, like (not an authoritative medical source!)

say that they are of questionable value - that you should instead provide the support by strengthening the relevant muscles. They say that belts may cause injury by giving you the illusion of adequate support, and tempt you to try things you aren't ready for.