So what about Weight Training and Bone Density – The first thing that pops into anyone’s head when they hear the words “work out,” “fitness,” or “exercise” is typically the muscular system. It does perform the bulk of the work in any given exercise, along with the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, so this just makes sense.
That’s precisely why this article isn’t going to be about your muscles. It won’t be about your hearts or lungs either, for that matter. The truth of the matter is that there’s another often overlooked key player in fitness considerations, and therefore another key beneficiary when you exercise — what is it?
Yup, it’s your bones! And congratulations if you didn’t cheat by looking at the title again!
So, what do bones have to do with exercise? Let’s start by stressing just how important it is to maintain a healthy skeleton, then talk about how exercise can help increase your bone density and strength.
Maintaining the health of your skeletal system may, to some, seem only to be a concern for older folks. While it’s true that it becomes more and more critical as one ages, it’s still important to take good care of your bones at every life stage. Healthy bones have a lower chance of developing osteoporosis, breaking or splintering under pressure, and numerous other deficiencies. Everyone, from kids to seniors and every age in between should be working to build optimal bone structure!
With that out of the way, the time has come to discuss how exercise can strengthen our bones! It’s a widely known fact that exercise builds muscle. Duh, right? Well, a slightly lesser known fact is that at the same time that you’re packing on muscle mass, you’re also building bone mass as well. In short: high impact and resistance exercises build bone density.
The way it works is similar in some ways to building muscle. Say you’re sprinting — as your foot hits the ground, the immense pressure applied in that split second of time is registered by your nerves, and bone cells know, as osteoblasts begin to form at the site of impact (in this sprinting example, the entire surface of every bone in your leg). Those cells release collagen and other proteins across the surface of the stressed bone, which harden in time. Congratulations, you’ve started gaining bone mass!
Now, we’d like to draw your attention to the fact that we used sprinting as our example in the last paragraph. Not all exercise builds bone, and some builds bone much better than others.
Generally, as stated before, a workout needs to have a certain degree of impact and/or resistance, a threshold known as minimal essential strain, past which bone growth occurs.
Low impact, low resistance movements often won’t meet that threshold to spur collagen deposition. That means exercises such as swimming and elliptical work, while having significant cardio effect, will have little to no effect at all on your bones. Running is an excellent high impact workout for building leg bones, and the resistance you have to overcome when doing a bench press can help strengthen your arm bones. While impact is the best way to build density and solidity, you can’t discount the benefits of a good set of weights. Olympic weightlifting, such as the snatch and clean & jerk provide both impact and resistance in wonderful quantities, so it’s an excellent consideration, as long as you’re supervised by a professional and already have healthy enough bones to execute them.
Speaking of which, it’s always a smart idea to consult a trainer first, as well as your doctor, to determine how healthy your bones are at the moment. While sprinting, heavy squats, and hang cleans are great for building up bones that are already somewhat strong, they’re not for everyone. If your bones are weakened, exercises such as jogging or power walking may be better suited for you in the beginning, as well as lower weight resistance training. Remember, you can’t make any progress if you injure yourself!
For those short on time, we’ll quickly summarize some exercises and how well they can spur bone growth. Remember that high growth can also mean high risk if your bones aren’t strong enough to do them, so don’t be afraid to work your way up!
• Sprinting and running
• Olympic weightlifting (snatch, clean & jerk variations)
• Heavy resistance training (bench press, squat, dead lift, etc)
• Jogging and power walking
• Bodybuilding/isolation exercises (bicep curl, hamstring curl) that target individual bones with relatively low weights
• Aerobics (such as jumping jacks, hiking and kickboxing)
• Casual walking
• Low impact cardio (such as elliptical work)
Now you know everything you need to know to get started on building bones of steel, to stave off osteoporosis and broken bones, and keep yourself strong and moving for decades to come!
The Fitness Clinic gym in Fort Lauderdale has been dedicated to your best fitness and health for over thirty years and has the success stories to prove it! Our scientific approach to fitness, and private club atmosphere, all contribute to your overall well being – weight training, cardio training, bone density, balance – whatever your goals, we’ll help you design a personal ultimate fitness plan to achieve them. Call Fred or Nick at 954-491-4969 to get started today.